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Casement Park is my priority: new GAA Ulster chief Oliver Galligan

Oliver Galligan (left) takes over the Ulster GAA Presidency from Michael Hasson (right)

NEW Ulster GAA President Oliver Galligan hopes to see planning permission for the new Casement Park granted during his three-year reign and is hopeful another schools coaching scheme will be created.

The Cavan native became the Ulster Council's 37th President at last weekend's convention in the Hotel Kilmore, Cavan. The Cavan Gaels clubman takes the reins from outgoing president Michael Hasson.

Galligan enjoyed a 17-year long senior career with the Gaels, winning three county titles and represented his county at all levels. He also captained the Breffni minors to an Ulster title in 1967 and played for the seniors between 1969 to 1973.

Galligan held most administrative roles at Cavan Gaels before becoming Ulster Council delegate. He was elected to the provincial body in 2010 and has moved up the various rungs since then.

He currently sits on the Steering Group for the Casement Park project, and it is no surprise that he wants to see progress made with the west Belfast venue.

“The big challenge is obviously Casement Park. I'm not going to say that I want to open it because the last two Ulster Presidents said the same thing, but certainly I would like to see planning permission and at least work commencing over the next three years. That's what I would love to see,” said the new President.

It is hoped the Casement Park project is far enough down the track – as it was approved at ministerial level when Stormont was functioning – that it would not depend on the restoration of local government to see work commencing.

Galligan expressed his disappointment at the axing of the hugely successful Curriculum Sports Programme last month that employed 25 GAA coaches (the Irish FA employed 28) for over 400 schools with 36,000 children benefitting from the project in 2016/17.

“There is huge disappointment with the schools programme being closed down,” he said.

“That's another issue that I'd like to see resolved and we hope we can get that up and running again. I think there is a proposal coming down the line of a different type of a scheme and I'd like to see that happening.”

Several GAA coaches who lost their jobs following the ending of the Curriculum Sports Programme have been recruited by the GAA's ‘Gaelfast', a £1m project designed to increase pariticipation rates in Gaelic Games across the primary sector in Belfast and beyond.

Galligan also hopes to see “further development” of hurling in the weaker counties of Ulster during his presidency.

“I'd like to see more competitions across the province for clubs,” he said.

“If you look at Cavan, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Armagh there is very little competition there. We run the Tain (club) League but there aren't that many clubs taking part, and I'd like to see the likes of Antrim getting into those higher competitions as well.”

Galligan is the eighth Cavan man to hold the position of Uachtarán Comhairle Uladh, following in the footsteps of Bernard Fay (1923-24), Seamus Gilheaney (1955-57), Andrew O'Brien (1971-74), Philip Smith (1983-86), Rev Fr Dan Gallogly (1989-1992), Miceál Greenan (2004-2006) and Aogán Ó Fearghail (2010-2012).

Also at Convention, Ciaran McLaughlin (Tír Eoghain) was elected to the position of Vice-President, Michael Geoghegan (Ard Mhacha) was elected to the position of Treasurer and Declan Woods (An Cabhán) was elected the PRO for the incoming year.

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