Three contenders vying for Antrim chairmanship ahead of county convention
THREE contenders have thrown their hats in the ring to become Antrim’s next chairman at county convention.
St Enda’s, Glengormley clubman Ciaran McCavana, St Paul’s veteran Joe Edwards and All Saints man Owen Elliott are running for the chairmanship following Collie Donnelly’s decision to step down from the role after three years.
Vice-chairman Terry Reilly has also decided to step away along with Donnelly.
McCavana has been persuaded to run for the top job in the county after holding the chairman’s role at his club for four years [2011 to 2015].
A chartered accountant with offices in Belfast and Dublin, McCavana is also heavily involved in overseeing the building of a £1.8m community hub at the Glengormley club, expected to be completed by mid-March, and was also chair of the Gaelscoil Eanna that opened its doors 10 years ago in the area.
He has been involved in both senior hurling and football management teams at his club. Given his professional background, McCavana would appear equipped in the corporate field where a lot of work has already been done by out-going duo Donnelly and Reilly and successful fundraising body Saffron Business Forum.
Joe Edwards is another intriguing candidate for the chairmanship. A respected figure in GAA circles beyond Antrim's borders, Edwards has proven to be a safe pair of hands on the county’s Competitions Controls Committee [CCC] for many years and there’s little the wily St Paul’s man doesn’t know about the GAA rulebook.
He was instrumental in getting county footballer Matthew Fitzpatrick exonerated after GAA disciplinary chiefs handed down a highly controversial year’s ban two seasons ago and is a popular figure in the county.
It is understood Edwards is also running for one of the Ulster delegate positions at the December 3 county convention in Dunsilly, alongside Alec McQuillan.
Owen Elliott, the third candidate, has just completed a five-year term as North Antrim Divisional Board chairman and is regarded as another very capable administrator.
Elliott, a Ballycastle native, has a wealth of experience in disciplinary matters as he too has served on the CCC.
He continues to serve the county by refereeing at various levels, including camogie.
Regardless of who gets the requisite number of votes next month, the new chairman and vice-chairman have big boots to fill.
Led by Donnelly and Reilly, the Saffron Vision group transformed the financial fortunes of the county since their arrival on the county stage in 2015.
They successfully negotiated a £1m investment from the GAA to launch the ‘Gaelfast’ project – an ambitious initiative to reinvigorate Gaelic Games among primary schoolchildren in Belfast.
As well as turning Antrim GAA into a profitable entity, the county board mended relations with the Casement Park social club, with the latter raising significant funds for various initiatives in the county over the past three years.
The delayed Casement Park rebuild, however, has been a major frustration for the county board since they took the reins in 2015, with progress desperately slow.
Donnelly and Reilly have cited work commitments for stepping down ahead of next month's county convention.
Tommy Campbell of Cushendall is expected to run for Reilly’s vice-chair role unopposed.
Meanwhile, the experienced Eamon Grieve is likely to fill the void left by outgoing treasurer Pol Mc Cana and will be assisted by Tyrone Eastwood.
Sean Kelly will continue in the PRO role and Liam McGoldrick’s expertise will be utilised via the coaching officer’s position. Frankie Quinn remains as secretary, assisted again by Paul O’Brien.