Tyrone appoint Ardboe's legendary Patsy Forbes honorary president
Player, Athlete, Trainer, Supporter, Youth-developer, Fundraiser, Organiser, Rugby, Boxing, Entrepreneur, Sponsor.
An initial overview of the achievements and interests of the incredible Patsy Forbes indicates why Tyrone GAA has made him the county’s Honorary President.
Still only 78, the Ardboe man’s involvement with the GAA stretches over eight decades now, from his playing days as a minor star in the Fifties up to the present.
“It’s nice to get an honour like that from Tyrone,” acknowledges Forbes. “It’s more ex-chairmen of Tyrone and people like that generally get it but they gave it to me because I’ve done a right bit of work, raising money down the years, helping out the GAA in many ways.”
County chairman Michael Kerr was quite rightly effusive in his praise for Patsy, saying: “We’re always making the point that there’s no one way of contributing to the GAA and Patsy is maybe an unequalled example of how to do that.
“He has never sought or held an elected position at county level in Tyrone. Yet is there anybody who has done more for Tyrone than this unique man?”
And not just in Tyrone. The lengthy list of his work over the years on the county’s website points out that he was “absolutely central to three of Ulster’s great GAA successes, Derry’s totally-pioneering Owenbeg project, Club Tyrone, and Tyrone’s Garvaghey project (and especially Garvaghey’s just-completed Performance Hub).”
Forbes believes great things will come from that last-named aspect, saying “It’s really very modern, state-of-the-art, although I haven’t got to see it because of this virus. I know other counties are doing similar things, but Tyrone is moving on well.”
Importantly, as a key player in the Club Tyrone fundraising body, he stresses: “They’re paying their way…they run a very tight ship, don’t throw money around them. They’re very watchful of their money and how it’s spent.
“That’s a good thing when you go out to collect money for Tyrone, that’s an advantage, a plus. Tyrone is a great county, the people are very loyal, powerful altogether.”
Patsy Forbes is one of the very best of them, despite getting on for half a century living over the county border in Derry, having married Magherafelt lady Maura Higgins in 1971 – the year he won a second Tyrone SFC title with Ardboe.
Still playing senior with Tyrone then, as he’d done throughout the Sixties, Forbes fulfilled the talent he’d shown as a Minor prodigy with his club.
Yet rather than burn out he took up rugby at the age of 36, boxed for Ulster, and has achieved international success as an athlete, including 33 Irish Masters titles and two silver medals at World Games.
Away from tracks and fields he’s been equally busy. The business he established at the age of just 21, and which still trades successfully as Forbes Furniture Group, brought employment to many in the area.
County chairman Kerr knows Forbes is the right man for this latest job: “The role of President is an honorary one but it’s also a very important role. Our County President not only acts as a figurehead for the GAA in Tyrone but is also an advisor to us, a sounding board for us, someone who sees the bigger picture and who can bring other things into play.”
Patsy Forbes has always done that, on and off the pitch, and will continue to do so, despite the latest lockdown casting doubt over when inter-county GAA will return.
“We have to be positive and look forward,” insists Patsy. “The GAA’s a very important organisation; it’s done a fantastic job for the young people of Ireland. The people know that and that’s why they support it so well. All the time we’re getting better and better facilities. You have to move with the times.