Chris going strong at the top table!
WICKLOW GAA Secretary Chris O’Connor would love to see more women involved not only on the County Board, but in every club in the county. And there’s a simple reason for that desire. The Blesington woman believes that women bring different ideas to the table. And different can be good, different can be very, very good.
Currently there are four women on the Wicklow County Executive out of a total of 14 members. Chris O’Connor is county secretary, Bridget Kenny is assistant secretary and chairperson of the CCC, Frances Stephenson is the children’s officer and Kathryn Noone is Irish and cultural officer. Relatively speaking that is a reasonable number, but Chris O’Connor would gladly welcome more women into the ranks of the county executive.
For Chris, the road to her current position began at just 18 years of age when she was encouraged on to the Blessington GAA Club committee by her father and uncle, filling the role of under-21 rep at the time. Through the years the competent club administrator has performed various roles and filled many chairs at the top table of her beloved club, serving 15 years as secretary, chairperson for a year, PRO for a time as well as working tirelessly to create and promote ladies football in the club, together with husband Paddy O’Connor and brother-in-laws Michael O’Connor and the sadly departed John O’Connor.
For a brief spell, Chris played with the new team but recalls being “brutal at it” and so, to the eventual good fortune of the entire county, she turned her attentions to admin and along with the efforts of many other people, turned the fledgling ladies club into the thriving body it is today.
Chris took over the role of club secretary from none other than former GAA President Jack Boothman when he was unveiled as President elect in 1993. If ever there were big boots to fill surely Chris O’Connor was faced with one of the biggest pairs ever. But fill them she did.
It was Dunlavin’s Andy O’Brien who made the call to inquire if Chris O’Connor would be interested in joining the County Board.
“Andy rang me to see what my intentions were (in terms of her administrative plans). Tom Byrne had just finished as assitant secretary. I was on the CCC at the time, but I jumped at the chance. I was hugely honoured to have been asked. There’s lots of young lands and young girls out there who enjoy the honour of representing their county and since I was brutal at football, I was honoured to be able to represent my county in that way.
“They asked me after I had been presented with the Club Person of the Year award as well, so I couldn’t really refuse even if I had wanted to,” she joked.
Chris O’Connor is now a vital part of county management, having taken over from Michael Murphy upon his retirement and when the full-time county secretary role concluded.
The ambitious and hard-working Chris has a definite plan for her future within Wicklow GAA. She has every intention of ascending to the role of county chairperson, via the seat of assistant chairperson first, and her professional and capable demeanour at County Board meetings and her reputation within Leinster GAA circles suggest that there will be little to stand in her way.
In relation to why there is a lower number of women or perhaps a slower uptake of women to positions on the County Board or in clubs, Chris O’Connor believes that some women might see making such a move as daunting but she wholeheartedly reveals that it is anything but.
“In fairness to all the lads I have worked with over the years they have always shown me nothing but respect.
“There are more women getting involved, I think it’s happening. And I hope it keeps happening. Women bring something different to the table, different ideas,” she added.
Chris is keen to offer her deepest gratitude to all the men and women of the clubs of Wicklow who have helped her and continue to help her in any way in her role of county secretary.
She also offers a special work of thanks to Martin Coleman who was chairperson during her appointment as county secretary and who showed her huge support during that time.
Women in GAA Clubs: