HE’S ONE OF the GAA’s leading figures, primed with steering the association.
But away from the multitude of responsibilities that his role as GAA Director-General encompasses, Paraic Duffy brands himself a Monaghan fan.
January is a time to plan ahead, gauging the Dr McKenna Cup form, getting set for a Division 2 league campaign and waiting for the championship tests further down the road. If he’s enthused by 2014, then it’s understandable considering what a remarkable year 2013 was.
He only missed two Monaghan games last year. One was a midweek Dr McKenna Cup match away to Donegal in January, the other a league tie against Roscommon which clashed with Congress last April. Otherwise he was there every step of the way.
“At the start of last year, I thought promotion from Division 3 was a good aim and given the draw I thought they could get to an Ulster final.”
His hopes were met and exceeded. Monaghan claimed promotion league last April, they got over Antrim in their Ulster opener and then overcame Cavan in a semi-final local derby brimming with passion.
“There’s a huge rivalry there”, recalls Duffy. “So I went to it as a Monaghan supporter with my wife and family.
“But because I didn’t go to the Ard Chomhairle section, people presumed I’d had a row with the Ulster Council. Martin McAviney asked me that afterwards. I said that I just wanted to go and shout on the team as a supporter.
“I couldn’t do it again for the Ulster final unfortunately. You’d miss that aspect of it because Monaghan Cavan was just brilliant.”
When the morning of the Ulster football finals dawned last July, Duffy was pragmatic in his Monaghan forecasts. A minor victory and a competitive senior performance would be classed as a good day.
Monaghan won the curtain-raiser and then gloriously carried off the main prize.
“It was an unbelievable day, never been one like it”, says Duffy. “I was the Monaghan PRO in 1979 when Sean McCague was manager and that was the first time in 41 years that they’d won it.
“I was a selector when they won in ’85 and a supporter in ’88. But for me last year was very special.”
Duffy found it particularly gratifying to witness long-serving players get their hands on a coveted Ulster medal.
“Lads like Dick Clerkin, Tommy Freeman and Stephen Gollogly had been around a long time trying to win one. They’d been fantastic servants. It was great as well to see Paul (Finlay) win.
“Paul’s dad died in 2012 and they were unbelievably close. I felt it affected his football. I knew Kieran well, he was a great fella. Him and Paul were so close.”
Monaghan’s Paul Finlay celebrates
Pic: INPHO/Donall Farmer
The celebrations were to be savoured.
“I stayed around Clones for ages, I didn’t want to leave it”, recalls Duffy. “I always come to Dublin on the Sunday night with work but I went back down Monday night for the celebrations as they went around the five towns – Castleblayney, Carrickmacross, Ballybay, Clones and Monaghan.
“Since the players have won that, they’ve been brilliant ambassadors. Malachy O’Rourke has handled it great as well. It’s been a huge lift for the county in tough times.”
Monaghan’s season ended at the next hurdle against Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Yet there was another landmark moment at local level to cherish.
Duffy is a native of Castleblayney but is now settled for some time in Scotstown. The Monaghan club’s 20-year wait for a county senior title finally ended last October with his son Mark part of the victorious team.
“Scotstown was a sense of relief really because the club hadn’t won a championship for 20 years. It was a monkey off their backs. I was delighted for Mark as he’s incredibly dedicated but he’s been plagued by injuries. He did both his ACL’s in when he was 18 so he’s had to manage it since then. He was just relieved to win a medal at 29.”
After a winter back in the glow of those county and club triumphs, 2014 represents new challenges. His 9 to 5 gives him an elevated status in the GAA but at the heart Duffy shares the ethos of many others.
“I just love the games. I’d be a big Monaghan supporter. I’d be a Scotstown supporter and I’d have a soft spot for Castleblayney Faughs because that’s who I played with.
“The passion doesn’t come from being an administrator. The passion and anxiety about games for me comes from Monaghan. I go to as many Monaghan games as I can. If they win, I’m happy on a Sunday night. If they lose, I’m disappointed. I’m a supporter like anyone else.”