By Daragh Ë Conch·ir
The Camogie Association’s annual congress comes to a conclusion at the Wellington Park Hotel in Belfast today, with a head-to-head battle to succeed Joan O’Flynn as president.
Aileen Lawlor (Westmeath) and Catherine O’Hara (Antrim) are contesting the election for president-elect and both boast strong records.
O’Hara is having her second shot at the role and the Ulster chairperson is confident that she has learned from the experience of losing out to O’Flynn three years ago as well as the demands of leading Ulster Council.
A former player with Cushendall and Antrim, O’Hara progressed to become an inter-county referee of note, taking charge of numerous All-Ireland finals and becoming the first woman to be named Ulster GAA Writers’ referee of the year in 1994.
She served as PRO, secretary and chairperson of the Antrim county board before progressing to provincial level.
O’Hara has been an innovator throughout her career in administration, establishing the initial Ulster Premier League club structures, the Ulster Awards Lunch and the Ulster coaching and development committee, and being a driving force behind the recent inaugural Ulster Players’ Forum.
Her profession in marketing and public relations has been put to good use with O’Hara setting up websites for both Antrim county board and Ulster camogie.
Lawlor is a Dubliner who has been resident in Westmeath for the past 20 years.
The St Munna’s clubwoman began her involvement with Crumlin, with whom she won an All-Ireland senior club title in 1985. She also won national league and Leinster championships with Dublin, before moving to Mullingar and winning a provincial title with Westmeath.
She was a key cog in the St Munna’s machine that won 18 county titles in 19 seasons.
Like O’Hara, Lawlor graduated to refereeing and took charge of All-Ireland, national league and interprovincial finals.
She has been heavily involved in administration at club and county level but remains connected to the playing side of things having only retired last year. As Leinster League co-ordinator, she oversaw the competition’s growth from 19 participating teams in its inaugural season in 2007, to 36 by 2010.
Lawlor’s election manifesto includes a commitment to seeing through the implementation of the national development plan within the stated timeframe, and establishing county boards where none exist.
She also hopes to oversee the establishment of new camogie clubs in hurling strongholds, while providing training to club and county officers in their administrative roles.
Meanwhile, Sheila O’Donoghue from the Higher Education camogie association will take up a new position at central level, with responsibility for coaching and games development.