Stephen Ormsby still serving the Roscommon cause
By Cian O’Connell
A decade ago Stephen Ormsby was part of a thrilling Roscommon journey which culminated in Connacht Senior Football Championship glory.
Now, though, Ormsby remains a central figure in the Roscommon GAA story through his day job as an Administrator for the County Board.
It has been an interesting spell for Ormsby since returning from a stint as a Community Development Administrator with Warwickshire GAA in 2015.
The time spent in the English midlands was rewarding for the proud St Faithleach’s clubman, who had to give up playing for Roscommon in 2012.
“I was in DCU, I did sports science and graduated,” Ormsby explains. “A job came up in Warwickshire to be the Community Development Administrator, the CDA over there.
“Basically at the time I was nearly a year after completing college, there wasn't much happening. I was still playing for Roscommon at the time, but I made the choice for myself that I had to get myself going on a professional level. I went for the job in Warwickshire.
“I had knowledge about the position because I was actually born in Coventry myself and would have strong links with the Roger Casements club through my own father and grandfather. So I knew the lie of the land of the GAA in Warwickshire fairly well before I went over. I applied for the job and was fortunate enough to get it.
“Once I was offered a full-time position, I had been in a position where I had no work, I had to go. Unfortunately that meant leaving playing for Roscommon behind me, but it was a decision I had to make.”
Did those family ties provide a source of comfort when making the transition? “Yeah, it was, it definitely made it easier,” Ormsby replies.
“I had numerous cousins, uncles, and aunts over there still. So I knew a good few people over there at the time which made it easier to settle.
“I actually moved into my grandmother's - she had passed away the previous November - the family home was empty so I moved in there. It was easy to get accommodation, things like that all helped me to settle in.”
In Warwickshire Ormsby embraced the challenge of trying to develop Gaelic Games stressing the emphasis placed on improving the juvenile ranks in the respective clubs.
“I loved the position over there and I was really heavily involved in the underage side of it,” Ormsby says. “I'd be very proud of some of the work I did over there, you'd have 15 clubs in Warwickshire ranging from Birmingham up as far as Nottingham and down to Northampton.
“You have a good spread in the midlands of England, a couple of those clubs had adult level and they hadn't underage level. I helped a couple of extra clubs get off the ground when I was over there.
“I'd still pass an eye on what is going on over there and see that St Finbarr's in Coventry, their underage had gone, but it got off the ground when I was there.
“I did the best I could to help them, but they had put in a lot of work themselves obviously. They are still going at the minute at underage. It is nice to see the work I did over there still bearing fruit maybe.”
The Gaelic Games landscape has altered throughout the decades in England with the need to assist young talent critical. Presently the London senior football panel is flecked with homegrown talent and that is hugely relevant going forward according to Ormsby.
“Absolutely, it is vital to them,” Ormsby admits. “London has a huge number of Irish people going over and to be fair to the clubs in London the underage structures are very strong. I would argue that the club structures in Warwickshire at underage aren't far behind.
“We compete very well with London at Under 16 and Under 18 All Britain level when I was over there and they still do.
“I keep an eye on the results. When you are in cities like Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, there isn't the influx of Irish people going in that there once was. It is very important you are bringing through your own to sustain the club.
“The people involved in the clubs over there are hugely passionate about their clubs. They grew up with Sean MacDermotts, Roger Casements or John Mitchels as their home club.
“That is their home and they are as passionate about it as I am about Faithleach's or any Irish person is about their own club here.”
Clubs that were eager to develop structures were assisted by Ormsby, who was anxious to forge relationships with local schools.
“I was coaching in schools during the week, we tried to target schools based off club feedback,” Ormsby remarks.
“I'd ask clubs would there be particular schools where they could link in with to pull a few players out of it. That is basically the kind of schools we'd target. Maybe a club coach would be teaching in a certain school or they might have a link like their own kids going to the school.
“They'd maybe make the first approach to the school. I'd go in to do the coaching, the club would hopefully pick up a few players for their Under 8s, Under 10s or Under 12s. We really focused on the primary school element, we didn't do much at secondary school.
“The thinking behind it, in particular in England, you have a heap of sports going on. There is a lot more competition sporting wise than there is in Ireland going into secondary schools it would be too late to get them interested in Gaelic Games. Get them early, while you can.”
Back in 2015 an opportunity to return to Ireland became available when Roscommon advertised for a new Administrator. “I was over there for three years when the job came up for the Administrator position in Roscommon,” Ormsby adds.
“I went for it. I was happy in England at the time, but I always wanted in the back of my mind to come home.
“When the position came up in my own home county it was a no brainer to apply to see how it went. If I didn't get it I was still going to have my position in Warwickshire anyway, but I went for it, and was fortunate enough to get the job.
“It was a different move, it is fully office based and I spend a lot of time dealing with accounts and things like that. Fortunately now in 2020 we are in a good position.
“In the first couple of years I was in it was tough going, we have an interim finance committee in place that people would know. The finances weren't in good health, but thank God at the minute we are doing well financially.
“That is in no small part due to our Treasurer David O'Connor, who has done Trojan work and the Club Rossie committee we have at the minute. That is an incredible fundraising arm, really professional, a great group of people. It is a privilege to be on a committee with them.”
The progressive way the Club Rossie project has advanced in recent years supplies real hope for the future of Gaelic Games in the western county.
“There is a lot to be said for it,” Ormsby acknowledges. “The role of any person holding a position on the County Executive in a voluntary capacity, any position, they are really time consuming positions.
“The time isn't there to focus energies on fundraising, the Club Rossie arm we have people successful in setting up their own businesses, things like that coming from all different walks of life.
“Their sole aim is to fundraise for Roscommon GAA, they are able to pour their time and energies into that.
“So that helps, it relieves the pressure on our own slightly overworked volunteer force on the executive. From that point of view it is definitely a good model.”
Ormsby is also enjoying the fact that Roscommon continue to make strides on and off the field of play. The Administrator brief can be wide ranging.
“It is office based, the focus is mainly on the financial end of things, but you get a query in the morning from some club or something like that and your day could take a completely different direction,” Ormsby states.
“You don't do what you planned to do at all. I've gone from maybe playing in matches to now if there is a game in Hyde Park, the week leading up to it is a busy time.
“You are doing all of the health and safety checks that have to be done nowadays to make sure the ground is in order to host the game.
“You are contacting stewards making sure you have enough stewards to host an event. All those type of things are involved in making sure matches go ahead smoothly.”
Being flexible with a can do attitude served Ormsby well during his own playing career under Fergal O’Donnell when All Ireland minor and Connacht senior silverware was attained. Ormsby continues to serve the Roscommon GAA cause with similar focus and determination.