Sean Kelly – The People’s PRO

By Brendan McTaggart

The man behind the tweets, the camera and facebook.  Sean Kelly came in as PRO for Antrim five years ago and this week will be his last.

The St Malachy’s clubman has taken the PRO game to a new stratosphere since stepping into the role.  Sean had a natural gift of being in the right place at the right time to get footage of countless memories in the last five years and his positivity surrounding our county teams and club championships has been infectious.

“It’s (his tenure) been unbelievable.  I’ve met so many people steeped in GAA history, being PRO is one of the most enjoyable jobs when you get it right.” Said Kelly as told us about his time in the public eye.  “There’s plenty of flack that comes your way if you don’t get it right.  You’re dealing with the outside world and different media but it’s been a fantastic, fantastic role to be in.”

He certainly grabbed the opportunity to promote our games and as promised five years ago, he took social media to a new level.  He continued: “I was the first person to go live on a county Twitter account, I used Periscope at that time back in 2016.  The footballers were training down in Brian Magee’s and I decided to go live and there was positive comments coming in from all over Ireland so I had a couple of Periscope moments.”

“The goal was to promote Antrim and by that I mean every club.  Every club is the same to me.  I walk into every single club and they are just amazing people, promoting our games in their own community.  My goal was to promote them all.

“To be honest, coming into the role, I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into and for the first couple of years I was flagging it.  But when I got grounded and down to Croke Park with proper training and met other PRO’s, I learned what to do and what not to do pretty quickly.  Things began to take off from then.”

There have been some golden moments but one in particular stands out for Sean, he added: “Tomas McCann’s goal against St Galls in the semi-final was the standout moment.  I thought he had no chance of him scoring and I was recording to get the reaction of the St Galls boys at the final whistle and the rest is history.”  He continued: “Conor McCann helps me out with a lot of stuff, IT wise and is a fantastic support.  I asked him if he would slow the ball down.  I know he’s a Creggan man and asked if he would mind with Cargin involved but he laughed that off.  It was for the promotion of the GAA and he had no problems so Conor McCann’s to blame for that.”

Wherever the county teams have been, Sean was never that far away.  Covering the games with his own unique identity on social media.  His high have come in relative recent times: “The high was the footballers winning in Louth.  League, off course league matters but to win a game in the championship qualifiers and that moment was unreal.  I carried that feeling for a full week until Kildare came up and took me down a peg or two but that was one highlight.”

“The hurlers now, going to Croke Park and the year they’ve had is another massive high.”

While others have been content to stay within the boundaries of the PRO role, Sean broke those barriers and his work with charities in the last five years has been nothing short of remarkable.  He told us: “I realised the GAA is a vehicle, it’s a massive family and you can make a massive impact.  That’s how the concept of ‘Run for Anto’ came about and helping Anto Finnegan with his cause and Motor Neuron Disease, to raise awareness and money.

We raised £15,000 with over 1000 people in Falls Park in what was an amazing day.  We had Jim Gavin and Jason Sherlock up as well.  The full day was fantastic.

“I phoned him up and said I wanted to do something for him.  We bandied about a few ideas between us and we talked about the run from Casement in the early 80’s, a run for Africa.

The initial thought was that but the costs of putting that on was a stumbling block.  We took it to the Park and every penny went to the charity.  It really was an unbelievable day for a great man.  Anto is an unbelievable person.

“We did the Bowel Cancer walk that raised £15,000 and during lockdown we raised £16,000 from two online concerts for The Hospice and St Vincent de Paul.  The Saffron Shoe Box appeal was hugely successful too, I’d say in the five years, we raised £80,000 for charities.”

His charity work has been a major success but Sean told us he wanted to be remembered for other aspects of his role as he joked: “Online, twitter and social media.  Raising awareness and promoting around the country about our championships and Making Antrim Great which was my motto for the Election.  Then Trump took it so I had to jack it.

“I wanted to Make Antrim Great and I feel like I’ve done it and now the players are doing it on and off the pitch and with Casement in the pipeline, the world is our oyster.”

There is no doubt Sean has put his own slant on how to fulfil the PRO role.  He’s widely regarded as one of the best out there and he gave us an idea on what he wanted to do in the role: “For me, it’s about capturing those unique moments.  Those moments of someone scoring and putting it online so some young people can see their clubmate. 

“Instagram is the main vehicle now.  It’s huge.  A few years ago people wouldn’t have recognised the Antrim players, particularly around Belfast but now they’re going in to the schools and all that I think is down to social media.”

With his time coming to an end, Sean has another project in the horizon and hopes his days of having a mobile phone charger in his pocket aren’t done yet: “I’m running for Ulster Delegate and fingers crossed I’ve done enough in my five years to get elected.  Failing that, I’ll take a break from the GAA and put my phone in my pocket, and watch some games.  Hopefully it won’t come to that but I’ll still help the new PRO, promoting the County and get him off to a good strong start.”

“I’m heading down to Croke Park on the 13th and it ends then.”

Sean has been a breath of fresh air and raised the bar for PRO’s all over the country.  He did raise the profile of our county players withing our county and our championships across the country.  From the early days of Periscope to streaming our championship games live on social media and everything in between, Sean Kelly delivered on his promise five years ago.

Well done Sean and good luck with your future role wherever that may be.

PS – Since Brendan wrote this piece we can confirm Sean has been elected as an Ulster delegate, so his inolvement in GAA continues

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