Rodgers helped transform Tyrone football says county chairman

By Niall Gartland

TYRONE county chairman Martin Sludden has paid tribute to the late Frank Rodgers, stating that the impact of his role as a leading GAA administrator in the county reverberates to this day.

The Beragh Red Knights clubman died on Sunday aged 82 having been involved in the GAA as a player, coach and administrator since his youth.

Mr Rodgers was a stalwart of his local club and broke new ground for the GAA in the 1970s when he reported on Gaelic Games for BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sportsound, a role he held from 1974 to 1999.

He also served as Tyrone GAC secretary from a quarter of a century between 1975 and 2000 and was described in an official statement released earlier this week as “one of a group of radical, innovative and visionary period who changed the path of GAA history here.”

Tyrone chairman Martin Sludden has singled out Mr Rodgers’ role in overhauling the club league structures in particular, explaining that his visionary initiatives have well and truly stood the test of time.

“Club football has been transformed in recent decades in Tyrone and a lot of that is down to Frank.

“Frank and Bertie Foley from Dungannon were the main men in bringing together the East and West Tyrone leagues.

“Frank was also the man who drove the move to three leagues of 16 teams whereas beforehand it was six teams of eight.

“That was back in the late seventies and while there was a bit of a change in the mid-noughties, it didn’t last. The move to three leagues of 16 has stood the test of time.”

Mr Sludden added, “People say what they will about league football, but if you look at the teams who have won championship titles in recent decades, they learnt their trade in the league and won league titles.

“Having really strong competitive league football has been good to a lot of teams, and a lot of the credit for that must go to Frank.”

The county chairman also praised Mr Rodgers for his tireless and selfless approach to administrative matters. To cite 1975 as an example, he juggled his role as Beragh’s club secretary with his membership of the new county executive, chairmanship of the youth board and as assistant secretary of the league board.

As chairman of the youth board he was responsible for youth fixtures, Scór na nÓg and the county minor team. He also did the first live commentary of a filmed county final that year and was the county’s de facto PRO, publishing well-regarded annuals and reports that recorded GAA activity at every level.

Mr Sludden commented: “Frank was Mr Tyrone GAA in a sense. He was GAC secretary for 25 years and they dealt with a whole variety of things, from disciplinary matters, organising fixtures, referee appointments. He was part of all that. He was way ahead of his time and the fact he served in the role for such a long time shows you how capable he was.

“His role as secretary was like a full-time job for Frank in terms of the hours and dedication he’d put in. I’ve no doubt that if he was a young man today, he’d be an administrator in Croke Park, he was that good. He also passed on his skills to his son Alan, who served four years as Secretary for Beragh.”

Mr Sludden also paid tribute to Frank for his monumental efforts in improving the media coverage of Tyrone GAA in an era before social media and smart phones. Mr Rodgers kept fans abreast of results on BBC Radio Ulster and his attention to detail was truly legendary.

“Back in the early ‘80s, the dance hall in the GAA was a big thing. There was the disco on a Saturday night, the band night on a Sunday, and the members’ bar was up above.

“That’s where a lot of the footballers came from the surrounding areas, the likes of Killyclogher, Trillick, Dromore and Omagh.

“There was no Teletext or Twitter or anything like that in those days and it’s where people hear the scores. If you wanted to find out the scores from the latest round of league games, you had to ring Frank.

“I remember my brother Kevin ringing him from the house to find out the results. They used to read them out on BBC Radio Ulster as well and that’s where Frank came in as he’s the one who rang around all the clubs on a Sunday on a weekly basis to collate the results. Again it all shows you how massively important Frank has been for Tyrone GAA.”

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