Portlaoise has been blessed with having some really good administrators over the years. In the early years there was R.P. Fennell, a man whose family and connections were deeply rooted in the town and in the nationalist tradition.
He was at the heart of the GAA and Portlaoise GAA in particular from the very start, holding various key positions within the club and being an able spokesman for the club at higher board levels. He was a solicitor’s clerk before becoming Postmaster in Portlaoise, the first Catholic or Nationalist to hold the position.
All through his life his influence was ever present in the background if not always in the forefront in all things that concerned the town and the GAA. When the Laois footballers returned to a big celebratory homecoming after (losing) the All-Ireland Football Final of 1936, he was there to congratulate the team’s achievement at reaching the final and consolatory in their defeat by Mayo. He was present with the few remaining members of the last Laois side who had contested an All-Ireland Football Final – the Maryborough team of 1889. He had helped steer that famous team to the final even if injury had kept him out of the side.
He was an able administrator, a far-seeing individual, a fine all-round athlete, a formidable protagonist in the board room and a man universally respected for his wisdom and loyalty. His kin remained closely associated with the club and even today there are strong family connections with the club.