Ó Caoimh, Pádraig (Paddy O'Keeffe) (1897–1964), revolutionary and sports administrator, was born 9 December 1897 in Bellanagare, Co. Roscommon, son of Michael O'Keeffe, RIC sergeant, and Mary O'Keeffe (née O'Malley). Raised in East View Terrace, Cork city, and educated at the CBS, Sullivan's Quay, and Presentation College, he trained (1916–18) as a teacher in London, returning to teach at Presentation College. Involved in the GAA in Cork from an early age, he played football for the Nils club, was a founder member of the Nemo club, and was involved in its amalgamation with Rangers in 1922 to form Nemo Rangers, of which he became secretary. Leaving teaching in 1919 to become a full-time company officer of 2nd Bn, Cork no. 1 Bde, IRA, and manager of the dáil employment bureau in Cork, he was arrested in December 1920, sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude, and imprisoned till 1922 in Cork, Wormwood Scrubs, and Parkhurst, after which he worked as a manager in Sullivan's Red Abbey tobacco factory till 1929.
Elected secretary of the Cork GAA county board in July 1920, during the 1920s he was a well-known referee and was involved in the brief revival of the Tailteann games. Successor to Luke O'Toole (qv) as general secretary of the GAA from 1929 till his death, he is considered to be ‘the architect of the modern GAA’ (A century of service, 30). His greatest achievements were putting the organisation's finances on a sound basis; the development of Croke Park, in particular the construction of the new Hogan Stand; the expansion of the organisation at club level; the construction of GAA pitches throughout the country; the introduction of new competitions such as the railway cups, national leagues, and minor championships; developing the social role of the organisation; and the successful staging of the 1947 all-Ireland football final in New York. His efforts to produce a GAA publication were less successful, with the periodicals An Ráitheachán and An Camán surviving only for brief periods. His annual reports reflected his strong nationalist beliefs: seeing the GAA as not simply a sports organisation but a crucial tool in the re-gaelicisation of the country, he strongly opposed playing ‘foreign’ games; promoted the use of Irish in the organisation; stressed the importance of the GAA to the Irish diaspora; and was conscious of the importance of youth to the success and the future of the association. In 1942, under his influence, the GAA controversially sponsored the publication of National action, by Joseph Hanly, advocating a new system of government based on a single-party regime, monitored by an opposition drawn from local councils. Deeply religious, in 1932 Ó Caoimh marshalled 2,000 GAA stewards at the eucharistic congress. A promoter of native Irish industry, he was a member of the National Industrial and Agricultural Association, the Gaelic League, and Bórd Fáilte, and in 1958–9 sat on a commission established to examine television broadcasting, supporting a reservation that the new television service must be state-controlled in order to secure native culture. He was also a member of the National Film Institute, and during the second world war served as an LDF group leader.
He married Peg O'Keeffe of Booltha, Tallow, Co. Waterford; they had five daughters and one son and lived first at Croke House, Drumcondra, and later at Tailteann, 20 Orwell Park, Rathgar. His wife was a former captain of the UCC camogie team and his daughter captained the UCD camogie team. Having suffered intermittent bad health since the 1940s, he died 15 May 1964 in Dublin. On his silver jubilee as general secretary in 1955 the GAA commissioned a portrait of him by Seán O'Sullivan (qv). The GAA ground in Cork city is named Pairc Uí Caoimh in his honour.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).