Dan Gillan, front and centre, outside the GAA Museum at Croke Park
Dan Gillan, along with 78 other members from clubs around Antrim, visited Croke Park on the weekend as part of the Antrim Health & Wellbeing Social Initiative.
Below is a report from Barney Herron of the Antrim Health & Wellbeing Committee followed by some photos and videos from the day.
Antrim Health & Wellbeing Social Initiative outing to Croke Park
GAA/ Irish Life Social Initiative Programme
Antrim clubs came together last Saturday under the guidance of the county health & wellbeing Committee to participate in the GAA social Initiative Programme. The group of 78 people representing 33 of the 44 Antrim clubs visited Croke park the GAA headquarters in Dublin and enjoyed a fantastic day out. The itinerary for the day included being brought by coach to the stadium and following a beautiful lunch in one of the function rooms overlooking the famous playing field the group had a tour of the venue including access to the players changing rooms, media centre, players’ lounge, press area, corporate area and the administrative centre. The tour was an opportunity for everyone to experience what it is like to be a player participating in games in the stadium and for everyone it was a fantastic experience. Many participants commented on the huge sense of pride that this gave them in terms of the fact that our association had such a high class stadium and the fact that being on the tour was something that they would never have previously experienced as supporters of their county or indeed club teams. Indeed for some it was their first ever time visiting the stadium and for one man in particular it was as he said “simply the best experience of my long life and something I will bring to my grave”. The group also visited the GAA museum and then had a historical lecture from a well know author and historian Jim Mc Dermott with a focus on the GAA in Antrim and the 1916 rising. Following this they mixed freely and enjoyed their opportunity to take in the experience in a relaxed atmosphere.
The GAA Social Initiative is based on an initiative established by former President Mary Mc Aleese in partnership with the association with a focus on making clubs more age-friendly, by increasing the participation of older members of society, with a focus on older men, through events specifically designed to enrich their lives and represent the important contribution they have made and continue to make to community life.
The GAA’s mission statement states “The GAA is a community based volunteer organisation promoting Gaelic games, culture and lifelong participation”. For many age groups, our games can meet the participation needs, however, as an adult gets older their needs increase while participation opportunities diminish. The reality is that many fall away from their GAA club and the connection which once was an integral part of their lives dwindles. This can in turn lead to less engagement with the community as a whole. The GAA is committed to reversing this trend through the social Initiative
All of the above was clearly visible during last Saturdays Antrim Social Initiative experience and the general feeling of the participants was that they have been brought back into the fold and that they are again being included in the association. During the course of the day
many spoke about their previous work with club and county and recalled with great pride how they have been driving forces for their club and communities for many years and that during this time they felt that they belonged. They said that they understood that as time moves on it is natural that younger generations will come forward and take on the mantle of leadership but that one of the most difficult things to deal with is the sense of” not belonging anymore”. During the event at Croke Park a former chair of a club and indeed vice chair of a county board talked about how being included is an important aspect of life as an older member of society and he expressed his personal view that the social inclusion initiative has a big part to play in re-engaging with older members of society. Others spoke about how the process has helped them engage with fellow Gaels from other parts of the county and the importance of this in terms of County cohesion. There were also comments about how the event has re-vitalised them in terms of their commitment to going back to their clubs and getting involved again and also has encouraged them to consider doing something similar within their own clubs for the older membership.
The Antrim Health & Wellbeing committee would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the participants in this initiative and also the clubs who worked with them in identifying participants. The assistance of The GAA Community and Health department in developing this theme was a great motivating factor for the committee and the assistance of Ronan Flynn from this department was a great benefit. Gemma Sexton from the GAA museum was also a huge source of guidance and advice and her team on the team were both courteous and totally professional in how they greeted and subsequently worked with the group. It is also important to recognise the huge financial contribution and commitment to the social inclusion initiative of IRISH LIFE and they continue to be a great supporter of this initiative. We also want to acknowledge Casement Park social club for their financial assistance and O’ Neills sportswear for their contribution of a gift pack for each participant and to a major supermarket group who supplied fruit and water for everyone.
The Social Inclusion theme will now be promoted throughout the county and it is anticipated that many clubs will seek to develop their own version of this initiative and seek to encourage older members to come back into the GAA and to take what is their rightful place in our club, county and Association.
Antrim Health & Wellbeing Committee
Below are some photos and videos from Croke Park