Cavan Gaels community work continues
By Cian O'Connell
Friday mornings at the Cavan Gaels GAA complex is a time for mild training and talk. What started by simply responding to an advertisement placed by the Cavan Sports Partnership in the local media has impacted the lives of several people, who are enjoying the initiative being implemented.
A collorobation between the Gaels and Cavan Sports Partnership has resulted in an over 50s exercise programme. That a connection has been forged with people with no previous links to the Cavan Gaels club merely adds to the feel-good factor.
The Gaels contested the 2017 Ulster Club Final, but they are also contributing handsomely in Cavan. Town clubs can differ from those in rural areas so Hugh Reilly, Cavan Gaels Health and Wellbeing Officer, is delighted by the response to what commenced last September.
“Cavan Gaels is one of the GAA's Healthy Clubs since 2016, we were one of only two clubs in Cavan in the second phase of the Healthy Clubs initiative and we were looking out for various initiatives,” Reilly explains.
““We have fabulous new club rooms which we opened in 2015. So back in September Cavan Sports Partnership had an ad in the media for community groups to contact them in relation to the provision of an over 50s exercise programme.
“So we contacted them, met up with them, they saw our facilities and were delighted with what we had. They partly sponsor it by providing the trainer, we do the advertising through the club media through the club newsletter, Facebook, Twitter etc.”
Reilly is hugely encouraged by the positive response the programme has received in Cavan. “The first six weeks programme started on September 29. I think we had in the region of about 15 the first week and that quickly rose to about 20 or 25 with an average of about 20 there each week.
“ The programme is a combination of different exercises, a lot of it is chair based exercises. While the programme is aimed at over 50s a lot of the participants are much older than that. It was really well receieved, they immediately asked for a second six weeks programme which took us up until Christmas.
“Last Friday we commenced a third six weeks programme with Cavan Sports Partnership so it has gone from strength to strength. We have a lot of people who live in the area, a lot of people who are living on their own. The exercise class takes place between 11 and 12 on a Friday morning, followed by a cup of tea.
“The time is suitable for a lot of the people who mightn't want to go out on a dark, cold winter night, to leave their homes. The timing is very suitable. People tie it in with other things on a Friday morning like going to mass or shopping. It has brought together a lot of people who wouldn't have otherwise known each other.”
Assisting people is precisely what Cavan Gaels intend to do. “They are from different parts of the town and surrounding areas,” Reilly adds about those involved.
“At least half of them have no association at all or maybe would have had children in the past playing or grandchildren. A number of them would have no association at all, they just heard about it and asked could they come along.
“We charge a nominal amount of two euro a week just to cover the light and heat and a cup of tea. Cavan Sports Partnership provide the trainer, we provide the facilities and we have been able to avail of part of our Healthy Clubs grant towards the cost of it which is quite small.”
Now that this group has been established Reilly believes it can expand further through helping to bring the participants into other activities.
“It has been fantastically well received, we've had enquires from other clubs about it,” Reilly admits. “We've people from out in the country, who have asked can they come in to participate. There is also talk with people on in it in terms of the Healthy Club, maybe through social trips come the spring and summer for example to local museums or even a trip to Dublin to different things, depending on what they want to do.
“We will continue to keep it going. We will also start, as part of the Ireland lights up Monday night initiative, and some of them come along to that walk on Monday nights as well. Some of the Friday morning over 50s group are now taking part in the Monday night walk.”
Reilly is adamant about the value of this particular project. “It certainly widens the remit of the GAA to a more community focus,” Reilly acknowlegdes.
“We have received great support from the GAA and it has breathed new life into the club and it is seen as more of a community facility, not just what people expect with it just being dressing rooms, that's it. People didn't realise, like Cavan Partnership, they didn't realise such a fantastic big all was available upstairs for so many things.
“It has such potential because we also have a bowls group who come in one afternoon a week. They have no connection with the club at all, they have become social members for insurance purposes, but they come in one afternoon a week.
"That is the arrangement we have running for the past year and they would be quite an elderly group. They have their social afternoon as well, they have the kitchen available and it has given the club another angle to be available for community groups.”
Going forward Reilly is hopeful that people in Cavan town can benefit from the work that is being carried out.
“A lot of people didn't even realise the facilities we have,” Reilly says. “We have a fantastic general purpose room upstairs, it hosts a lot of events. We have started a yoga class, a local lady has started and there is a crossover with some of the other groups as well.
“People think there must be loads of facilities in a town, but sometimes for groups like this that might want to hire out facilities unless they pay big money for a hotel or something like that it can be difficult to get reasonably costed facilities. If they are paying a big cost for hiring out a hotel they would have to pass it on then to the participants.
“The fact we can provide something at a nominal cost in conjunction with Cavan Sports Partnership is great. It is a community group with a community focus, it all works together very well, it is a win-win for everyone.”