#GAAYouth Forum - helping to empower the next generation
By John Harrington
Like the other delegates who attended the 2016 GAA Youth Forum in Croke Park, Eoghan Gately from Lucan came away energised and inspired.
He’d always been seriously committed to Gaelic Games, but now he was determined to make an even bigger contribution to his club and his community.
Even though he recently just turned 18 and plays minor and junior football and hurling for Lucan Sarsfields, he now also makes the time to help coach the club’s U-13 Ladies Football team, U-14 camogie team, and U-15 and U-16 hurling team.
As a GAA Youth Rep, he also helped give a very well received presentation to this year’s GAA Annual Congress.
Eoghan is a great example of how empowering the Youth Forum can be, and that’s why he’s encouraging others to attend the 2017 #GAAyouth Forum in Croke Park on October 28th.
“It's vital that we as young people in such a large association feel in some way connected,” Gately told GAA.ie.
“Because with so many clubs around the country it seems very far away or alien in terms of what's happening down the country versus what's happening in Dublin.
“It gives us a chance to unite and to talk about common issues. As well as that as well you get the opportunity to find common ground and generate new ideas for your own club and go back to them with more knowledge about what's going on elsewhere in the country.
“It's about having the opportunity to voice your own opinion, connecting, and experience a togetherness. The GAA was built by volunteers and communities and still is shaped and moulded by it to this day.
“Young people are a community in their own right and I think the Youth forum is a great way for us to get across what we can do and to show our ability and our competence.
“When I was attending last year there was a real sense of 'Wow, this is what we can do as a group in the GAA when young people come together from all over the country with a common goal'.”
Applications for the 2017 #GAAyouth Forum are currently being accepted. It’s a free event and this year there will be a capacity for 600 attendees.
Delegates on the day will have the opportunity to listen to and interact with a number of high-profile speakers who will cover a variety of topics.
Dublin footballer Ciaran Kilkenny, Roscommon footballer Cathal Cregg, Monaghan ladies footballer Sharon Courtney, former Cork ladies footballer Juliet Murphy, and Rory O’Connor from Rory’s Stories are just some of those who will be sharing their thoughts.
As in previous years though, the Forum is as much about the contribution from the delegates as it is the speakers.
They’re encouraged to give their opinions and in doing so shape the discussion rather than simply be witnesses to it.
“Last year we tackled things that wouldn't usually be talked about in your regular talks at your club or school,” says Gately.
“We got to take things from a different angle, which I really thought was impressive.
“We look at the macro-scale as well as the micro-scale too in terms of things like the talk on gambling. Sometimes what would be regarded as a taboo subject or something you wouldn't usually associate with younger people.
“It was almost as preventative as it was informative, so it was good.
“That's why the Youth Forum is such a great opportunity - it reinforces the fact that we do actually have a voice and have somewhere to bring our issues.”
For as long as there has been society, each generation has tended to talk down to rather than talk with and listen to the generation that follows them.
But the old Irish saying - ‘Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí’ – ‘Praise the youth and she will come’ – is a very valid one, and the #GAAyouth Forum is its living embodiment.
Leanne Hanafin, 19, from the Austin Stacks Club in Tralee, found last year’s Forum to be an empowering experience.
The Youth Forum is all about the young people,” Hanafin told GAA.ie.
“I know sometimes myself in the past that young people wouldn't really have an outlet to express their views but the youth forum is so focused on young people, it's the best outlet I think that you could have that you could have to give your views and opinions.
“You're sitting with other young people from all across Ireland to share opinions, bounce ideas off each other, so it really is all about the young people which is something that is really, really important.
“And you do feel like when you're sitting there and attending the talks that your views and opinions are really valued.”
As a GAA Youth Rep, Hanafin has helped shape the agenda for this year’s Forum and is hopeful it’ll be an even bigger success than it was last year.
“From the moment I stepped into the exhibition zone at half nine in the morning for registration until I left at about half three last year, it was just such a good atmosphere all throughout the day,” says Hanafin.
“A really, really jam-packed day. We covered loads of aspects and there were lots of talks on about every aspect about the GAA, and especially about what young people should know.
“This year we're looking for 600 delegates. We've increased our capacity by a huge amount which is fantastic.
“Already so far we've had hundreds of applications in which has been absolutely brilliant, we're overwhelmed by the reaction.
“We're going to put on a really good reception. Brand new talkers and speakers throughout the day, loads of entertainment.
“Right from the start to the end of the day so when you do leave you'll feel like you'll have taken away loads of information.”
* You can apply for the 2017 #GAAyouth Forum here.