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Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative continues to be a success

The Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative is proving to be a real success story. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

The Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative is proving to be a real success story. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

By Cian O’Connell

More than a decade later, the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative continues to capture the imagination of teenagers.

Dermot Earley Junior, the former Kildare footballer, acknowledges that the family cherish what has been accomplished, honouring his father.

“It is a huge source of pride,” Earley says. “When you see the positive impact it has on the youth - the young people that have gone through it, who have benefited from it, learned from it, developed from it - with their leadership skills. We are immensely proud.”

Gaelic Football always occupied a central role in Dermot Earley Senior’s life, his exploits for Roscommon still fondly remembered.

Combining sport and work matters deeply. “One of things is that he was known as a footballer, he was known as an army man, it is kind of combining the two of them,” Earley adds.

“Hs a leader in the army, the chief of staff. It is combining the two of them into this programme for the youth. I've said this always, from the very beginning, is that he always said that 'the youth is the future'. He was a great believer in youth.

“If we were to try to fit this in anywhere, I don't think as a family that we could have fitted it better. It is for 15 to 17 year olds, developing their leadership skills, getting them involved in the community, learning, doing, giving back.

“As a 17 year old that can only get better going forward, they can do so much more because of it.”

Balancing work and sport can be difficult, but that is why Earley is so positive about this initiative. The opportunities provided by the organisations involved ensure it is a very worthwhile venture for participants. “You have your sporting career, as an inter-county footballer for Roscommon, that is probably what he was known for,” Earley explains.

“Then, he had his military career away from the field, which he went to the very top of. To be able to combine the two of them. Learning about leadership at such a young age, using the GAA, using Foróige, using University of Galway, it is a fantastic fit.

Former Kildare footballer and selector Dermot Earley. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Former Kildare footballer and selector Dermot Earley. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

“I have to say as a family, and my sister Ann Marie is on the steering committee, she is very much involved in everything from the get go, where this started.”

Dermot Earley Senior died in 2010, but work on this project has been significant in the intervening years. “It started pretty soon after he passed away, and from the outset from where it started in four counties, maybe one club per county, and now to where it is at the moment, it is phenomenal,” Earley says.

“It really is, I'd love to see it go out to all 32 counties in Ireland, so it becomes that big. There is logistical and personnel challenges in getting the right facilitators, things like that. As a family we are so proud of where this has come to.

“He was a humble man in his own way, very humble about his achievements, but to have this associated to his name, concerning what it is doing, developing leadership in our youth.

“Working with the likes of Foróige, University of Galway, and the GAA, those three organisations come together to develop this programme. It can only benefit the future, it is massive.”

That teenagers from different places are catered for is vital according to Earley. “No matter where, and I think it is important, no matter where you're - in a city or a rural area, you're still in a community,” he says.

“Whatever that community is, I think one of Dad's famous things is that he said 'you have to give back' and to give back to your community, regardless if it is rural Ireland or Cuala in Dublin, who have been doing this for a long time.

"The whole thing is that you're getting young people to get involved in their community.

“It can only be a good idea, it can only develop, and make them more involved in their community as they get older.

“It gives them the tools really to become leaders in their community. When you think about it in that sense, that you're actually developing future leaders, we are extremely proud.”

For further details on the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative click here.