Oola 'Gaelic For Mothers & Others' initiative assisting community
By Cian O’Connell
In Oola a familiar and reassuring gathering takes place every Wednesday when the Gaelic For Mothers & Others get together.
Fun and football on the agenda, but in recent weeks the Oola contingent contributed handsomely to assist a gentleman who had taken ill in the community.
As a session was winding down anguished cries were heard forcing the Oola Gaelic For Mothers & Others to react briskly.
That is precisely what occurred. “We just go one night a week, we couldn't wait to get back, we were waiting and waiting because of the Covid, Wednesday night suits everyone best,” Oola’s Healthy Club Officer Treasa Ryan explains.
“This particular night was different. It is very important to us that it is literally an hour, that we don't spend any longer because time is precious to an awful lot of mothers and an awful lot of other people. We start at eight and we finish at nine, then you are gone again.
“This night, for some reason, and it was a really bad night, we were still there at quarter past nine. We would always be gone by then. It was lashing rain, we were just cooling down when we could unfortunately hear the pleas of despair for help from someone.
“We are very lucky that there is a defibrillator in the GAA grounds. There was already an Oola defibrillator group set up a few years ago, we were lucky that they had one placed there and in the church.”
Four players and coach Derek Ryan from the Oola group, though, were quickly on the scene, providing valuable and careful assistance.
“This particular man was visiting a house not too far from the GAA grounds,” Ryan explains. “He was exceptionally lucky that we were still in the pitch, that the defibrillator was there, and that the girls didn't even think twice about it. They just took off themselves with Derek.
“I set up the Gaelic For Mothers & Others and I roped him in. Derek is always joking that he has no choice, but to come. He said that on the night the man's life hung in the balance, but because of the girls heroics they swayed it one way. He said there is no doubt about it only for them the man could unfortunately be dead.
“They basically got the defibrillator, they went down four of them and they were 45 minutes until the ambulance crew arrived.
“We were all so touched because it was so emotional. It was desperate to see someone crying for help, it was awful.”
Roughly 100 metres from the Oola pitch the man was eventually saved. “It was quick thinking and we all said it afterwards that they were like superheroes, they didn't even think twice,” Ryan adds.
“They took off running, they grabbed the defibrillator, and they were gone. It was their quick thinking and bravery, they didn't think for a second about it, they just went.
“We have a very special group for some reason. We have all been in different groups throughout our lives, but this group of women is lovely. This even made another bond amongst us.”
Several involved in the Gaelic For Mothers & Others initiative were also eager to skill up too following the incident. “We touched base with the Oola defibrillator group, we asked could we do the training as a group,” Ryan states.
“We didn't waste any time, we did it practically within two weeks, as we had it arranged. I already had the training done, but a couple did refreshers, and a couple did full training. It was a happy ending.”
The manner in which the Gaelic For Mothers & Others has caught the imagination in Oola is a source of pride.
“It all stemmed from the fact that we were taking part in the Healthy Club Project,” Ryan replies. “Last year we trialled the Gaelic For Mothers & Others just for a few weeks. Then this year we officially went about setting it up.
“We had a massive response even though we are a very small club in east Limerick. It is a football club, there is no hurling. The LGFA side of it has really taken off in the last few years. We have 179 members this year which would be massive for us. We've had more than 40 at the Gaelic For Mothers & Others. That has just taken off massively.”
Few involved have any significant previous Gaelic Football experience which simply adds to the sense of satisfaction according to Ryan. Her husband Derek, also part of the Oola senior mens management team, supplies the drills and training expertise.
“A lot of them would never have played,” Ryan remarks. “One girl played international rugby for Ireland, but the majority wouldn't have played. A few us played when we were young, but unfortunately just hadn't the confidence to go on, and had given up.
“We'd have a few that played and who were brilliant at it. The way I'd describe it is there is a massive group of women coming from different backgrounds and circumstances, but we all have the one goal: an hour of therapy.
“We are very lucky in the sense that Derek our coach, he is brilliant, he trains the Oola senior mens team. I think the fact that we have such banter and a laugh, but yet we get a proper training session.
“Number one the social side of things brings us to the pitch, the fact we get to meet other people for an hour. Number two the fitness side and I'd say the football is far down at number three.
“It is absolutely brilliant, Derek often says to us that he gets such a satisfaction out of seeing people who couldn't hand pass the ball and now they are hand passing brilliantly. He jokes that he gets more satisfaction out of the training than with the Oola mens team.”
Ultimately, Ryan is thrilled by how the Gaelic For Mothers & Others initiative has been greeted with such enthusiasm throughout Oola.
“There is so much more to a club and I think that is why this group has been successful,” she comments. “You would have an awful lot of these women, who never had anything to do with the GAA or LGFA. They never probably felt there was a place for them, they mightn't have felt comfortable enough or good enough or whatever.
“Now they feel part of something and very much welcomed in the club. They are as much part of the club as anyone. We are allowed full use, the women are viewed as just as important as the men, we are very lucky in our club that it is about everyone.”
That the local community is also being assisted is a further cause for cheer.