GAA clubs continue to provide valuable assistance
By Cian O'Connell
Around the country, GAA clubs continue to provide valuable assistance in their communities.
The Covid 19 pandemic means no on field action will take place for some time, but clubs everywhere remain eager to help.
Fenagh St Caillins Chairperson Marie McGovern wants the club simply to give something back during these trying times.
"We are a very rural club in Leitrim," McGovern explains. "We talked about it because we have a lot of elderly people, then you'd also have people who can't get out with underlying health problems, that type of thing.
"Like every club we are always begging, but this time we want to give something back, to help out in any way that we can.
"Everything is at a standstill and shut down, as such, so we are trying to give something back to the community, to help out as best as we can.
"We have three names as contact numbers, we have a lot of people willing to volunteer in different areas of the parish."
Ensuring the message reaches the right audience is key, though, according to McGovern.
"The only thing we were somewhat worried about is that older people mightn't be aware, even though we have it on our Facebook Page, but we got it announced on local radio this morning for older people," McGovern adds.
"They wouldn't be on Facebook, so we just want to pass the message on. If people need us we are here on standby.
"We have a lot of people in America and Australia from the parish, everyone is familiar with the names on our list, that is why we put them down. It is a time of necessity, to give something back to the community. The GAA is the nerve centre of every parish."
Up in Donegal, Aine Daly, Buncrana's Healthy Club Officer, shares similar sentiments.
"My friend works in the local doctor's surgery, she is one of the nurses and my brother is an oil man, so he is out and about in the community delivering oil," Daly explains. "We have also mentioned to people like that who are out and about in the community, if they come across anybody who is not aware, to let us know. I've phoned a number of elderly club members to let them know that the service is available.
"They mightn't be on social media and mightn't be aware of it. On Friday morning I contacted the local radio, so they had it on a few times. Most of the community around here would listen to the local radio at some point of the day, so it was mentioned early morning, mid morning, and in the afternoon again. If they do need anything they will be aware that we are there."
Buncrana, a particularly progressive Healthy Club, have reacted quickly in an effort to provide a service to local residents.
"We had our Healthy Club meeting on Tuesday night, which was planned anyway to discuss other issues," Daly states. "Obviously Covid 19 came to the top of the agenda, I was supposed to meet with the Chairman on Wednesday, but unfortunately there was a bereavement in the parish. So all club activities were cancelled and our meeting was delayed until Thursday evening.
"By then obviously headquarters had cancelled all activities in relation to Gaelic Games. We had taken measures within the club, making sure there was hand towels and soap at all the sinks.
"Our Community Employment scheme workers were decontaminating the gym with a bleach solution, washing all the equipment every day. As we live in such a rural area we were concerned because some of us ourselves have elderly parents.
We have heightened awareness that some of the elderly may be vulnerable. Even not the elderly, but people in need. We just put up a post that we were there to help if anybody needed any assistance collecting prescriptions or getting food, coal or fuel."
Throughout the Inishowen region Daly stresses that clubs are striving to be useful.
"I was contacted by another organisation within our community willing to roll in behind us," Daly remarks. "A number of members in the club have volunteered, but within that we have to risk assess our volunteers.
"We just happened to have a meeting on Thursday night, but since then all of the clubs in our area, the rural community clubs in Inishowen have put up posts that if anybody needs help, they are all willing to help anyone. That seems to be quite widespread throughout the GAA Community. People are there and willing to help."