St. Patrick's GAC, Lisburn working hard in the community
By John Harrington
St. Patrick’s GAC, Lisburn, can be added to the long list of GAA clubs nationwide who are doing all they can to help the more vulnerable members of their community during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Club volunteers are busy carrying out a variety of errands for those most at risk from the virus.
“We've done our bit,” says St. Patricks GAC secretary, Chris O’Neill.
“There's a lot of clubs who are doing great work in rural communities whereas we're a very urban community.
“We're an up and coming club really in terms of our membership and age-profile so there would be a bit of a disconnect between ourselves and the older population in Lisburn parish.
“We decided to work together with the parish centre manager, Damian French, who obviously looks after all the needs of the parish and had all the information regarding the older members of the parish.
“So, he got in contact with the people and then would let us know who needed help and we provided the contact details of our club members who were willing to help.
“To date we've helped out with 45 different requests from older or vulnerable people needing support with things like collecting shopping or prescriptions. It seems to be going quite well.
“I suppose at the GAA shows its true light at these times in terms of being a community-based organisation.”
St. Patrick’s GAC have also been very active on social media trying to get the important health messages across to their younger members.
One of their initiatives has been to upload a video of senior player, Josh McMullan, explaining the importance of social-distancing.
“We're trying to encourage the wee ones to be safe,” says O’Neill. “We've had a few instances up here where young people have had to be moved along from social gatherings, especially after the schools closed."
St. Patrick’s GAC are a very upwardly mobile club. They’re growing their membership on a yearly basis and last year won the Antrim Junior Football Championship.
As challenging as the Covid-19 pandemic is, the manner in which St. Patrick’s are dealing with it has only further strengthened the growing connection between the club and its community.
“It definitely adds to the community spirt when you know that there's somebody out there that is willing to help you in tough times,” says O’Neill.
“I saw a thing on the Tyrone twitter account where their chairman said that no-one would be left behind if they just contacted their local club. I think that's generally the case with all GAA clubs all over Ireland.
“Lisburn is an up and coming area for people moving into the north of it. We've had a real population explosion.
“Our age-profile in the club is very low. We've had a mad influx of people and there's a lot of house construction going on and we're flat out trying to cater for the increasing numbers.
“It's energised the club as well. At one time it was the people on the committee who were also doing the coaching and looking after the teams but now we've extended those roles out and have lots of new coaches coming into the club and lots of people bringing their expertise into the club.
“We've developed a new vision for the club in terms of a five-year development plan so we're certainly a club that's moving in the right direction.”