Four-year extension of partnership with Irish Life and GAA Healthy Clubs
By John Harrington
The GAA has announced a four-year extension of the partnership between the Healthy Club Project and Irish Life.
From the very outset, Irish Life has been involved with the Healthy Club Project which has grown from a very small pilot of just 16 club in 2013, four from each province, to Phase 5 now which has almost 500 GAA clubs involved.
“We're very excited to announce another four-year partnership with Irish Life to ensure that GAA clubs are reaching as broad a population as possible through the Healthy Clubs Programme and supporting the health and wellbeing of our members and the communities that we serve,” said GAA Community and Health Manager, Colin Regan, today.
“At its core the Irish Life Healthy Club Project seeks to broaden the traditional remit of a GAA club beyond just delivering Gaelic Games. The clubs work with their members and communities in a number of areas that they would like to focus on.
“A lot of it came to the fore over the pandemic. Healthy Clubs were the first clubs that were out delivering groceries and essential goods to vulnerable people during lockdown.
“The common areas that Healthy Clubs are active in are physical activity for non-playing members with the likes of Ireland Lights Up; social Gaelic games be that hurling, football, rounders, handball, or Gaelic for Mothers and Others; mental health and emotional wellbeing; gambling, alcohol and drugs awareness; diversity and inclusion; environmental sustainability through the new Green Clubs programme; healthy eating, and a variety of other areas.”
Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs ambassador and Limerick hurling star, William O’Donoghue, has seen at first hand the positive impact made by the Healthy Club Project in his own club, Na Piarsaigh.
“Oftentimes we’d be leaving the pitch training back with the club and there’d be a game of rounders on with people of all ages, men and women, girls and boys,” says O’Donoghue.
“They mightn’t be people who typically engage in football and hurling or might not be active playing members or mightn’t see so much around the club but they’re getting down there and enjoying the club’s facilities and are part of the club community so it’s fantastic to see.
“I know we’ve a couple of healthy officers in the club who have different topics. We have had gambling talks and all kind of stuff has been made available to us. If it helps one person, then it’s a worthwhile initiative.
“I imagine even being in a club that is seen to openly endorse these kind of programmes would make anyone who is struggling with any type of mental health or addiction issue a bit more comfort in coming forward because people in the community are being seen to be open and positive towards it.”
All-Ireland winning Meath Ladies Footballer, Niamh O’Sullivan, is also an Irish Life GAA Healthy clubs ambassador.
Her club, Dunshaughlin & Royal Gaels, are one of 175 clubs about to commence Phase Five of the Healthy Club Project and she’s excited about the positive impact that will come from their involvement.
“It’s a great honour,” said O’Sullivan. “I know within my club during Covid, we got involved in delivering shopping to the wider community, especially elder people who were afraid to come out of their houses.
“It was really rewarding times seeing the younger generation delivering the shopping to these elderly people. They were so happy to see a friendly face. A lot would stop us for five minutes to have a chat.
“I think it’s a great initiative with Irish Life. The GAA is a big part of our society here, both in Ireland and abroad. It’s not just focusing on the physical aspect of Gaelic games but mental health, which is a huge part of life. And healthy eating, diversity and inclusion, and working with older members.
“It’s an exciting time. It’s not all about playing sport. A lot of clubs rent out their halls or facilities for other exercise – gym or dance classes. The social side is important as well. it’s great that it’s a new four year sponsorship so it’s only going to get bigger.”