'Ireland Lights Up' brings clubs and communities together
By John Harrington
GAA clubs nationwide are being encouraged to sign up for the popular ‘Ireland Lights Up’ walking initiative which returns in January 2020 in partnership with the GAA, Operation Transformation, and Get Ireland walking.
Over 270 clubs and 65,000 took part in 2019, and for clubs like Tubbercurry in Sligo it was a hugely positive experience.
“It's a great idea for clubs to get more people involved in something that anyone can do,” says Tubbercurry GAA Club Chairman Dermot Gannon.
“Anyone can go for a walk and along the way you meet more people and get to talk to more people.
“I was stewarding at our walks and you'd see people from every walk of life getting involved from priests to doctors to nuns. It just brought everyone together.
“There's no barriers between clubs or people or anything, it's just go out and walk and enjoy your evening.
“From our club’s point of view it was very positive. The fact that we had an Operation Transformation leader in Paul Murphy involved meant we really embraced the idea of healthy activity. Paul led out the walk each week which was a huge boost.
“The first night I think we had over 670 participants. Men, women, children, buggies, dogs, the whole lot! It was a massive turn-out.
“We had never had less than 150 participants on any night even though there was some bad weather. We did a goodie bag for everyone as well that included healthy food, Pieta House information, that type of stuff, which we felt was important to do.
“We wanted to highlight that it's not just about walking, it's about your general wellbeing and health.”
Clubs are encouraged to host their first ‘Ireland Lights Up’ walk in 2020 on Thursday, January 9th. This year clubs are free to host their walking groups any evening that suits, and while they must host one walk per week they are encouraged to do more if capacity and interest allows.
The aim is to make exercise more accessible on the dark winter nights and to offer local communities an opportunity to get together and socialise in a healthy way. Walking is proven to benefit both our physical and mental health.
“What we found was that it was the talk of the town,” says Gannon. “It showed that GAA isn't just about football. It's about community bringing people together and getting them involved.
“We got a very positive response each week and the impact of it was that we gained new members in our club as well. That's why we're signing up again this year and starting it again in January.
“We have to look after the wellbeing of our players and our community. It's not just about coaches and football, it's about the impact that the GAA as a whole has on a community.
“It's our national sport, but the GAA is not just about football. There's the healthy eating campaign, mental health and wellbeing, all those aspects of personal life that we have to be aware of and that we need to get out there more.”
Clubs that complete the registration process and adhere to the necessary criteria will be covered by Get Ireland Walking's insurance for all walk leaders and participants. However, irrespective of GAA membership status, leaders and participants are not covered by the GAA Injury Benefit Fund for this initiative.
To register your club and review the full Terms & Conditions of participation, go to: https://www.getirelandwalking.ie/GAA/
Please direct any club queries to firstname.lastname@example.org