GAA stars promote RNLI's 'Float to Live' campaign
By John Harrington
Some of Ireland’s top Gaelic Games stars have given their support to the RNLI’s Float to Live campaign.
Kerry footballer Killian Young, Tipperary hurler Patrick Maher, Dublin lady footballer Lyndsey Davey, Offaly hurler Shane Dooley, and Antrim hurler Neil McManus are all GAA-RNLI ambassadors and at the forefront of efforts to bring the Respect the Water message to GAA communities.
“The whole point of the campaign is to 'Float to Live',” says Lyndsey Davey.
“So, if you do find yourself in the water unexpectedly, cold water shock can take over very quickly and can affect your heart-rate and your breathing and cause you to panic.
“Whereas if you float, just relax, take a minute to 90 seconds to adjust your breathing and get used to the conditions and then try get yourself out safely.
“One of the main reasons I got involved was because my Uncle Michael was skipper of the Tit Bonhomme that sank off Glandore Harbour in Union Hall.
“They lost five of the crew members in that and the RNLI and other agencies were very instrumental in recovering all of the bodies and getting closure for our family and the families of the crew.
“To be honest, I just wanted to give something back and help create awareness for the campaign.”
Neil McManus is also one of the original GAA-RNLI ambassadors, and, just like Davey, he’s committed to the campaign for very personal reasons.
“I wanted to become an ambassador for the RNLI because a crewmember of the Red Bay lifeboat station in Cushendall saved my father's life three years ago in September 2015," said McManus.
“My father suffered a heart-attack, cardiac arrest, in our house and a local member of the RNLI arrived, very luckily for all of us. He defibrillated my father and resuscitated him.
“It's a very natural partnership between the RNLI and the GAA simply because we're both community based and volunteer-based associations.
“We have a huge overlap in Cushendall between our GAA members and our RNLI members and we're very, very lucky to have them.
“The volunteer ethos is the bread and butter of the GAA and it's also the bread and butter of the RNLI, the way people are giving up their spare time to serve their community. Without that ethos, neither would exist.
“For me, as part of our community in Cushendall, to get the opportunity to help with the Respect the Water campaign is a total privilege.”
The ethos of volunteerism that underpins both the GAA and the RNLI isn’t the only thing both organisations have in common.
Self-sustainability is just as important to a charity like the RNLI as it as a community organisation like the GAA, and that’s one of the reasons why they now build all of their own life-boats on site at their headquarters in Poole, England.
GAA-RNLI ambassador, Killian Young, visited the facility recently with his fellow GAA-RNLI ambassadors and was hugely impressed by everything he saw there.
“It was great, it was a whirlwind,” he said. “I just can't get over the organisation and how big it is and how progressive they are in relation to technology and the way they can actually build these boats. It's remarkable engineering.
“Even to learn about what people do and the amount of work behind the scenes, it's been incredible.
“To think of the amount of people that are behind the fund-raising and what goes on behind the scenes, it's phenomenal.
“This relationship with the RNLI and the GAA is a critical partnership. I hope it's something that will continue for many years.
“It's hugely important to deliver this message into our communities and back to the younger people especially that we have within our GAA clubs so they can understand more about the RNLI and the importance of drowning prevention.
“If I can do that and help in any way, shape, or manner, then I'd be delighted."
For Paddy McLaughlin, coxswain of the Red Bay RNLI station and a dyed in the wool GAA man from Cushendall, the partnership between the GAA and RNLI makes sense for many different reasons.
“The RNLI is very much like the GAA,” he said. “We're absolutely involved in the community, we are community. And you will find that we are leaders in communities in many aspects, certainly in the emergency services side of it.
“I'm from a GAA background, I know what the GAA does in my community. For us to support our communities we need to be joined up and we need to offer the skills that we have into the GAA.
“I go to GAA matches, I help out. We can do first aid support at GAA matches, we often are called upon. I come from a rural area in Ireland and I know there are 333 GAA clubs inside five miles of our lifeboat stations around the coast.
“We have lots of resources there to actually save lives and help communities. And that's what this partnership is all about.”