Monaghan GAA collaborating with SARI for pilot programme
By Cian O’Connell
A collaboration involving Monaghan GAA and Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI) is earning significant support.
Two of four workshops for the pilot programme have already taken place in the county with Monaghan GAA Children’s Officer Mary McEneaney encouraged with the response.
Eager to maintain an inclusive approach, clubs are eager to contribute handsomely according to McEneaney. “As we all know our communities have become more diverse, thankfully this is being reflected in our clubs and on the field of play,” she says.
“We have to embrace it in the right way. Over the summer Monaghan GAA noticed we had a small increase in racial references which isn't acceptable.
“From chatting and being in consultation with children's officers in clubs and coaches, we felt there was some education to be done. We needed to be educated on it and the best response was to try to put something in place, to educate us all.”
So interactive workshops have been designed to assist clubs in the county. “The first one was hosted last Friday and it was successful,” McEneaney says.
“It was a learning curve for me too, I knew it was going to be games based - interactive. It isn't a case of 30 or 40 people sitting on chairs for 70 minutes being spoken to. It is totally interactive.
“It is delivered by some people from different ethnic backgrounds which is good because those present can relate to what they are saying. The message is very clear - it is games based.
“Each game is set up in a particular way to make the participants feel in a different way or maybe putting them in the place of somebody, who is being discriminated against. It was very effectively done.
“The first game was an ice breaker - the old style rats and rabbits game. If orange was called out they had to go one way and if green was called out they'd go the other way.
“The message from that game was to not presume that you know what people are going to say because you don't know. It was an ice breaker, it got everybody more relaxed. It was all games based.”
A mixture of juveniles and adults have participated on the courses so far with McEneaney encouraged about how the workshops have been received.
“When we think of football you have a match or you go training, the football was the medium of the message because it was being used all of the time,” she says.
“One of the activities was the leading coach had four footballs. One had racism written on it, one had homophobia, one had sexism, and one disabilities.
“Just by holding that football and interacting with the group, there was a great discussion. I was really impressed how the participants - especially the juveniles - interacted. Their participation was really good.”
Clubs in Monaghan remain eager to engage. “Initially when I started working with Croke Park on this, I sent out an email to clubs requesting an expression of interest,” she explains. “Every club in the county wanted to host a workshop. Croke Park came back saying they would offer Monaghan GAA four workshops as a pilot so we went with that.
“We identified four clubs in which to roll it out. Basically each club fills it up, that is the plan, but if they are struggling with numbers we'd contact a neighbouring club.
“There is huge interest in it, people are more aware now that racial reference isn't acceptable and they all want to be educated. SARI are also running online courses over the next couple of months, they are really getting behind the whole message.”
Assisting people and providing a welcoming environment and experience is crucial according to McEneaney. “Players need to embrace other players on other teams. That is the key. It is why we felt we needed to do something.
“I was just delighted to have this opportunity to rollout four workshops in Monaghan. It is meeting a need, not a problem, but a need. It has also created an awareness among clubs because the message is going out loud and clear that it isn't acceptable.”