Over 600 take part in GAA for Dads & Lads National Blitz
By John Harrington
Last Saturday’s GAA for Dads & Lads National blitz at the National Games Development Centre in Abbottstown was a roaring success.
Over 600 footballers and hurlers from 46 teams representing all four provinces played a total of 184 matches and not even some inclement weather could diminish the enthusiasm of the participants.
The day highlighted just how much the GAA for Dads & Lads Initiative has grown in recent years, going from 20 teams in 2019 to 163 teams now.
St. Colmcilles in Meath (CillesG4D) are relative veterans, on the go now for 10 years, and Brendan Casey is one of their stalwart members who took to the field again last Saturday.
“It was a great day,” Casey told GAA.ie. “In fairness to the GAA, it was very well organised. You couldn't do much about the weather, but the pitches were good and everybody was happy and really enjoyed it.
“There was no complaints whatsoever, teams played fairly and there was good camaraderie amongst the teams. All our players were really happy and really enjoyed it.
“We had good chats with all the other teams so it was a great chance to network as well. We haven't played Wolfe Tones from Drogheda yet who are only 10 kilometres away, so chatted with them and hopefully we'll get to arrange a meet up with them soon because matches is what all the lads enjoy the most.”
The St. Colmcilles experience is typcial of all GAA for Dads & Lads teams in so far as it’s about more than sport, it’s about inclusion and feeling part of a community that promotes mental as well as physical health.
“Colmcilles are just down the east cost between Drogheda and Balbriggan so it's very much on the commuter belt and one of the most expanding areas in the country,” says Casey. "I think outside of Dublin, the St. Colmcille's club has more junior members than any other club in Ireland.
“A lot of new housing has been built in the area so you have a lot of new people moving in and Gaelic for Dads has been very beneficial for those people moving to the area who might feel they're too old or too long out of the game to play competitively so as their kids have joined the club and the Gaelic for Dads has been a great route for them to integrate more into the community.
“I think I'm actually the only member of our group who was in St. Colmcilles when I was younger, everyone else is new to the region. They come from all four provinces, multiple counties, and even multiple countries. We've got members from Mexico, Turkey, England, and Australia.
“It's not about being the most skilled player, it's about participating and that has been very welcome for people who are new to the area.
“They're part of the GAA community because their children are playing but it embeds them that bit more when they're involved themselves.
“We've seen off-shoots that have come from the Gaelic for Dads in so far as we also now have a cycling group, during Covid we had a walking group, and there's a group of them that also go off playing golf once a year in Spain.
“So it's very much a social group as well as a fitness group. And even on a practical level the WhatsApp group is a great source of information if you need something like an electrician or plumber! Everyone is just very social with one another and very supportive of one another.”
The GAA for Dads & Lads initiative is only going to get bigger and bigger, and Casey is hugely enthusiastic about encouraging other clubs to give it a go.
“I'd really recommend other clubs to do it,” he says. “It's a great social as well as sporting outlet.
“Other clubs in Meath who've set up a team would have had conversations with us beforehand and we would have gone through training plans and how we did it and everything else.
“We'd be really encouraging to other clubs because it's been so posititive for us. I'm 51 and when I started 10 years ago I didn't think I'd still be doing it now, but I am, and that's a testament to it.
“It's a great community to be involved with. And most of the team are involved in other areas of the club too, either coaching their kids' teams or junior teams. So it's a great way to get people involved in all aspects of the club.”
If your club is interested in registering a GAA for Dads & Lads team, go HERE.