St Mary's GAA Club, Convoy, Donegal  - Smoke Free Club Launch
St Mary's GAA Club, Convoy, Donegal - Smoke Free Club Launch

Smoke Free GAA Club

Rural/Urban: Rural
Codes: Football and Ladies Football
Membership: 527

Case study- St Mary’s GAA proud sponsors of fresh air


St Mary’s were inspired by St John’s Volunteers in Wexford who were the first club in Ireland to completely ban smoking in the club grounds back in 2014. Executive members in St Marys decided to go completely smoke- free after a proposal by Lorena Barron, the Children’s Officer and member of the Healthy Club project team. The mother-of-two, whose daughter Ellie is captain of the Donegal U14 ladies gaelic team, said 

“I just didn’t think it was fair that I could be watching a game and someone could light up a cigarette beside me and send smoke over the dug-outs,” she said. “We want to encourage a healthy lifestyle and this is one way of doing that. It’s not about being anti-smoker either. Smokers will have to go outside the gate and I’m hoping it will discourage others, especially our younger members, from taking up the habit and perhaps help some to give up smoking altogether.”

The step by step guide to becoming a smoke free club is outlined below. 


Within the club: 

  • Club Executive
  • Members of the Health Club Project group 
  • Parents 
  • Coaches 
  • Players 

Outside the club: 

  • County Board & County Health & Wellbeing Committee -
  • Local national school 
  • GAA Community & Health department 
  • HSE Smoking Cessation Officer in Donegal 
  • Donegal Football Team’s GP and medic
  • Ambassadors: Ireland’s Fittest Family …..
  • Local newspapers 
  • Local print company 

The partnership with the local national school was very effective and the model has been replicated in numerous clubs since. Each class was asked to enter the smoke free poster competition and the winners were announced at the smoke free launch in the club. It was a really effective way of engaging the children and getting them on board. 


Promoting the countdown to becoming a smoke free club around the parish was an important step. The club did this through various communication channels; word of mouth, group texts, emails, social media, club website, club notes and local newspapers. The club promoted the launch date and encouraged everyone in the community to attend and support the healthier smoke free club environment. 

The team secured smoke free signage and the club is now the picture of the health decorated with plenty of signage and posters from the local national school. The scoreboard was even transformed with smoke- free messages. 

Sean Dunnion, County Chairman joined Conor Mc Dermot, Club Chairman at St Marys to officially launch the club’s smoke- free grounds by cutting the green ribbon. 

Guest speakers on the day included: Ciaran Mc Loughlin, Chairman of the National Health & Wellbeing Committee, Aoife O’Brien, GAA National Healthy Club Coordinator, Fiona Boyle, HSE Smoking Cessation Officer in Donegal and Charlie Mc Manus, GP and medic to Donegal men’s team.

The Club

St Mary’s were the first club in Ulster to go completely smoke free and received considerable media coverage (both locally and nationally) and health sector praise for their leadership. To date 50% of Healthy Clubs across the 32 counties are now completely smoke free and leading the way for tobacco free Ireland. The club’s case study was promoted on website and has inspired other clubs to follow suit. 

  • Benefits for clubs going smoke free: 
  • Set a positive example in the community 
  • Considerable media coverage  
  • Increased awareness about the dangers of smoking for the younger members
  • Strong partnership with the local national schools
  • Reduce the impact of tobacco & second-hand smoke (SHS) on sports performance
  • Protecting children and young people from tobacco
  • Praise from parents 
  • Cleaner and safer GAA club grounds

National Healthy Club Coordinator, Aoife O’Brien says:

“we want to set a positive example for all our members and de-normalise any association between the GAA and tobacco usage. We want to protect our members, visitors and volunteers from the dangers of tobacco and second- hand smoke exposure and reduce the initiation of smoking amongst young people in particular”.