Successful WELLness week staged by Wexford GAA
By Cian O’Connell
“We were delighted, we got great feedback, and we had great participation,” Wexford GAA Vice Chairman Mícheál Martin says about the WELLness week staged at the beginning of the month.
Blitzes, family fun runs, and some interesting talks were held throughout the county with Martin hugely encouraged by the response from every generation.
“All of the events were really, really well attended,” Martin adds. “It catered for people, from the very youngest to the very oldest. We had blitzes with great participation, and we had events, particularly on the Tuesday and Thursday nights.
“The positive ageing on the Tuesday night had 180 people at it, a lot of them - more than 50 per cent of those - wouldn't be members of GAA clubs. It captured the imagination of people within the county and all the feedback means it is something we will do again and grow into the future.”
What struck Martin, though, was the way in which people without any significant GAA ties enjoyed and became involved in the different activities organised.
Ultimately it highlighted the important role occupied by the GAA and how it can assist people in various ways.
“Exactly, even those non GAA people who attended may not be current members of clubs or generally active, but it probably highlights the importance of successful teams, and the success of the county team and the impact that has on wellbeing and the general spirit of the county,” Martin states.
“Liam Griffin was one of the speakers on the night and people mentioned how for example the success in 1996 lifted everyone when your county team is going well.
“I'm sure in Cavan this week after having a big win or in Armagh there is a buzz, Cork the same. There is a buzz about the county, people are generally happy.
“There is a sense of optimism, that is effectively what it gives. There is a sense of optimism if your county team is going well, that was recognised.
“The week was about much more than that too. We didn't have a specific target audience, the target was the general public of Wexford GAA, but we were mindful of challenges facing young people. That is why the Friday talks in the two schools mattered.”
That the discussions featuring Oisin McConville, Davy Fitzgerald, and Mags D’Arcy struck a chord mattered deeply to Martin too. Enniscorthy Vocational College provided the backdrop for one of the sessions and it was a hugely worthwhile venture with Martin thrilled by the response.
“We got a lovely card from the school, from the staff,” Martin remarks. “A lot of pupils in that particular school, while there would be plenty of GAA playing pupils, it wouldn't be a traditional GAA playing school as such.
“The staff were all decked out in their colours, there was a guard of honour for some of the guests. There was just a really nice sense of atmosphere in the school, there was a very strong message from Oisin, Davy, Mags, and Ray Hynes, they gave a very strong message in terms of looking out for each other.
“It was lovely, the feedback from the school after was very positive. It is something we will definitely try to replicate on a regular basis, getting that sense. Our county players are very generous with their time.
“We shouldn't lose sight of the importance of giving back to the schools and communities and the effect that it has.”
There is always somebody to turn to, a person willing to assist. “That was one of the messages, Oisin McConville was very strong on that,” Martin states.
“He basically said in your diary, notebook, or phone put a name in your phone. If you have to change it every week or month or if is the same, write that person's name down, that is the person you contact if you are having a bad day or a bad week.
“Even if it is a small thing or a massive thing turn to that person, talk to them. He was imploring for everyone in the room to do that, to have a person's name. Don't just think about it, write it down.
“The same way people would say to write your goals, he was saying as part of your goals that name has to be there. Always talk to somebody, it was a very strong message, it was great, really fantastic.”
Practical advice was provided to the students and Wexford GAA are hopeful that this is will be merely the start rather than the end of the process. Martin is encouraged that people have been in touch ready, willing, and able to supplement the work being carried out at events in the future.
“For both talks people were sitting on the edge of their seats for the bones of an hour listening to them talking - it was about things that they do to be successful, it was a powerful message,” Martin reflects.
“There was a balance of things throughout the week. Fun activities at the Wexford Louth game, all the blitzes, the fun run. There was a great balance and isn't that the type of balance you are trying to achieve in life, health, the exercise, the serious stuff in terms of your mental wellbeing, community, and reaching out to people.
“I think we covered a lot, we will certainly add to it next year, and we got an awful lot of calls from people wanting to be involved, people just offering their services which is lovely to see.”
By Tara Hudson and Elliot Killeen
Transition Year students at Enniscorthy Vocational College
Friday May 10 was a day of immense significance at EVC. We welcomed some very important guests as part of the Wexford GAA Wellness Programme; Mags D’arcy, Oisín McConville, Davy Fitzgerald, and Ray Hynes representing Sam McCauley’s Chemists.
Originally, we thought it would be a day for GAA fans to enjoy, and a break from class for the rest of us. By the end it was apparent that everybody could take some great life advice from this experience.
Our very own Mr Sharkey interviewed our panel of guests with a roll call of their sporting achievements. Many of the questions put to the panel had been prepared in advance by students who were among the packed audience.
It was great to hear Mags D’arcy talk about how a positive attitude can really help to improve your wellbeing, whether its related to sports or everyday life.
Next in line Oisín McConville spoke candidly about his struggle with gambling and self-control as a teen during 'The Troubles' in Armagh. He learned that shutting himself away from the world doesn’t help in the long run, so you should always talk to someone about your problems. He talked about the fact that people can achieve anything, they just need practice, perseverance and consistency - “if you want to achieve things, practice.”
Davy Fitzgerald recounted how he was bullied at school and how it has affected him in his life. He believes that everyone is equal and that “number 32 on the panel is just as important as number 1.” He believes that it doesn’t matter where you come from, you should always respect yourself and everyone around you.
Last, but not least, Ray Hynes of Sam McCauley’s Chemists talked about the effects of lack of sleep on your wellbeing. This is extremely important considering how much technology is used by everyone. He talked about taking time to relax and recharge for the day ahead without distractions.
The staff and students were challenged and motivated by the interviews.
We are very grateful to have been selected to be part of Wexford GAA Wellness Week and we will continue to promote wellbeing, hard work and positive mental health at EVC.