By Paul Shaughnessy
FRIDAY’S announcement that all GAA activities would cease until March 29 at the earliest in an effort to limit the spread of the Coronavirus has created new challenges for clubs across the county.
Paul Shaughnessy caught up with a number of clubs to give a snapshot of the mood and initiatives that are being put in motion to cope with the situation.
St Sylvester’s PRO Elaine Rooney said it has hit the club hard at the time of the season when optimism is usually at its highest.
“The effect, like with all clubs, is devastating for the teams who have trained hard for the league which have just begun but this is an unprecedented threat to our communities.
“The safety and health of our players and the public is paramount so the importance of matches pales in comparison at such a difficult time.
“Without a doubt it was the right decision to cancel all games. The health and safety of players and members is paramount and the GAA, being a family-centric organisation, is leading the way in this regard.
“This is an unprecedented situation. We have no idea how long it will take to rectify so we cannot predict how long matches will be off.
“A threat such as this puts games in perspective. When the time is right the rescheduling of games will be done but, for now, being socially responsible at this difficult is the most important.”
Specifically for her club, Syl’s are keen to help the elderly in the Malahide community who may be struggling at this time with day-to-day chores and issues arising from social isolation.
“We have established a special volunteer group of members from a cross section of skills to offer assistance to anyone vulnerable in the community.
“Anything from dog walking and shopping to emergency medical health we can assist.
“Anyone needing help can call or text 086 174 3088 and we will do our best to help.”
Round Tower, Lusk chairperson Pat Codd’s tongue-in-cheek comments on the club’s Facebook page went viral.
With a predicted baby boom in the pipeline, he suggested members “please exercise abstinence for just a couple of weeks.
“A critical mass of January babies will massively improve our chances of success in the minor championship in 2038.”
More seriously, he told Dublin Gazette: “First and foremost, as a sports club we just play games. This is a very serious matter and the playing of games comes way behind the health and welfare of our community.
“Like a lot of GAA clubs in Dublin, we are employers and we are very concerned for our staff who have no work now. They have shown us great loyalty and we want them to be supported. However, with our bar closed, lotto suspended, and fundraising stopped, there is no way that we can continue to pay wages.”
Like St Sylvester’s, he was satisifed with the “timely reaction of Dublin County Board” in the circumstances and that the club will come together to try and support the community in the quickly growing Fingal town.
“Our coaches give many hours to the club each week. As the situation develops, I am sure that we will be putting our network of volunteers at the disposal of those supporting the most vulnerable in our community.
“This is a very challenging time for us all, but I’m sure that the GAA will continue to be a great source of community solidarity and positive action. GAA people are doers who knit Irish communities together.”
St Jude’s PRO Michael Moran has been heartened, too, to see the Tymon North club’s members rally together quickly to make the best of the situation.
“Over the weekend, we set up a volunteer group and it already has over 60 people offering to help. Members came together and suggested we would offer services to anyone around the community that needed it.
“We’ve had a deluge of offers of help from members in a number of different ways. We fully supported the decisions made by the Government and the advice we received from the GAA and Dublin County Board.
“Since then we are experiencing a very positive response from members who are very disappointed that matches are cancelled, but fully understand and agree with the decisions made.
“We have lots of suggestions for how we can help people who need it and are working on them now.
“St Jude’s is known for having a great family atmosphere – visitors often comment on the sense of family and the warm welcome they receive around the club.
“The club’s response to the Covid-19 emergency will be to give something back to the community. The club is very deep in the community and has very close links to all of the local schools, who feed our junior and other teams.
“We have members who have trades and have provided services and emergency help.
“We have members currently working with the St Vincent de Paul and they are helping more vulnerable people.
“We have members working with another charity, The Mustard Seed Outreach Project, and are working with them too.
“Local parish priest of St Jude the Apostle, Fr Brendan Madden, has also been very supportive and the club work with him and his team on projects.
“Our Men’s Shed has been very proactive and they have a huge amount of experience and connections in the community – some of them were involved in the setting up of the club 40 years ago.
“Our coaching team are working on online options to help players and coaches to continue to develop skills, while not allowed to train and play.”
** As time goes by, more and more clubs of all kinds are arrangging similar community efforts. Check in with your local club to see how they are looking to help those around you!