Four GAA clubs in Lurgan have set aside their traditional rivalries to unite in a common cause - to combat the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Around 1500 children and young people aged under-18 play and train with Clan na Gael, Clann Eireann, St. Paul’s and St. Peter’s every week, and many others are also involved as youth club members, senior players, former players, coaches, club members and supporters.
The four clubs believe they are ideally placed to play a key role in the fight against the misuse of drugs and alcohol, which is a growing problem for the whole of society in Northern Ireland.
Research by local agencies and treatment referral figures suggest the misuse of these substances has grown significantly in Lurgan and surrounding areas in recent years.
“This is about leadership and responsibility. The GAA is an integral part of society and is a powerful force for good,” says Jimmy Magee of St. Peter’s.
“Thousands of young people and adults enjoy sport and keep themselves fit by training and playing with our Clubs every year. This initiative aims to take that a step further and to educate members and others about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.”
These are issues that affect the whole of society and we want to to do what we can to reach those we can influence.”
The initiative is part of the wider GAA Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) programme and each of the four Clubs has appointed an officer to oversee its implementation.
They will also work with the GAA, Sport NI and the Irish Sports Council to ensure that all players are educated about anti-doping issues.
“This kind of co-operation between Clubs is unprecedented. As those within the GAA will know, local parish rivalries run very deep,” says Shane MCConville of St. Paul’s.
“But we believe this issue can best be tackled working together as a team. Prevention is better than cure and we hope that by showing leadership and example, we can play a positive role.”
In addition to working with all relevant agencies involved in combating drug and alcohol abuse, Clubs are also seeking the cooperation, support and participation of parents, family members, local schools and local outlets who supply alcohol.
The strategy was launched by Brendan Murphy, the National Co-ordinator of the GAA’s ASAP programme, in Clann Eireann’s clubhouse on Tuesday, 21st April. Ahead of the launch, Brenadan Murphy commended the initiative and paid tribute to the 4 GAA Clubs involved.