Clubbing together: GAA volunteers keep the show on the road

Hailing the unsung heroes who are the lifeblood of Gaelic games
Clubbing together: GAA volunteers keep the show on the road

Shane Kingston practices his golf swing with Brendan Black, Nathan Walsh, Finbarr Kearney, Gerry O'Brien and Aidan O'Connor at the launch of last year's Douglas Golf Club fundraiser. Picture: Larry Cummins

THERE are many aspects that make up any club, from the players to coaches, and where they are part of the sport, pitches and training facilities.

All of these are vital parts of any club, but there is another part that without them clubs simply wouldn’t exist.

At times they can be forgotten about or even called a few names if the pitch isn’t cut or lined for a game. I am of course talking about club volunteers.

Of course, you can argue that team managers and coaches are volunteers, and yes they are.

But I am talking about the thousands of club volunteers around the country that fulfill roles from chairperson down, often doing countless thankless jobs that go unnoticed by many, but if they weren’t done the club would potentially fall asunder.

Volunteers are the cornerstone of all clubs and while many might have got involved through their children playing lots of them stay — because they love it.

They love the bit of craic and slagging that goes on as they cut the grass or paint the dressing-rooms or put out the nets before a game.

They are often first there and last to leave and that will continue for many more generations to come. Most clubs will have a bunch of men or women who gather there a few times a week with a list of jobs to get through.

They might be mending fences, filling in potholes in the car park or repairing torn nets. Whatever the task it is done with a laugh and a joke and probably a few choice words along the way.

In my own club, Douglas, there are a bunch of such volunteers who are known as the Friday Club and no doubt similar exists in many others.

They take on countless tasks every week, year after year and often spend hours at the club a few times a week. With the Friday Club you wouldn’t want to be sensitive or not able to take a slagging as no matter who you are they won’t hold back.

But the work they get through in a normal year has to be admired. They are all dedicated club people and simply love putting back after getting many years of enjoyment out of playing. Some have seen their children and grandchildren wear the club jersey and they look on with pride as they do.

Their passion for the club is second to none and they will follow sides from underage to senior all over the county and country for league, championship and even challenge games.

Volunteers working to repair the pitch at Douglas GAA Club before Covid.
Volunteers working to repair the pitch at Douglas GAA Club before Covid.

Along with them you also have the committee and there isn’t a club in the country that officers haven’t been on the wrong end of a few words from a club member at some point.

The reasons why this happens are countless and sometimes the person not happy can forget that, in general, most club committee members are volunteers.

That important little fact can be overlooked as they get to hear someone who wasn’t happy over a trivial issue on the bigger scale of things.

At the time that matter is very important but the next time you think of having a few words with a committee member just remember first they too are volunteers and are another vital part of the club.

One of my personal favourites is the catering committee and this can be from one person to many. Travel any long distance to any GAA club in the country and as a visiting team, it is a rare time you are not invited in for something to eat after.

Upon doing so you will be met with a spread to keep anyone happy with tea and coffee flowing like the River Lee.

One such person who has been a volunteer for Clonakilty for many years is Carmel Calnan. Simply put she is steeped in the club and was a founder member of their ladies football club in 2004.

Carmel is the winner of this year’s The Echo Women in Sport Hall of Fame award and is thoroughly deserving of this accolade. She epitomises all that is good about a club volunteer and no job is too big or too small.

My own club has visited Clon on many occasions and there have been plenty of times that Carmel has ensured they went home with full stomachs afterwards.

So let’s say a heartfelt thanks to club volunteers the length and breadth of the county and country.

Without them, the thousands of clubs we have simply would not exist and they are deserving of our thanks.

Thank you club volunteers, your work is very much appreciated.

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