THE GLENVILLE Dads and Lads initiative has proved a huge success since it was established in recent weeks.
Dads and Lads is a social football and hurling programme for those keen to enjoy Gaelic games outside the traditional structures of the GAA. Its philosophy is all about participation and camaraderie that only team sports can offer. The small-sided adapted games allow for incidental contact only to minimise any risk of injury which ensures skills are to the fore over physicality. This ensures the games are self-policed with no referees required.
Glenville GAA Club has launched a Dads and Lads Gaelic football programme to meet the growing demand from players in their locality for skills-orientated games played in a fun environment.
Numbers have proved very strong since the initiative was officially launched on November 4. Glenville GAA stalwart John O’Connor who was one of the main organisers of the initiative is thrilled with how the programme has evolved to date.
“Our club chairman Richie Cahill and I were chatting about it and we decided to try it. I wasn’t sure whether the demand would be there or not. The first night we had 12 players. We had 18 players for our last session. It is going so well now we are doing it two nights a week. We hold it on a Wednesday and Sunday night,” the Glenville club officer said.
The seeds for this initiative which has taken off nationwide were initially planted in Cork said John O’Connor whose love and enthusiasm for GAA is evident.
“Colm Crowley who works as a Games Development Administrator in Cork started Social GAA for both codes for people aged over 40 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The GAA has taken this under their wing now and called it Dads and Lads. This has led to lots of clubs from all over the country deciding to run it for the players from their club and locality.
"We generally keep it for players over the age of 35. We have a lot of lads in their forties.
"I am one of the oldest lads playing at the age of 51. I am delighted to be still playing at my age. I will keep going as long as I can.”
The Dads and Lads Gaelic football sessions take place in the pristine astroturf which was opened in January 2021 by the progressive GAA Club. John said the astroturf is ideal for their requirements.
“We have a great facility which is perfect for this initiative. Its dimensions are 70m x 30m which is perfect for Gaelic football. Nine- or 10-a-side is the perfect number. The astroturf has been a big success since it was opened.
"It caters for so many teams from the club. We arrive and do a small bit of a warm-up before we start a game. We don’t do many drills as some of us are old!”
The rules for Dads and Lads are modified to ensure the fun element is maintained, said O'Connor, who still lines out for Glenville and for the Cork Masters footballers.
“There is minimal contact, while there is only one hop and one solo allowed. This stops the really fit lads from taking over the game and gives every player a chance.
"If you receive a hand pass, you have to then kick it. There is less pressure which allows players to try a few trick shots. The players have really enjoyed the concept to date.
“We have lads coming who haven’t played in 20 years. They are enjoying playing Gaelic football again in a relaxed and fun environment. We all love the game and we want to stay involved in a non-competitive way.
"Players are meeting up with old friends and clubmates. They are getting fit and enjoying themselves. The banter and the craic are great. It is open to everybody in the locality. We have lads coming from Ballyholly and one from Ballyduff in Waterford to play.
"The players just want to come along, unwind and play for the hour twice a week. It is a great social element. It is great to have this on our doorstep,” he added.
The Cork Masters footballers competed in the All-Ireland Masters championship for the first time this season and they enjoyed encouraging results. O'Connor, who featured prominently for the Cork Masters, joked that the Glenville Dads and Lads could act as a development squad for next year’s Cork Masters team.
“We reached the semi-final before being beaten by a good Leitrim/Longford team. It was great fun.
"There were lads from all over the county on the team so it was good to meet new faces. The first year is always the hardest, but we were able to fulfil all the fixtures and we had plenty of bodies. We will be stronger next year as we have more interest now.”
Brian Dillons GAA Club has also initiated a Dillons Dads programme which is based on a similar theme to Glenville GAA Dads and Lads. He is hopeful more Cork GAA clubs will set up similar programmes throughout the county.
“It is a win-win for the club and the players. It keeps players active and involved in club activities. It would be great to have a county championship down the line.”