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Well done Derrygonnelly Harps and Erne Gaels

By Tom Wed 8th Nov

Well done Derrygonnelly Harps and Erne Gaels
Well done Derrygonnelly Harps and Erne Gaels

Derrygonnelly Harps GFC and Erne Gaels GAC amongst the first official GAA Healthy Clubs to receive national recognition

  • The award winning Healthy Clubs Project (HCP) aims to turn clubs into hubs for health in their communities
  • With almost the same number of GAA clubs as GPs across Ireland, the project offers a new setting in which to deliver health promotion and interventions[i]
  • Leading GAA ambassador Seán Cavanagh strongly commends the club for their leadership


[DATE:] A special ceremony with governmental representation in Croke Park today saw 58 GAA clubs recognised as the first official ‘Healthy Clubs’ on the island of Ireland.

Two Fermanagh GAA clubs, Derrygonnelly Harps GFC and Erne Gaels GAC (Belleek)can now proudly fly a flag above their grounds (endorsed by both Healthy Ireland and the Public Health Agency in NI), letting their members and communities know that they value health and wellbeing as much as leagues and championships.

In January 2016, almost 100 clubs applied to participate in Phase 2 of the project (just 16 participated in Phase 1 between 2013-2015). Many cited the dearth of services in their communities that are tackling issues such as obesity, sedentary lifestyles, mental health and suicide. They wanted to be part of the solution.

Clubs engage with their members and community before identifying health themes upon which to focus on. Most common include healthy eating; physical activity for non-playing members; emotional wellbeing; engaging older members of the community; youth development; smoke free clubs; gambling, drug, and alcohol education; and inclusion and integration.

These two progressive GAA clubsare the first in Fermanagh to receive national recognition. Their various health and wellbeing initiatives have had a tremendous impact on their clubs and wider communities. Both clubs made history earlier in the year when they launched their complete smoke free policies, the first of its kind in Fermanagh.The clubs are now the picture of health decorated with smoke free signage (provided by the Public Health Agency and the GAA through a CSR partnership with Irish Life) and posters from the children in the localnational schools. They decision to go smoke free is to set a positive example, create healthier club environments and reduce initiation rates among young people. The clubs have also offered support to members who wish to quit through the partnership with the Public Health Agency. Other areas of focus include safeTALK training (suicide alertness for everyone)at Erne Gaels GAC and Recipes for Success (a nutritional sports performance workshop aimed at minor players) in Derrygonnelly Harps GFC.


Former Tyrone football captain Seán Cavanagh is a big supporter of the GAA’s Healthy Club Project (HCP) and presented the clubs with their official flag and plaque in Croke Park on Saturday, November 4th. He said “I’ve seen myself how the GAA brings communities together in so many different ways so it’s fantastic to see the association taking a leadership role in developing healthier communities. The Healthy Clubs around the country are having a positive impact on so many children and young people and as a parent I think it is fantastic. Through this project I think people will start to appreciate the role of the GAA in our communities even more.”


The innovative Healthy Club model was developed in partnership with Healthy Ireland, the HSE’s health promotion division, the National Office for Suicide Prevention, and is supported by Irish Life through a CSR investment. In an era of unprecedented societal health challenges, the Healthy Club Project aims to harness the potential of the GAA club setting to deliver evidence-based health promotion information and interventions, backed up by appropriate policies and partnerships. Its potential to be replicated by other sports is currently being explored by a working group involving the FAI, IRFU, and Athletics Ireland.

Similar work is being undertaken across European sports associations, and for the past three years the GAA has contributed its learnings to the EU-wide Sports Clubs for Health project. This culminated with the GAA’s Community & Health manager, Colin Regan, presenting on the Healthy Club project to a sub-committee of the EU Parliament in Brussels in April.

The Healthy Clubs project is being independently evaluated by a team from Waterford IT’s Centre for Health Behaviour Research. While the final report into Phase 2 won’t be available until December, the research team have already noted significant successes (see editor’s notes for examples of successful interventions).

Aogán Ó Fearghail, An Uachtarán Cumann Luthchleas Gael said, “The 58 Healthy Clubs recognised today have gone above and beyond what is normally expected of a sports club. Health and wellbeing is core to what the GAA is all about and these clubs help bring that to life. I’d like to thank our partners, Healthy Ireland, the HSE, National Office for Suicide Prevention, the Public Health Agency, and Irish Life, for helping to make the Healthy Club project the success it is. We look forward to growing it from strength to strength.”

Recognising the achievements of the clubs in Croke Park at the Healthy Club Recognition Event is Catherine Byrne, Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Department of Health (ROI). She said, “Today is all about recognition for the clubs and the volunteers who make this happen at club level. I would like to congratulate all of the clubs and volunteers involved and acknowledge the contribution that they are all making to bring the vision for Healthy Ireland to life: where everyone can enjoy physical and mental health and wellbeing to their full potential”


David Harney, CEO, Irish Life said, “Irish Life are delighted to work with the GAA on the Healthy Club initiative. The GAA, reaches into every community on the island of Ireland, and has a significant role to play in the health of the nation through its promotion of Gaelic Games. The association’s Healthy Club initiative brings a new dimension to this work. It enables people to access health in an exciting new way. We believe this work has the potential to improve the future health of communities across the country.”


There are numerous benefits to clubs that take part in the GAA HCP including exclusive access to Healthy Club resources and support. The independent evaluation by Waterford IT’s Centre for Health Behaviour Research of Phase 1 of the HCP revealed its potential to increase membership, improvements in health promoting activities, better opportunity to link the local community with club activities and opening up new funding avenues all the while enhancing the health of the nation and ensuring a healthier future for everyone.

The GAA hope to extend the project to 150 clubs in Phase 3 (with expressions of interest to open in early 2018) before opening the project to all interested clubs in 2020. There are 1,600 clubs in Ireland and over 400 abroad.

For more information, visit:

Follow: @officialgaa or Like: #gaahealth


– ENDS –



For more information or to request an interview please contact:


Wilson Hartnell:

Emma Walsh, Tel: 0873170897 or E:

Amber Brown, Tel: 087 779 9719 or E:



Notes to the Editor


Erne Gaels GAC, Belleek Fermanagh Case Study

SafeTALK- ‘Suicide Alertness for Everyone’

Following a high number of suicides in the Fermanagh area the Healthy Club Project Team at Erne Gaels GAC contacted the Healthy Living Centre in Lisnaskea to coordinate a safeTALK training workshop in the club. SafeTALK, which stands for ‘suicide alertness for everyone’ is a training programme that helps people to identity those who may be having thoughts of suicide and teaches ways of helping those people by connecting them with suicide first aid resources.


The club gave it huge publicity with invites sent out via social media, radio, word of mouth and press. On the morning of safeTALK the Healthy Club Project Team were blown away by the interest shown. Thirty eight people showed up from every walk of life, including other club members, people from other localities with no previous GAA background plus club members, local councillors and the head of the Fermanagh Community Mental Health Team. Participants were allowed to openly engage and share experiences with each other and talk through some of the issues affecting them. One participant from Co Tyrone remarked “This is just amazing that a small rural club in the west has provided this opportunity to everyone, I’ve learned so much this morning in how to deal with and spot possibly someone with suicidal tendancies”


Following on from the success of safeTALK the club in association with AWARE Defeat Depression NI launched a 6 weeks lifeskills program, “Minding your head” which was the first of its kind in this end of the county. Since the club have opened up their doors to the wider community back in 2014 membership year on year with non- playing members has increased. The Healthy Club Project Team have helped advertise Belleek as more than just a football and hurling club and the impact has being amazing.



Derrygonnelly Harps GFC, Fermanagh Case Study

Recipes for Success – Healthy Eating


As well as becoming a complete smoke free zone Derrygonnelly Harps GFC also took part in Recipes for Success; a nutritional performance initiative ran by Croke Park in conjunction with St. Angela’s Home Economics Department in Sligo. Nineteen players from the Senior, Minor, U16 and Ladies’ Team joined forces in St Michaels College to educate themselves on the importance of healthy eating and fuelling their body correctly before and after training, games and exercise in general. The participants from the club really enjoyed the practical Recipes for Success programme and developed confidence and competencies in areas of nutrition and health. Each participant received a copy of the fantastic Recipes for Success booklet which is filled with performance enhancing delicious recipes, as well as pre/post meals and snacks. This resource can be downloaded online at

Mark Grannell, Chairman of the Health and Wellbeing Committee at Derrygonnelly Harps said “Derrygonnelly Harps

Principal of St Michael’s Mark Henry commented, “We were delighted takes the Health and Wellbeing of our members very seriously and recognises the importance of this off the pitch, as well as on the pitch. We look forward to continuing to support our members, players and the wider community through similar initiatives in the future.”to be involved in Recipes for Success and to host Derrygonnelly Harps at St Michael’s.  The health and wellbeing of all in our school community is very important to us. This initiative helped provide us with a platform to highlight to our students that, as well as taking regular exercise, a balanced diet also plays a huge role in keeping us all healthy. I commend Derrygonnelly Harps for organising such a worthwhile initiative.”

[i] Health Service Executive – – Last Accessed October 2017

By Tom Wed 8th Nov

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