THE devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across the world has also had an impact on Gaelic Games, and in particular Gaelic football in Scotland is now in the unusual position of preparing for a new season without the certainty of matches taking place.
Despite these challenges, however, the GAA in Scotland is gearing up for a return to action as soon as possible, all while working on the structures which will help the association advance in Scotland, with coaching courses and recruitment drives taking place.
Among those recruiting are Tír Conaill Harps, who are expanding their club set-up to include a ladies team (above), and have started attracting new club members to participate in this new section. With the aim of developing the club to offer Gaelic football through a ladies’ side, the move by Tír Conaill Harps will also help bolster the efforts to continue the growth of the LGFA in Scotland, with Glasgow Gaels, Dunedin Connollys and Dalriada already successfully fielding teams.
Harps are also using their celebrated club spirit to raise money for mental health charities while strengthening their own club and supporting their members. Aiming to smash the 1000km challenge Harps members are being encouraged to walk, run, cycle or cover the distance however they can imagine in 30 days.
“This challenge is for everyone—players, parents, coaches or anyone else you think would like to get involved,” Tír Conaill said. “Whatever your age, there’s strong scientific evidence that being physically active can help you lead a healthier and happier life. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing many long-term (chronic) conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers.
“Research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimers disease. We have set up a club page on Strava to record our progress and we will be posting a fundraising page with 50 per cent going to the club and 50 per cent going to Scottish mental health charities.”
While such efforts from within the GAA in Scotland are helping keep clubs together and allowing members to enjoy shared activities in spite of restrictions, the main priority for players is to return to action, and players and supporters of the GAA were given a strong sign that some normality may return this year with comments from Croke Park that the club championships in Ireland will not be affected by any recent changes to how Gaelic games are played.
Having seen delayed and truncated Senior Intercounty Championships last season, there had been concerns that club football will be interrupted by the knock-on effects of a further delay this year. However comments by Feargal McGill, the GAA Director of Club, Player and Games Administration, have underlined the fundamental importance of club games to the GAA.
Players in Scotland will be reassured by the strong commitment from within the association to resume action as soon as possible as they get behind the county board here and support them in allowing a safe return of competitive actions when restrictions are sufficiently lifted. Though his comments are related to the resumption of games in Ireland, the positive attitude towards club football as the bedrock of the association will still be welcomed on this side of the Irish Sea.
“There will be a club season,” Mr McGill said. “Regardless of whether the intercounty season is delayed or not, our intention is not to compromise on the time available to clubs.
“If the intercounty season were to get delayed, we would look at pushing the concluding stages of the AIB Provincial and All-Ireland Championships into January of 2022. This would ensure the overall period of time available in the calendar for counties to stage their internal club championships would not be negatively affected by any delay in getting the intercounty season up and running.
“One thing I would ask of club players is to be patient. In introducing a split season we are talking about changing a culture and a way of doing things and it will take time for county boards to adjust competition structures and timings. They will not all get it right on the first go; but over a period of two or three years, if the split season is persisted with, I am hugely confident that counties will be able to put in place an improved club programme and greater certainty for our club players.”