Lá na gClubanna weekend takes place May 6/7.
The GAA Club and the GAA volunteer have assumed semi mythical status in our psyche. The people. The place. The pitch. The personalities. The Passion. The Pain. The Glory. It all starts with the club when those children take their first steps in an oversized O’Neills Club jersey. The proud parents bursting with pride.
What club doesn’t have a legendary character who cuts the grass, trims the hedges and repairs busted hurls? The larger than life character, clichéd perhaps, but they’re alive in every club the length and breadth of the country.
Take the Volunteer that washes the jerseys. An onerous task in days gone by when a temperamental washing machine could turn a set of white togs pink in an instant or shrink a set of senior jerseys to tight fit under 12. The modern O’Neills Koolite jersey can withstand the slings and arrows of any washing machine system.
Or the modern day character on the tractor, speckled with whitewash from lining the pitch, the lines straight as an arrow and gleaming on the green in the spring sunshine. He pushes back an aged club cap and wipes a brow. That’ll do for the weekend’s games.
The Club stands proud at the heart of the GAA. The heart of the community, the centre of the Universe. It’s not even about winning you know. There’s something about leaning over the wire on a Spring evening discussing the affairs of the day while a group of youngsters battle it out on the green sward in front on your face. One eye on the game, look at that cub, jeez he can play, just like the old man.
You can see the characters there, oul fellas who’ve seen generations of players come and go. He hits the ball like his da they’d murmur aloud, thank God he moves with the grace and elegance of the mother he adds in the next breath in a backhanded compliment. Discussions of ancient enmities and inter parish rivalries occasionally bubble to the fore.
A lad or two may get manners administered on the field. Do him no harm, I remember his uncle at the same carry-on the hushed comment as the mothers of the parish get vocal behind the wire.
The club has all the characters, the unflappable umpire, impartial to a fault. The club referee. I enjoy boys giving me grief he laughs, sure I get plenty at home he declares. The club camogs, tough, elegant, glamorous and determined. Gnarly junior football veterans, the mercurial no 11 drifting about like he owns the place. A smattering of county men in branded gear made of the right stuff. A young Sigerson winner that’s taken to wearing an Alice band, a useful accessory. An aged hurler, pot belly and short shorts with a 37 inch hurl. Reaches the parts others wouldn’t even try.
The club coaches, long suffering and patient. Whatsapp offers a new lease of life, no longer ringing recalcitrant players who keep you online for an hour debating why they want to play wing forward rather than corner back. The answer’s plain to all but the lads who should know it best. Groupchat means you don’t even have to talk to some of these lads. In fact, some only exist in groupchat, you see them at training that infrequently. I’m working away the next two weeks. Hamstrings tight. Stag weekend. Going to Barcelona. The excuses continue.
Yes Lá na gClubanna, this weekend is specifically dedicated to Clubs where they will take centre stage and afford them the opportunity to celebrate their existence and impact in their community and reconnect with their locality.
The inaugural Lá na gClubanna was held in 2009 as part of the GAA’s national events to mark the 125th Anniversary of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael. Last year more than 500 Clubs engaged in the event and a call is being made for even more Clubs to take part in 2017.
Last year saw two clubs - Dromid Pearses (Kerry) and Arklow Geraldines Ballymoney (Wicklow) earned special merit prizes due to the extensive events they organised last year – the efforts the County Wicklow club went to can be viewed in this video here.
There will be a similar competition this year with prizes that include the chance to win an overnight stay and match tickets to an All-Ireland senior semi-final of their choice, as well as the chance for ‘Lá na gClubanna’ events to be captured by professional photography and video.
Commenting on the upcoming Lá na gClubanna weekend, Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail said:
“The Club is the focal point of Association and Lá na gClubanna is about taking time out to celebrate and acknowledge this fact, to mark the positive impact that is made and the work that our dedicated teams of volunteers do on our behalf.
“It is putting the Club and our Club Members in the spotlight and encourages them to have a festival to mark the role they play in their communities.
“I am fortunate to travel the length and breadth of the island to see this outstanding work in person and look forward to another celebration of all the good that they do in the promotion of our Games and the leadership and positive impact they make on our cities, towns, villages and parishes.”
To all of you attending a club event this week, have a great weekend!