Where players and success are scarce, any silverware, irrespective of it being achieved outside the white lines of action, is appreciated by those who keep Mizen Rovers GAA club on the map.
Earlier this year, the West Cork club was named the overall winner of FBD’s Community Champions for Change programme. The award is for raising awareness of farm safety among teenagers. This week, a second piece of silverware was added — the club’s juvenile branch picked up the Rebel Óg award for May.
Most clubs concerns themselves with county championship glory, so how did Mizen Rovers find themselves in the primary schools of West Cork, handing out high-vis jackets to promote farm safety?
Club member, Connie O’Driscoll, says: “In 2010, we felt change was needed. We saw the kids from March to August, during which we were asking them for their blood, sweat, and tears. After that, though, we basically said good luck to them until the following year. We felt we needed to have more of an input into their lives and so we looked at what was relevant.”
A ‘care for our players’ programme was established in the club, with a three-pronged approach: road safety, health and wellbeing, and jobs and enterprise. On the road-safety front, club members aged between 14 and 18 were brought to a driving centre in Bantry. The programme developed slowly and, in 2014, it was decided to include farm safety.
“Obviously, we are a rural club and a lot of our players come from an agricultural and farming background. We thought we should be doing something about this. We have such low numbers that one player getting injured in a farm or road accident, not to mind disappearing for good, would cause us serious problems.” Back to the driving centre they went. This time, the players were educated on farm machinery and how to correctly drive a tractor. Signage was erected in the dressing-room and bore stark messages relating to farm safety.
In 2015, an Oireachtas sub-committee was established to improve farm safety. Mizen Rovers was the sole GAA club to send in proposals and, in acknowledgement of this, club officials were invited to Leinster House by the chairman of the sub-committee, Senator Denis O’Donovan, to address the sub-committee.
“Two of our eight proposals were included in the final report, they being that the GAA should appoint a farm-safety officer and that well-known GAA players should become ambassadors for farm safety.
“Then, in January of this year, we visited 10 primary schools, where we spoke to kids about farm safety. It was interesting to find out that most kids have ties to a farm, be it through their parents or grandparents. That shows this issue is relevant, not just in rural clubs, but also in urban clubs. We left packages in the schools. We left DVDs, books, and board games that would teach the kids about farm safety.
“What we are trying to do is make people aware and instil a bit of responsibility amongst our younger players.”
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