GAA is about more than sport alone

This happy Kilkenny fan lifts his daughter on his shoulders as they watch the presentation of the cup after Kilkenny's win over Dublin in Saturday night's Walsh Cup final at Croke Park. Pic by John McIlwaine
If you thought the GAA was about hurling, football, handball and rounders you would not be au fait with the organisation at all, writes Nickey Brennan.

If you thought the GAA was about hurling, football, handball and rounders you would not be au fait with the organisation at all, writes Nickey Brennan.

Hurling and football create most of the excitement but so too does handball and rounders, albeit with fewer participants and followers.

Scór is a competition that embodies the cultural arm of the GAA. It combines the colour and rivalry of Gaelic games with the social/fun element of Ireland’s traditional past-times. It was established by the GAA in 1969 with the aim of promoting Ireland’s traditional pastimes and culture while offering members the opportunity to represent their club in a variety of disciplines.

There are eight events/disciplines in Scór. These include figure/céilí dancing, solo singing, instrumental music, recitation, ballad group, novelty act, question time and set dancing. The competition is divided into two age levels, Scór-na-nÓg, for people under-17 and Scór sinsear, for those over 17.

Scór-na-nÓg is in full swing at present with provincial competitions recently concluded. The competition now moves on to the All-Ireland final stage in Castlebar. Clubs are already preparing for the Scór sinsear with the All-Ireland finals scheduled for late April.

Poor record

Kilkenny’s track record in Scór is poor. It has been a major struggle to get clubs interested. Newly elected Kilkenny Cultural Officer Paul Fitzgerald wrote to Kilkenny clubs in the past week seeking participants in the Scór sinsear finals on Wednesday, February 26 in the Set Theatre.

Kilkenny is rich in Irish culture and it is disappointing that there has been such a poor response.

Aside from any competitions which the GAA promotes, we have become accustomed to numerous organisations looking to the Association to lend support to their activities. The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) and the GAA announced details of a partnership in early January to raise awareness of blood donations and access to the service for local GAA clubs and their members.

The ‘It’s In Your Blood’ campaign was originally agreed in June 2012 between the IBTS and the GAA. To date 20 GAA clubs around Ireland have hosted blood donation clinics and the IBTS is hoping, by the end of the year, to create an additional 20 GAA hosted clinics.

In addition, they want 400 clubs to agree to promote and support existing community clinics - all of which is hoped will lead to 15,000 donations annually through the ‘It’s In Your Blood’ partnership.

The Innovation Academy, UCD and the GAA are to collaborate on a new initiative aimed at promoting sustainable communities. The Community Entrepreneurship Programme facilitates those in rural communities to take a fresh look at their resources and examine how they can best harness them.

Delivered over 18 weeks it is facilitated by entrepreneurs who apply their experiences and knowledge to the design and delivery of the programme.

Another health initiative ‘The GAA Healthy Club Project’ was launched recently. It is a partnership between the GAA and the health sector which aims to assist clubs in responding to the health needs of members while extending the positive influences to the wider community.

In recent weeks Minister of State, Kathleen Lynch, officially launched a specific health-related project, which will see professional psychologists from the HSE South deliver a six-week course. The course was hosted by two Cork clubs as part of their involvement in the innovative ‘GAA Healthy Club Project’.

This is the first ever sport and healthcare partnership organised to help combat stress in the community. The course is provided free and is open to anyone aged over 18. And there is also the long established GAA ASAP programme, which assist people who may be experiencing difficulties with alcohol or substance abuse.

Each one of the above initiatives (and more that I have not covered) is very worthwhile but I wonder how many clubs know of their existence?