Martin Kiely Column - Time to say thanks to our GAA volunteers

A general view of the Gaelic Grounds
In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely pays tribute to the people who make the GAA so great.

In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely pays tribute to the people who make the GAA so great.

It’s the time of year when we say thanks and give gifts to family and friends, the sort of people that always deliver regardless of what the circumstances are.

I have mentioned before that many great people in the GAA have given outstanding service to clubs for such a long time. I feel many of these people are taken for granted. As an organisation the GAA is improving when it comes to saying thanks but it still has a great deal to go. For me the club volunteer is such a special person, they give of themselves for the glory of the little parish and will leave no stone unturned when it comes to club duties.

Some of these people will have a low profile within the club but you can be sure they play a key part in making the club work. As I write I think of the many people I know around the entire county of Limerick. The people who for years do vital work solely for the love of their clubs, these people don’t or won’t want ask for money but I do feel many deserve to be thanked in a special way for their efforts.

Volunteerism is the bedrock of the GAA and this has played such a key role in the development of Irish society. When rural parts of Ireland in particular were struggling in difficult times the community was kept together through its involvement in Gaelic games. The love of games was passed from generation to generation and tradition and pride became a major part of the GAA even to this day. I have such admiration for the people who cut fields, wash jerseys and the do the roles that so many in clubs take for granted. Players just want to play but they all too often forget the people whose efforts play such an adhesive part within the clubs.

Club officers have always shown great leadership from the very foundation of the association, big decisions were made in good and bad times and that took great courage and confidence. The GAA club is the leading organisation in the vast majority of parishes, the people who became leaders in the GAA evolved into other organisations and what we saw was a culture of making things happen. The ordinary people of the GAA are to me the heroes, the people who do because they love it. They won’t be looking for votes and looking to get noticed but rather in the background making the tea for the lads with the crested jackets.

Over the past few years women have become more and more a part of the GAA and they have added a new dimension to both clubs and counties. Women were always in the background here to fore but thankfully more and more are moving to join club committees and County Boards. This will bring long term benefits to the Gaelic Athletic Association and I look forward to the day when a woman becomes President of the association.

Going to games week after week I notice how well many of our pitches in Limerick are kept. The club will always have someone who takes great pride in keeping the local field in superb condition. It becomes a way of life for many of them, they know every inch of the field and I know many of them go to great detail to have the white washed lines gleaming and the grass pattern standing out.

Anyone that has ever put a hurley in his hand or kick a football will never forget the great people that give of their time freely. I for one have great memories of playing hurling underage, it’s only as you get older that you fully understand and appreciate the lengths that so many people go to. These people could well be doing other duties but instead they give unselfishly of their time to young boys and girls for the love of their clubs.

I was in Boston a couple of weeks ago and sometimes you have to go outside of Ireland to see just what it means to be Irish and what makes hurling and football just very special games. I watched as young men and women who through no fault of their own were forced to travel to another country for work still took fierce pride in their clubs. Wearing their country jersey is nearly part of everyday life for Irish people abroad so long before they open their mouths you know where they come from.

That pride in one’s place didn’t happen by accident, their parents and many club people would have invested many hours sowing the seeds of what it really means to play or support your local club. I listen to so many young people tell me stories about where they came from and how great their local clubs were.

Sometimes in the GAA it’s left too late to say thanks to people. I have seen this many times before. Thank you can be said in a variety of ways but one of the nicest ways is to do it is publicly and with a crested cert that will proudly hang in the person’s home. So this Christmas when clubs have time to reflect they might just consider honouring the special people in their clubs, the ones that never say no and deliver because they just love their local clubs.

Finally I want to take this opportunity to wish all readers a very happy Christmas. It has been a great pleasure to write on gaelic games each week and I very much welcome the very many letters and calls I get during the year from people in Limerick but also those living outside the county and country.

Many people will have lost love ones and for them the vacant chair will bring back many sad memories. I wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas and until we meet again eat loads and drink wisely.