GAA Football

Ballygalget branching out

Pictured receiving John Mitchel’s, Ballygalget’s award from Raymond Tumilty of O’Neills are Siobhan Watson (Development Committee chairperson) and Lisa Claire Braniff (Development Committee member) are Dessy McGrath (Registrar), Paul Coulter (Vice Chairman), Patrick Braniff (Irish Cultural Officer) and Michael Pucci

IT'S not all that long ago the GAA season had its limits. The dark mornings and darker evenings, combined with most clubs having just a pitch and two changing rooms, placed a limit on what could be done, particularly at certain times of the year.

John Mitchel's GAC, Ballygalget are a prime example of everything that has changed in the last decade or so. Theirs is now literally a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year operation.

At the beginning of this month, they cut the ribbon on their state-of-the-art £400,000 health and wellbeing centre, which includes a gym available not only to their members, but for wider community use.

That was the latest addition to their growing list of facilities, which include a 3G floodlit ball wall, and a floodlit track for runners and a senior citizens' walking club.

As recently as last week, they become the first GAA club in the north to register to become a Dementia Friendly community, pairing up with the Alzheimer's Society to launch a series of workshops at the new centre based around recognising the signs of Dementia and dealing with the illness.

“Our motto is Ballygalget: Club, Parish, Community – be part of it. We want everyone to be part of our club,” said vice chairman Paul Coulter, who also jointly manages Down's senior hurlers.

“It's bringing people into the club and hopefully it'll revitalise and re-energise in future years when they bring their own children in to play.

“It's trying to encourage and inspire the next generation not to take for granted what they've got, and that they have to contribute something themselves.

“We're very, very proud of what we've got, and that's down to everyone's hard work down the years. We want to encourage others from the generation coming behind us to keep that going and make things better for the community we live in.

“As well as the gym we have our wellbeing centre, and we plan to use that for talks and bringing in voluntary agencies to address issues like drugs and alcohol, suicide prevention, citizen's advice.

“Already we've linked up with the local GP and they're hoping to bring people recommended to undergo rehab into our facilities and use them to get over their illnesses.

“It's a fantastic facility that's available 24/7, and we've seen people up there already at 4.30am exercising. Our players are benefiting from it as well. Overall the health, wellbeing and strength and conditioning of our players and the wider community will benefit from it.”

“Where we're from is a rural community, and in our parish there isn't very much to it,” added Michael Pucci, the club's assistant treasurer, who attended the Irish News Club, School and Volunteer awards along with fellow representatives Patrick Braniff, Siobhan Watson, Paul Coulter, Dessy McGrath and Lisa Claire Braniff.

“We have our church, our local primary school and our club. Those are the three pillars of the community.

“In recent years there's probably been an awakening as to the possibilities of what we can do to drive the whole thing on and improve the situation for everybody.”

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