Rising from the flames, St John's are an example to all other clubs
IF ever an example of triumph over adversity was required to show the true mettle of a GAA club, then look no further than St John’s, Drumnaquoile.
In the early hours of Friday, September 26 2008 firefighters were called to quell a blazing inferno at the St John’s clubhouse. Members, young and old, could only watch on as years of hard work and dedication went up in smoke.
But, like a phoenix, the county Down club arose from the flames to come back bigger, better and stronger.
As if to prove that they would allow nothing to stand in the way of progress, two days after the fire St John’s lifted their first-ever Down Junior Football Championship final.
They have never looked back, and at Belfast’s Wellington Park Hotel last Friday they were rewarded for their forward thinking after picking up the ‘Small Club’ award at The Irish News School, Club and Volunteer event.
“After the fire, we rebuilt again bigger and better as promised, and reopened again in October 2011,” said club secretary Kevin McGlynn.
“Since then, we have gone from strength to strength really. The club has undertaken a number of fundraising activities on the back of what happened, such as a
‘Strictly Come Dancing’ night and performances of plays, and that has helped put us back on an even keel.”
Despite being in such a rural area St John’s, located just outside Castlewellan, boasts 167 members, and the club’s seniors are holding their own in Division Two of Down’s all-county league.
Away from the field, St John’s are also leading the way in terms of meaningful involvement with charitable organisations, and this year their partnership with the road safety organisation Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has drawn praise from far and wide.
“We support a healthy charity every year,” explained McGlynn.
“In 2012 it was Chest, Heart and Stroke, in 2013 PIPS (Public Initiative for Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm), 2014 Action Cancer, 2015 Age NI and this year it was IAM.
“The main thing with that is 100 people are going to get out for an assessed drive with someone from the institute, and will be shown not just how to drive more safely but how to be a better driver. The 10 safest drivers will be rewarded with a day out at Todd’s Leap.
“Every year we look to our membership for nominations for who the charity of the year will be. But it’s not just a case of picking a charity, running a fundraising night and walking away – what we aim for is a deeper involvement than that, not just money but engagement with the charity.
“It’s normally the case that the charity brings a special skill set, whereas we bring the local community.”
And that local community has always been fully behind St John’s, Drumnaquoile. Receiving recognition from outside, in the form of an Irish News award, is always a boost to morale and proves that the club are doing things the right way.
McGlynn added: “It’s very reassuring to be recognised beyond our own confines.
“I know we’re held in high regard within our own community but it’s nice to know it goes beyond that, and it’s nice to meet people from other clubs and get ideas for the future.”