GAA Football

Armagh skipper Stefan Campbell and Ireland rugby star Jacob Stockdale join forces as Lurgan combines to protect elderly during Covid-19 lockdown

Armagh captain Stefan Campbell. Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

ALL sides of the Lurgan community are “pulling together towards the same goal” during the Covid-19 lockdown, says Armagh skipper Stefan Campbell who, along with Ireland rugby star Jacob Stockdale, is part of a cross-community effort aimed at making life easier for elderly and vulnerable people in the town.

Lurgan's four GAA clubs (Clan na Gael, St Peter's, St Paul's and Clann Eireann), the Rugby and Cricket Club and several other groups have thrown their weight behind the Lurgan Area Community Aid Group initiative which is collecting, co-ordinating and distributing donations of food and toiletries to people in need.

Armagh forward Campbell's club Clan na Gael use their rugby neighbours' Pollock Park grounds to train on during the closed season and the clubs have fostered and developed their ties over recent years. The new Covid-19 initiative – which has its roots in Clann Eireann's Health and Wellbeing group - has brought them together in a very positive and worthwhile effort.

“The two communities have come together and they are bouncing off one another and making sure that all the elderly in the town are getting their essentials,” Campbell explained.

“The people who deserve the credit are all the club volunteers – they are the people who collect, prepare and distribute thousands of items every week. Messages come into our senior group's WhatsApp every Saturday or Sunday asking for volunteers and all the players are flooding in to help.”

The Ulster Railway Cup star took his turn to make deliveries alongside former county midfielder Aaron Findon, emerging forward Conor Turbitt and Ireland Rugby World Cup star Stockdale. Their involvement raised the profile of the initiative and donations have increased accordingly.

“We all had deliveries to do in the local area,” Campbell explained.

“Imagine me, in a Clan na Gael top, knocking doors in Mourneview? That's not something that would have happened a few years ago so, it is a big step forward.

“I suppose Lurgan probably gets a lot of bad press at times and the positive thing to come out of this is the two communities pulling together for the same goal, the same positive outcome that everybody wants to achieve which is to ensure that the elderly are looked after. It doesn't matter what side of the road you're from, or what side of the community you're live on, everybody has come together and they're looking after each other.”

Campbell was happy to chat and even explain the rules of Gaelic Football to any interested pensioners when he dropped of his parcels.

“You're talking to people who maybe haven't seen anybody for a couple of days,” he explained.

“We just talked about the initiative that was going on and the fact that I was a GAA player and they were happy to hear that. I was telling them a wee bit about the game and where I was from, what club I played for. Some of the fellas were looking to know a bit more about the rules of the game, so it was just a matter of hanging around for a while, showing a bit of appreciation and awareness and having a chat.”

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