Loughinisland GAC strike gold

LOUGHINISLAND GAC has struck gold in GAA’s Club Maith accreditation scheme.

The scheme allows clubs to be benchmarked against best practice standards across the full range of GAA club activity.

The Gold Award highlights good governance at the club and will be of benefit to help attain grant aid.

The Club Maith award makes a clear, proven statement about the quality of a club right across five core areas of GAA club business.

They include governance, duty of care, culture and heritage, coaching and games development and community enhancement.

Loughinisland GAC, which now boasts 425 registered members, has attained this Gold Award through a lot of hard work by the club development group. Recently achievement include the Island Games, the community weight loss challenge; health and well-being centre which opened last year; a mental health event; the £10,000 weekly lotto draw; senior citizens’ dinner; new club mobile responsive website; the club has signed up to Suicide Down to Zero, free online health and wellbeing classes, plus the GAA’s volunteer development programme and sport uniting communities programme and the healthy clubs initiatives.

The accolade comes after the club attained silver and bronze awards earlier this year and as part of the process Loughinisland GAC has achieved recognition as an accredited club by Sport NI.

Paul McMullan, the club’s development officer, who has been the driving force behind the club securing the accolades, said The Blue Wave, the club’s five-year plan which was published two years ago, “was the springboard for this success and the establishment of good governance practices across the club”.

He added: “For the gold award this meant fulfilling 13 out of 20 criteria relating to club outreach, coaching, social and governmental issues, youth engagement and encouraging the volunteer spirit within the community.

“Indeed, Niall Flynn, one of our young volunteers, won an award for this at the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council sports awards ceremony earlier this year.”

Paul said that this coveted gold award shows the progress made by club members and volunteers within the local community.

Loughinisland GAC development officer Paul McMullan (right) holds the Club Maith Gold Award alongside club chairman Seamus Fay

He added: “For us, this award is a healthy indicator of the progress we are making as a club. We see this as basic building block in terms of club development, engagement with the community and the projection of a positive image for the club.

“We hope it will encourage local people to become more involved in our club and the range of activities it is offering.”

The club has been offering a range of online classes to help those in the community who have been struggling during to the Covid-19 pandemic and they have been well received in the club’s Island Health and Wellbeing Facebook group.

Paul said: “These are challenging times for all as mental and physical health are likely to be major issues over the coming months. “One aspect of our offering is the availability of online circuit, yoga and mindfulness classes. We are also seeking funding to run pilates and other classes – all of which are free to access online.

“Even with the lockdown of all sport activity, the club is still working to engage with the entire community and to make a positive contribution to people’s health and wellbeing. “This is one of the central themes of our health and wedding strategy.”

Seamus Fay, Loughinisland GAC chairman, is delighted the club has attained the award as it shows how a gold-accredited club is one that demonstrates excellence across all areas of club business.

He said: “The attainment of the Club Maith Gold Award is a further major achievement in demonstrating that our club administration has moved to a nationally-recognised level of excellence.

“This award is the culmination and just reward for the commitment of Paul McMullan and his support team in delivering the club plan objectives.

“It is welcome news during challenging times when our activities and community outreach have been hampered by the Covid pandemic and associated government restrictions. Our club volunteers are all working very hard to ensure that we provide whatever support we can to our community now and in the future.”