GAA lend their weight to drink awareness campaign

Involvement of country’s biggest sporting organisation welcomed by HSE

Tipperary hurler Noel McGrath and Monaghan ladies footballer Sharon Courtney at the launch of the GAA and HSE’s  campaign at Croke Park. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Tipperary hurler Noel McGrath and Monaghan ladies footballer Sharon Courtney at the launch of the GAA and HSE’s campaign at Croke Park. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

A GAA and HSE campaign to “drink less and gain more – on and off the pitch” highlighted the association’s move away from sponsorship by alcohol and gambling companies.

Congress passed a motion last February to ban all gambling sponsorship but Guinness remain linked to the GAA via the “Bound Together” campaign.

“Look outside there and you’ll see no alcohol sponsorship [in Croke Park],” said Colin Regan, the GAA’s community and health manager.

“Under rule now in the GAA there can be no sponsorship of any competition, team, property, gear or equipment by a gambling entity.

“Unfortunately, in modern sport, those are two of the biggest revenue streams for advertising: alcohol and gambling. The GAA is delighted to be leading the way in that regard.

“We feel the ‘drink less, gain more’ message fits perfectly for our players in terms of their onfield performance. Just by tweaking their alcohol consumption...We know the entire population would gain from drinking a little less.”

The GAA and HSE partnership will host an “alcohol-free” area in the Cusack stand during the All-Ireland football semi-final on August 11th.

Do they drink? Yes, they have a drink. But do they drink to excess? No, they don’t

“It is kind of radical for the biggest sporting organisation in the country to stand up this visibly and support this campaign,” said Professor Donal O’Shea – clinical lead for obesity with the HSE. “We have a cultural problem with drinking in Ireland. We used to call it binge drinking. And it is different in other countries.”

O’Shea’s father, Jerome, won three All-Ireland football medals for Kerry in the 1950s while his brother, Conor, is the Italy rugby coach.

“My brother recently moved to Italy to take over the Italian rugby team and he hasn’t had to talk to them about alcohol. They have a different relationship with it.

Changing psyche

“Do they drink? Yes, they have a drink. But do they drink to excess? No, they don’t. It’s a massive change from his time with rugby in Ireland and the UK.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned the Government does not want any further amendment to the proposed legislation. Photograph: Ian West/PA Wire
"The GAA is part of the fabric of our society. If you can get the GAA to stand up and support ‘drink less, gain more’ you begin to change the culture of thinking and over time." File photograph: Ian West/PA Wire

“How do you change culture? You change culture by changing psyche. And how do you change psyche? Well, the GAA is part of the fabric of our society. If you can get the GAA to stand up and support ‘drink less, gain more’ you begin to change the culture of thinking and over time, not this year or next year but over the next 10 to 15 years other sporting organisations will have to follow suit.”

Carlsberg remain the official beer of the FAI while Guinness sponsor Irish rugby’s November international series.

You either want to play for Tipperary or you don’t so you have to mind yourself to perform on the big days in Croke park or Semple Stadium

“I am the clinical lead on obesity for the HSE,” O’Shea continued. “There are 250 calories in pint, about 700 calories in a bottle of wine. Drinking less you will gain more, but not weight. You will lose weight and gain in other aspects of your life.”

Tipperary hurler Noel McGrath, who sits on the GAA’s health and well-being committee, added, “It’s like society; everyone now is more into how their body looks. Cultural change comes from young people and they are all mad into their fitness. A lot of it is about looking well.

“You either want to play for Tipperary or you don’t so you have to mind yourself to perform on the big days in Croke park or Semple Stadium. You just want to be in the best shape possible. We all know how you feel after a few drinks. You are not able to function and I want to be able to train.”

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