GAA move to tackle threat of drugs, alcohol

The County Roscommon launch of a new GAA blueprint for dealing with drug and alcohol related issues was held in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon on Thursday night last. ASAP (Alcohol & Substance Abuse Prevention) represents an attempt to tackle the many difficulties posed within the GAA by alcohol and substance abuse.    The launch was told that the GAA’s eventual aim to have a person appointed in every single GAA club in the country who will have responsibility in this area. These individuals will be expected to implement a Club Drug and Alcohol policy.    Currently county co-ordinators are being appointed and Thursday night’s launch was hosted by Roscommon’s co-ordinator, well-known Elphin man Mr. Noel Collins.    Also present on Thursday night was Mr. Brendan Murphy, who is National Co-Ordinator of the ASAP Programme and Mr. Michael Maguire, chairperson of Roscommnon GAA County Board.    Guest of Honour was Mr. Fergal O’Donnell, manager of the Roscommon minor team and former inter-county player.    A GAA Club Manual has been launched and this well-presented booklet addressed issues in the following format: 1. How to develop a Club Drug and Alcohol Policy; 2. How to talk to someone about their drug and alcohol use; 3. Where to get help; 4. Alcohol; 5. Drugs and their effects. The book is being made available to all GAA clubs in the country.    Noel Collins said that the GAA – ‘which has been criticised a lot’ – deserved congratulations for this initiative. He felt there were many things that could be done to address the issues concerned. Television advertisements were ‘glamourising’ alcohol and peer pressure was also a problem. The GAA, he said, is the major sports organisation in the country and it is taking a lead on this issue which other sports bodies should follow.   Brendan Murphy said that currently there are fourteen ‘officers’ in place in the country, including Noel Collins in Roscommon. When the GAA had about 250 in place – one in every club in the country – it would represent more personnel fighting drugs and alcohol than the Dept. of Health, HSE or Gardai can put behind a campaign, he noted.    Mr. Murphy said that everyone knew someone with a drink problem and it was important to address the issues that arise. There were certain steps that could be taken, certain policies that could be implemented by GAA clubs. One simple example was the notion of not having medal presentations for underage teams in public houses. Mr. Murphy added that a DVD presentation would follow the publication of the book and there were also plans to get some of the best-known GAA players in the country to send messages (warning of the dangers posed by drugs and alcohol/highlighting what services are available) to young players via the web and mobile phones.    Paul Gillen, who is behind the ‘Fathers & Sons’ course run by the HSE, spoke of the relationship between fathers and sons and in an informative address advised fathers and coaches present of the importance of communicating with young boys.