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'We are all God's people': GAA chief relishing chance to serve entire Ulster community

 

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Reaching out: Ulster Council chief Oliver Galligan is delighted to see GAA volunteers helping out in every way they can

Reaching out: Ulster Council chief Oliver Galligan is delighted to see GAA volunteers helping out in every way they can

Reaching out: Ulster Council chief Oliver Galligan is delighted to see GAA volunteers helping out in every way they can

The coronavirus pandemic has meant that livewire Ulster GAA Council chairman Oliver Galligan has had to temporarily withdraw from his hectic life in the fast lane.

 

But if he has ceased to log up the miles, then the countless hours he spends on the telephone and social media ensure that most waking hours are still consumed by various aspects of GAA affairs.

While the pandemic may have impacted heavily on the lives of most people and indeed caused untold grief in many families, Galligan derives comfort from what he views as "a very important element" of the ongoing drive to provide help where it is needed most.

"I believe that the GAA now has the chance to serve the whole community here in Ulster and is doing just that," stated Galligan. "When our players, club members and volunteers knock on doors with food parcels or offers to help in other ways, they are not interested in what sport those people may follow if any or what church they go to.

"We are all God's people and there has never been a greater need for community spirit than there is now. I see this as a very important element in combating the pandemic.

"I am indeed thankful that we as an Association can help the entire community. I can also say with utter conviction that we do not take the 'We are all in this together' slogan lightly. We like to think that we actually live this mantra."

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While there is an understandable desire to see a return to action on the playing fields of Ulster, Galligan is adamant that caution must remain the watchword in terms of relaunching the 2020 season.

The Cavan team which he has followed avidly down through the decades were due to meet neighbours Monaghan in the Ulster Championship preliminary round tie on Sunday week but of course the competition, as with all others, has been put on the back burner for now.

"I know it is very frustrating for many but until such time as the health experts and governments feel that it is safe to resume playing, we must bide our time and wait. The health and safety of the entire population is absolutely paramount and even though sporting bodies are incurring financial losses, this in no way compares to the loss of life and heartbreak that is being experienced within so many families," said Galligan.

And he views the efforts of health service workers at all levels throughout the island as "truly inspirational".

"I think these wonderful people by their magnificent efforts personify the immortal words of John F Kennedy: 'Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country'. The self-sacrifices that these people are making in so many ways should serve as a lesson to us all. They are undoubtedly truly inspirational," stressed Galligan.

While there is a growing body of opinion within the GAA that would suggest there may not be a return to action this year - Gaelic Players' Association chief executive and former Dublin All-Ireland winner Paul Flynn is the latest high-profile official to support this theory - Galligan believes that "it is better to live for today" and see where this takes us.

"These are indeed extremely challenging times. We are like many other people of my age in that our family come to see us and bring us groceries and other items while maintaining their social distance," said Galligan.

"A lot of people have had to re-adjust their lifestyles and indeed many are struggling financially. There is no point in getting ahead of ourselves, it's better to take life one step at a time just now and live for today. We are in an evolving situation."

The Ulster supremo is particularly delighted following the glowing tribute paid to the GAA by the new Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop John McDowell.

The Archbishop was due to preside at the Church's annual Synod at Croke Park next month but the event has been cancelled because of the coronavirus.

In his tribute, the Archbishop said: "The GAA is surely the most remarkable and influential cultural and sporting organisation in Ireland today."

In response, Galligan said: "On behalf of Ulster GAA, I warmly applaud the new Primate's extremely warm tribute and on behalf of everyone I wish him God's blessing and every success in his new role. I look forward to meeting up with him in the future."

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