INDEPENDENT PEOPLE: OLLIE LENNON
Promoting gaelic football is, for many, the dream job!
And Drum man Ollie Lennon fully appreciates this. Ollie is the Games Promotion Officer with the Roscommon County Board in the South Roscommon area.
His job entails working with clubs and schools in that geographic region and encouraging young people to get involved in football. It's a job he loves.
He took up the post two years ago – having previously worked as a fitness instructor in the Hodson Bay Hotel – after the county board decided to increase the number of people promoting gaelic football and hurling throughout the county.
“There was one Games Promotion Officer in the county for a long time. Then they appointed two more, one for the north of the county and one for the south. We now have three full-time Games Promotion Officers and one hurling Promotion Officer,” he says.
One thing he loves about the job is the flexibility. He may have to work late evenings to work around club schedules, but he can take time off during the day. This works well with his busy family routine – he is married to Maria and they have three boys: Oisin (4), Fionn (2) and Eanna (10 months).
“The work is flexible. You have to work with primary schools when they are in school and you have to work with secondary schools when they are in school and then there are the clubs as well. Your day might start at 10am and it might finish at 10 at night but there may be time off during the day.
“You are working with volunteers who work during the day so you work around them,” says Ollie, who played underage football with Clann na nGael but gave up after minor level.
Ollie works with eight clubs in south Roscommon, 40 primary schools and two second-level schools, Coláiste Chiaráin in Athlone and Roscommon CBS. He works alongside part-time football and hurling coaches who also visit the schools.
His main focus is those aged between four and 18. One of the most rewarding parts of his job is his work with primary schools, particularly the pupils in the infant classes.
“In the winter we work with the infants, working on the fundamental movements and we work with the older children during the year. Working with infants in the schools is one of the parts of the job that gives me the most enjoyment.
“All the work we do with the schools, the aim is that the schools follow on,” he says.
His role with the clubs is to encourage more people to play football and hurling.
“Our main role within the clubs is to try and get people to play the sport, to enjoy it and to stay in the sport. There are so many other things going on,” he says.
“One of our priorities is that the quality of coaching is strong. We try to ensure the quality of coaching at every age group. Other supports we offer clubs is we can assist training sessions within the clubs.
“We also run coach education programmes and child protection courses and we work with disadvantaged areas.”
Roscommon GAA formed a partnership with Roscommon County Council last year and it involves some joint initiatives in coaching.
“The partnership is brilliant. Part of my role is to work with the council on joint initiatives,” he says.
As part of this, an event was organised in Monksland recently where children from the area who weren't playing hurling or football were invited to take part in a two-day camp.
“Ninety-five children took part and out of that, 15 registered with Clann na nGael.”
The job is a busy one and there is plenty of travelling around the south of the county.
It's perfect for Ollie, who is a strong believer in the GAA.
“I have the passion for the GAA,” says Ollie, who resides in Taughmaconnell.
As he travels throughout the region promoting gaelic games, he sees great interest in hurling and football.
“The interest is really there. Every person volunteering in the clubs is very passionate about it. Volunteers in clubs are fantastic people,” he says.
“The GAA is the heartbeat of every community. It's not just football and hurling. There are walking tracks now, card games. There is an avenue for everyone, from the four-year-old to the 80-year-old. It's a social outlet,” he says.
The Kelloggs GAA Cúl Camps, which are open to boys and girls between the ages of six and 13, are taking place over the summer and around 1,800 children will take part in south Roscommon over the next four weeks.
Ollie says that initiatives like this encourage young children to get involved in the GAA and many of them continue to play for several years.
“It's all about fun and enjoyment in a safe environment,” says Ollie.