WHETHER it will be possible to make the journey to various county grounds at all this year, members of O’Donovan Rossa are availing of their daily exercise time to do just that in a virtual sense and all for a good cause.The 32 County Challenge will see individual members and families collectively walk, run or cycle the approximate 2000 km distance as they visit each county ground in the country, adhering to social distancing with the St John Ambulance appeal benefiting from the venture.The challenge began at the gates of Rossa Park on Monday with Chairwoman Margaret Flynn the first of 270 participants who began to cover their miles either on foot or on the saddle as they began the club’s virtual tour of Ireland’s county grounds.Organisers and members of the club’s senior ladies football team, Claire Brammeld and MarieTherese Fleming, came up with the idea of helping bring people together while we remain apart, by creating a united cause all can get behind to boost physical and mental wellbeing during lock-down.“We really wanted the seniors to lead it because we’ve four codes and a lot of senior players,” said Claire, a member of Rossa’s Health and Wellbeing Committee.“People are sitting at home and maybe need the motivation to get out. Some are doing their 5k individually but this is a chance for everyone in the club to come together a bit and do something collectively for a good cause.“MarieTherese said her brothers Colm and Eoin would do it too so we were able to make the whole thing bigger rather than it just being the ladies team, so it’s great to get the support of the club and to have everyone on board.”St John Ambulance – a regular presence at GAA games – launched an appeal for vital funds last month, so it was a natural choice for Rossa members to raise funds to help its fight against Covid-19 alongside the NHS and NI Ambulance Service, while also helping to secure the charity’s future in these difficult times.
The venture is also going a long way to help club members feel connected at a time when we must stay apart, booting mental health and helping to motivate those who may have been spending the entire time at home.“Mental health is a huge thing at the minute with people unable to get out or feeling isolated but we can’t just start holding mental health seminars,” Claire added.“We needed to find a way to get people together to talk about something good and that unites them a bit.“Some people may not have moved in weeks, so this will help get them out to do some exercise and boost their mental health because we want out members to make sure they are feeling well and help them communicate with each other.“I’ve found from talking to a few people that they’ve been really looking forward to this as it gives them a bit of a purpose.”Many clubs and organisations have undertaken a variety of challenges that can be completed from home or when social distancing so Rossa felt theirs needed to be a little different.Therefore, in keeping with the GAA theme, they felt paying a virtual visit to each county ground in the country would be a fitting venture and on Monday, Armagh’s Athletic Grounds was the first stop on the virtual tour.Club members will send through the distance they have completed on a daily basis as the organisers calculate just how many grounds have been covered and how many are needed to go before they reach the finish line, back at Casement Park on Sunday – a nod to the club’s Croke to Casement Great Solo Run from 2017.“We calculated the total distance it will take to travel from Rossa Park to every county ground in the country and back again,” Claire explained.“It’s just over 2000 kilometres so what we’ve done is to get all the people who have signed up and divide the distances out between everyone. The seniors are all doing at least 10k each, but if a family is going out for a walk and there are four of them in total, they would multiply the distance they covered by four.“Whatever each person’s distance is, they will start it on Monday and have until Sunday to complete it. Every day, we’ll put up some updates on our social media to let people know what county ground we’ve arrived at.“We were going to do a circumference of the country, but it was Gavan Duffy who came up with the idea of doing the county grounds instead as it keeps that GAA link to the whole thing.“We know we’re missing out on our matches, so we thought it would be good, psychologically to walk, run, cycle, sole, skip or whatever to the county grounds.”If you would like to donate to Rossa’s 32 County Challenge and support the St John Ambulance appeal, you can do so through the JustGiving address below with links also available on the club’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Also, if you see a Rossa jersey out on the roads this week, give them a shout of encouragement as they take on the Rossa challenge for this great cause.