Case Study: Cork Beats Stress

County: Tougher & Midleton, Cork
Rural/Urban: Urban
Codes: Football, Ladies Football, Hurling, Camogie
Membership: combined – 1316

Case Study: Cork Beats Stress


Midleton GAA club, like many of the urban areas that suffered heavily during the recession decided to focus on mental wellbeing as part of the Healthy Club project (HCP). The club wanted to provide wellbeing opportunities that would benefit the local community. They partnered up with the HSE south and St. Finbarrs National Hurling & Football Club in Cork, to deliver a programme called ‘Cork Beats Stress’, a stress management programme open to the wider community.


The novel partnership with HSE South actually came about by accident. Using signage on the club grounds to create awareness around the HCP, the HCP project team attracted the attention of a psychologist from Midleton working within the HSE. The HSE were eager to partner up with such a trusted sporting organisation as the GAA as it gave them the opportunity to deliver their services to a large cohort of males who are difficult to engage with. To our knowledge this is the first psychological intervention delivered through a major sporting organisation both nationally and internationally and the HSE referred to this as “ground breaking”.

Midelton GAA and St. Finbarrs National Hurling & Football Club managed the operational side of things such as providing venues and providing promotion through word of mouth, social media and local radio whereas the clinical accountability rested with the HSE.


The programme consisted of a workshop one night a week for six weeks. Facilitated by a qualified HSE psychologist the programme equipped participants with the skills needed to cope with stress and provided participants with take home booklets on stress management. It was open to all members of the public over 18 years of age and was free. Over the six weeks attendance fluctuated from week to week, however, on average 161 people attended in Midleton GAA and 167 in St. Finbarr’s National Hurling and Football club; 25% of programme participants were male.

As the programme was delivered to the GAA, people assumed it was geared towards men and consequently, doubled the rate of male participants that normally attend these workshops. The stigma surrounding mental health was broken down for people as the programme was provided locally by the GAA where they felt welcome and at ease. Mental health advocate, Conor Cusack, was a special guest and spoke very eloquently and honestly about stress, anxiety and depression.

The Club

Findings from the HSE’s evaluation of the programme clearly show that participation in this initiative resulted in a clinically significant reduction in symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress. Gains were made regardless of the severity of symptoms.

Running this public health service through the GAA contributed to a reduction in stigma and a normalisation of mental health problems and of help seeking behaviour. This helped reduce barriers which might prevent someone from availing of assistance. The delivery of this mental health initiative through the GAA was associated with more positive connotations, a greater perception that it was local, community based and a service which involved people from all walks of life and which led to great male participation.

This initiative was recently awarded the prestigious HMI award which is given to recognise outstanding achievements of individuals and teams which exemplify innovation, creativity and commitment of people delivering health services. The Cork Beats Stress was selected as joint overall National winner out of 149 others. This programme has since been rolled out by the HSE South in Castlehaven GAA, Killeagh GAA and Yoghal GAA.

Following on from this success St Finbarrs Healthy Club Team have co-ordinated two SafeTALK training workshops in the club. SafeTALK, which stands for ‘suicide alertness for everyone’ is a training programme that helps people to identity those who may be having thoughts of suicide and teaches ways of helping those people by connecting them with suicide first aid resources. This programme is run by the National Office for Suicide Prevention in line with LivingWorks and the HSE. It involves a 3 hour course which was open to anyone in the club and the wider community over the age of 16. Between the two courses the club had over 40 people take part. The participants were made up of club members including players and coaches, parents and members of the wider community.

Club update re Ireland Lights Up postponed & important hurling helmet safety information

Please find below important club updates relating to the postponement of the Ireland Lights Up walking initiative until February, and a pre season safety reminder about hurling helmets and required safety standards.

Ireland Lights Up postponed to February

The GAA today received a communication from Sport Ireland who, in consultation with the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht Sport and Media, have requested the postponement of the Ireland Lights Up walking initiative until the start of February (dependent on the Government guidelines at that time). We were informed that this late change of position was prompted by the continued escalation of the pandemic here in Ireland.

The grant scheme offered by Sport Ireland and Healthy Ireland to support clubs in the delivery of Ireland Lights Up 2021 (up to a maximum of €1,000 per club, T&Cs apply) remains in place and will be activated once the green light for the commencement of the initiative is given. All GAA clubs that register to participate in Ireland Lights Up will automatically be issued details of the grant process in the coming weeks. As of today 451 GAA clubs had registered. You can continue to register here:

Healthy Club ‘Every Step Counts’ Challenge will proceed

The GAA Healthy Club ‘Every Step Counts’ Challenge in partnership with Irish Life’s MyLife App will proceed as planned and will start on Wednesday, January 13th and will run for 7 weeks. In each province there are 3x O’Neills vouchers up for grabs – €2,500, €1,500 & €1,000. Any club that tracks more than 4,000km during the challenge will be entered into the prize draw in their province.

Register your club here: and get your members signed up to join your club’s team. Please allow 48 hours from registration for your team to appear on the App. If you have any questions or are experiencing any problems with the MyLife app, please email

Hurling helmet safety

In advance of the 2021 GAA season, players are reminded about the need to check that their equipment is in good condition and meets the required safety standards.

The GAA would like to remind all players at all levels in all Hurling Games and Hurling Practice Sessions it is mandatory for, and the responsibility of, each individual player to wear a helmet with a facial guard that meets the standards set out in IS:355 or other replacement standard as determined by the National Safety Authority of Ireland (NSAI).

All players are advised that in the event of a head injury occurring, if the helmet being worn does not meet the standard or is modified or altered from the original manufactured state, they are not covered under the terms of the GAA Injury Benefit Fund.

The following helmet manufacturers currently provide products which meet the standards set out in IS:355 or other replacement standard as determined by the National Safety Authority of Ireland (NSAI).

  • Atak Sports
  • Azzuri
  • Marc Sports
  • Mycro
  • O’Neills

Players and parents should note that not all products provided by some of these manufacturers meet the standards of IS:355.

Once the helmet or faceguard is modified in anyway, the player is playing at an increased risk of injury and not covered under the terms of the GAA Injury Benefit Fund.

Keep active and help your club win with the Irish Life Healthy Club Steps Challenge

4 x €2,500 O’Neill club vouchers up for grabs during June challenge

Throughout the Covid-19 emergency, GAA clubs across the 32 counties have been helping their members and communities stay healthy and connected within the restrictions of public health advice.

To help reward this contribution and to celebrate the importance of staying active, the GAA’s Community & Health Department has teamed up with Irish Life, CSR partners to the Healthy Club Project, to launch a special ‘Steps Challenge’ set to run during the month of June.

Four lucky clubs will win a €2,500 voucher with O’Neill’s. All clubs must to do is:

  • Register your club’s participation by June 1st on Irish Life’s MyLife App
  • Get a minimum of 15 participants to register on the club page on the MyLife App
  • Get walking! (See below for detailed registration instructions.)

The club in each province that records the highest average number of steps during the challenge period will win. Participants must be aged 18 and over. The Steps Challenge, which officially begins June 3rd, is open to all GAA clubs. (See below for step by step guide of how to register your club.)

GAA President John Horan thanked Irish Life for their on-going support: “Irish Life, along with Healthy Ireland, the HSE, and the National Office for Suicide Prevention, has worked with the GAA as our valued CSR partner for the Healthy Club Project since 2014, helping us to engage 300 clubs to date in this health-focused project.

“This Steps Challenge celebrates and rewards the fact that GAA clubs are supporting the wellbeing of their members and their communities even when our official training and games have been forced to stop.”

Commenting on this initiative, Declan Bolger, Chief Executive, Irish Life Group said: “MyLife is Irish Life’s innovative Health & Wellbeing App that can be downloaded and used by everyone. It is a great tool to help us all stay healthy and fit along with offering rewards to Irish Life customers.  As the CSR partner to the GAA Healthy Club Project we are delighted to collaborate on the Steps Challenge, and help people in our communities and GAA clubs stay active and well during this challenging and unusual time.”

The Challenge starts on June 3rdt and ends June 30th, 2020.

What do I need to do to take part?

Register your club’s participation by June 1st on the following link:

How do club members join the challenge?

  1. Download the MyLife app from the App store or Google Play store
  2. Register your details
  3. Tap on the social tab on the MyLife app
  4. Select challenges
  5. Select the challenge for your province

Tap on join & select your club!