Saturday 22 July 2017

GAA stars reveal heartbreaking stories as they join forces with RNLI for water safety campaign

Amy Molloy and Mark McConville

A number of high-profile GAA stars shared their experiences of losing friends and family to drowning today as they joined forces with the RNLI for a new "Respect the Water" campaign.

The campaign aims to reduce the number of people who lose their lives through drowning in Ireland.

Each year an average of 28 people drown accidentally around the Irish coast.

Some of the players who spoke at the launch include Kilkenny's All-Ireland winning captain Jackie Tyrrell, Wexford hurling star Lee Chin and three times GAA All-Star Lyndsey Davey, who had a very personal reason for getting involved.

Her great uncle Michael Hayes was the skipper on the Tit Bonhomme, which sank off Glandore Harbour in Cork with the loss of five of the six crew.

She says her main motivation to get involved was "To give something back and help create awareness around water safety and drowning. In doing so I hope we can prevent any family the pain of losing a loved one through drowning".

Jackie Tyrrell's family was also hit by tragedy when his cousin fell into a river and drowned back in 2015.

"As soon as I was asked to get involved I jumped at the opportunity as I seen the incredible work these volunteers do. I couldn't wait to join up with all the other lads.

"So many of our clubs live and train near the water, whether on the coast on near inland rivers and lakes. We have a responsibility to help and our sport and our ethos encourage this.

"I know our supporters get behind us in our games, now we are asking them to get behind this campaign; it could help save a life," he said.

Cork footballer Brian Hurley and Kerry footballer, Killian Young, who live near RNLI lifeboat stations at Union Hall and Valentia, have also backed the campaign, as has Antrim hurler Neil McManus.

All of the players were taken to Portsmouth University and to the RNLI's training base in Poole, England, where they underwent a cold water shock training session.

They took part in rescue scenarios in specially created weather and sea conditions.

Dublin footballer Lyndsey said: "It makes your body numb, it affects your breathing and heart rates, and makes it difficult to do even the simplest movements”.

The average number of drownings annually in Irish waters - including inland - over the last ten years is 133.

Respect the Water will be rolled out on May 25 and will run throughout the summer.

The RNLI will work with the GAA and their volunteers in local communities to promote the campaign and share key safety messages and advice.

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