GAA presenter and commentator Marty Morrissey and hurling legend Anthony Daly, both from Co Clare, are joining the RNLI and young players from the Banner county, to raise awareness of the risks of drowning and to encourage people to enjoy the water safely.
The RNLI’s ‘Respect the Water’ campaign is part of a joint-partnership between the volunteer service and the GAA, aimed at preventing drownings, involves RNLI ambassadors visiting GAA clubs around the country to give water safety advice to young people and to raise awareness of the risks of drowning.
Thirty-seven RNLI volunteers have delivered over a hundred talks as part of the partnership with more due to take place during the summer months.
To promote this year’s campaign, GAA personalities Marty Morrissey and Anthony Daly joined young players from Killimer GAA, Kilrush Shamrocks, Kilrush Ladies Football Club, Kilkee Football Club, Kilkee Bealaha GAA, West Clare Gaels and O’Currys GAA. Both men had very personal reasons for backing the partnership and becoming Ambassadors for it.
Marty Morrissey’s home place is in the picturesque fishing village of Quilty in West Clare on the Wild Atlantic Way where the Sea has always been part of everybody’s life. As a result Marty loves the water but is also aware of its dangers and although he attempted to learn how to swim as a child, he never quite got over his fear.
Speaking at the launch Marty Morrissey said: “When I was young boy growing up in Quilty, my bedroom literally looked out onto the Atlantic Ocean. I remember that every 13 seconds the light from the lighthouse on the Aran Islands shone in my window. I would paddle in the water and some of my friends would jump into the water back at the pier in Seafield, but I wouldn’t, I had the fear. I want to get over that and I’ve set myself the challenge to learn properly.’ It is so important because after all, we all live on the island of Ireland and water plays such an important part of our lives. I am from a Fishing village so well aware of the dangers of the Sea.”
“I love the water and I respect it. If we can get more people enjoying it safely and raising awareness so that no family have to go through the pain of losing a loved one, then I see that as a win. We’ve had too many tragedies in this country. I’m looking forward to the day that I can go for swim and enjoy the water,” he added.
Anthony Daly has a very personal reason for wanting to promote the partnership. He lost a good friend, Michael ‘Fondi’ Scanlan, to drowning many years ago. Fondi was a long-standing kit man at his beloved Clarecastle GAA club and drowned while out fishing.
He said: “Everyone knew and loved Fondi. He was from a big family where I grew up. He was a great GAA man and came from a strong fishing background. When word came to the village that Fondi was lost, there was a rush to the quay to help. We spent the week walking the banks and we wouldn’t go to training while the search was ongoing. He was found the following Sunday at the River Fergus and while it was a blessing for the family, his loss has been deeply felt by everyone who knew him.”
Anthony swims in the sea every week and has made sure his daughters can swim.
‘The RNLI is a great organisation for the GAA to be involved with in local communities. I think there is an awareness of water safety, but we can never stop banging the drum. I love the water and I want my daughters to love the water too and not fear it. Anything we can do to raise awareness of the risks of drowning and to share water safety advice, can only be a good thing,” Daly added.
The RNLI will be present at Croke Park on Sunday 28 July to promote the Respect the Water campaign during the All-Ireland hurling semi-final and to share water safety advice with the thousands of fans travelling to see the match.
Volunteers from RNLI lifeboat stations around Ireland will be on the pitch at half time to share the Float To Live message. The campaign is running throughout the summer with advertising across cinema, outdoor posters, radio, online, and catch-up TV channels.