Leitrim Observer reporter David Goulden talks to Colin Regan about his role as ASAP Officer with the GAA
Despite having to retire from the game last year due to a ruptured knee ligament, former Leitrim, Kinlough and Melvin Gaels star Colin Regan has not let the disappointment of the injury dampen his passion for the game.
Making his league debut in 1996 and his senior championship debut the following summer, Colin was a key figure in the Leitrim squad in the years leading up to and prior to the turn of the century. His injury a week before an important Division 4 clash with Clare at Cusack Park came as a further blow to Mickey Moran’s plans as Emyln Mulligan had also suffered a recurrence of a cruciate injury he had just returned from.
Although this was a blow to Colin, he stayed with the team and helped out in the background. “I was playing a game for Kinlough and ruptured two ligaments in my knee. I was told what I had done to my knee was almost impossible and even if I tried to do it again, I couldn’t.”
Colin has not let the injury blow affect his attitude and love for the GAA, and he is now in his seventh week of his new role as National Co-ordinator of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Programme (ASAP) Officer. His role is to oversee the appointment of ASAP Officers for every GAA club in the country. Right now there are 1,500 ASAP Officers employed with GAA clubs around the country, but another 800 approximately are needed to deal with each club. “My role, under the GAA Strategic Vision 2009-2015, is to ensure every club in the country appoints an ASAP Officer along with implementing a drug and alcohol policy within each club. Our job is not to force a wooden spoon policy on the kids, and say do not drink, but more to educate, advise and make the kids aware of what they’re getting in to and how to look after themselves.” Colin is keen to emphasise that the job is all about helping, educating and guiding the children and not to force a message on them. The initiative is targeting players at the very start of their sporting careers and he is hoping to work with children as young as under 10’s and 14’s to prepare them in advance for mixing sports and social occasions. “This is not about prohibition, it’s about awareness and teaching the players how to enjoy themselves socially without letting that spill over in to their game.”
Colin is a firm believer in sport having a positive influence on a young person’s life and is proud to be part of it: “I have always believed in the power of sport to be used to benefit society. This job is all about raising the awareness and profile of the strategy. We are available to any club to hold meetings along with education and information nights and will help guide and develop any club from our (GAA) template.” Although he is now the face of the new ASAP, Colin will be the first to admit that even he enjoyed a drink after a game. “Don’t get me wrong, I am no saint. I enjoyed the post game craic as much as anyone and it’s a great way to encourage team bonding. But now that I can say I’ve had the experience of playing at the top level, I feel I can now give advice to fellow players.” Having been drafted into the League panel in 1996, Colin credits then Leitrim boss John O’Mahoney with advocating a fitness first attitude. “John was the man who brought me into the Leitrim squad for the first time and he was years ahead of the trend. He really was an advocate of the ‘professional’ era where players look after themselves both on and off the pitch.” He also says the way the league was structured those days lent to a big drinking culture within the teams. “The league took a break two or three weeks before Christmas week and didn’t return until the second or third week in January, so this encouraged binge drinking around that time of year within teams. There was, and still is a lot of drinking when it comes to competitions end, be it when a team wins a championship or goes out of a competition early, it always tends to be a time for celebration.”
Colin also believes that the GAA’s drinking culture stems from a cultural, more than an Irish tradition. “Ireland consistently ranks in the top three in the world when it comes to binge drinking, so unfortunately it’s no surprise Ireland’s top sport goes hand in hand with Ireland’s top social activity.”
This makes him even more determined to succeed in his new venture. “The help we can give clubs is age specified, personalised and we also advise the players about what they’re putting into their bodies and educate them on healthy eating.”
On the first Monday of this month, Colin, along with All-Ireland winner Oisin McConville, Sligo All-Star Eamonn O’Hara and GAA President Christy Cooney gave a speech to local clubs in The Sligo Park Hotel. This was the first major event in Colin’s new reign as National ASAP Officer, and he hopes it will be the first of many.
He is also keen to appoint a new full time ASAP Officer for the Leitrim area and anyone who is interested can contact Colin directly on 087-2945705 or email him on email@example.com.