GAA stars take the plunge for the RNLI

The RNLI and the GAA have launched a major partnership aimed at reducing the number drowning deaths in Ireland

GAA stars take the plunge for the RNLI

The RNLI and the GAA have launched a major partnership aimed at reducing the number drowning deaths in Ireland, 08-03-2017. Image: Seb Daly / Sportsfile

Four top GAA athletes have taken an icy-cold plunge as part of a new campaign to reduce the number of people who lose their lives though drowning in Ireland.

The campaign is the result of a new partnership between the GAA and the RNLI lifeboat service, aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of Irish coastal waters.

Each year an average of 28 people drown accidentally around the Irish coast, according to the RNLI.

The lifeboat service aims to halve that number by 2024 and the GAA is set to engage with clubs and communities around the country to provide information and supports that could save lives.

As part of the RNLI’s ‘Respect the Water’ campaign four top GAA athletes - Jackie Tyrell from Kilkenny, Lyndsey Davey from Dublin, Neil McManus from Antrim and Lee Chin from Wexford - joined the RNLI to experience what it is like to be plunged into cold water – and to see the effects of the shock on the body:

The athletes also took part in rescue scenarios in specially created challenging weather and sea conditions.

All-Ireland winning Kilkenny hurler Jackie Tyrrell was one of those who took the plunge.

“Like many people in Ireland I too have lost someone close to me to drowning,” he said.

“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.”

There are 333 GAA clubs located within a 10km radius of the 46 RNLI lifeboat stations in Ireland - making them ideally placed for sharing information and raising awareness of the causes of drowning and how to prevent it.

From left, Kilkenny hurler Jackie Tyrell, Antrim hurler Neil McManus, and Dublin footballer Lyndsey Davey, 08-03-2017. Image: Seb Daly / Sportsfile

Tyrell was joined by three time GAA All-Star and Dublin footballer Lyndsey Davey - who has a very personal reason for backing the campaign.

Her great-uncle Michael Hayes was the skipper of the Tit Bonhomme trawler which sank off Glandore Harbour in 2012.

Six crew members died in the disaster, including Mr Hayes.

“The loss of Michael and his crew was a very difficult time for all the families involved,” she said. “During the days and weeks following the sinking, the whole community of Union Hall really came together.”

“The search and rescue efforts were relentless and the support given was incredible.

"I got involved in this campaign as I wanted 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."

Legendary broadcaster Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, has narrated a specially commissioned short film for the new partnership which was released on social media today: