Hundreds of GAA players sleep rough to raise awareness of homelessness

Over 400 GAA players were sleeping rough on streets across the country overnight to raise awareness of homelessness.

The sleep-outs took place from 6pm last night to 6am this morning in towns and cities including Galway, Cork, Limerick and Wexford.

Players in New York and Boston also took part as part of the action by Gaelic Voices for Change.

Dublin footballer Eamon Fennell was involved in the sleepout at Dublin's GPO and explains why they decided to take action.

"I think we understand that there's a crisis at the moment, and we just felt we had to do something,

"We knew that homelessness was about getting a roof over someone's head, but it's also about tacking mental health, physical health, kids' self-esteem that are living in hotels and hostels.

"There's an education piece that people don't understand that we're trying to bring to them now."

Gaelic Voices For Change on for their #SolidaritySleepout last night at the Cork Court House, Washington St. Pic: Cork Simon Community.

The 'Solidarity Sleepout' initiative was the creation of Gaelic Voices For Change, a new social action group of past and present GAA inter-county players who are keen to use their profile to do more to make a difference.

Supported by the GPA (Gaelic Players Association) & WGPA (Women’s Gaelic Players Association), the group are keen to sound the alarm on Ireland's housing and homelessness crisis in Ireland.

To date, an impressive €180,000 has been collected and will be as well as support charities that include the Peter McVerry Trust, DePaul, the Simon Community, Focus Ireland and the Capuchin Day Centre, Cope Galway, Thomand House, and Novas based in Limerick.

New Dublin hurling manager Pat Gilroy joined his squad for the sleep-out in Dublin, and the Clare hurling squad joined the Limerick event.

The Carlow women’s football team and Laois hurlers also participated as squads. Locations included Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick, Belfast, Portlaoise, Naas, Sligo, Wexford and Carlow.

Former Monaghan player Ciaran 'Nudie' Hughes led a sleep-out in Times Squad New York, another was held in Boston, and a former player, who chose to remain anonymous, also did it alone in Quebec in Canada in freezing temperatures.

Former Wexford hurling captain Diarmuid Lyng led the Wexford sleep-out and was in a reflective mood after it wrapped up.

"The thing that struck me most was hearing the chorus of voices on the street sincerely dissatisfied with the Governments response to what is fast becoming a humanitarian concern," he said.

"People walking around their fellow people, one up the other down, serves the humanity in neither.

"People who spoke to us said that they accepted that they have a role to play too in their own behaviours, how they contribute to the issue, but fundamentally they feel that at a structural level, we are creating this problem by becoming economic slaves to vested interests in this land. Accepting that is accepting of a miserable inequality for all concerned.

"This magical country with its beautiful people shouldn't be subjected to that reality. The Government must act in the interests of it's citizens and improve levels of social protection. It was also a privilege to stand with fellow players, everyone that joined together got far more out of it that they could possibly have imagined.

"This was always going to be an upside of this effort, more balanced players make better players, but that all played second fiddle to the issue at hand."

Speaking from New York, Ciaran 'Nudie' Hughes said: "When you are in a position to help the less fortunate especially living away from home and seeing and hearing how bad things have gotten I felt it was only right to help out. Being in Times Square for 12 hours in below freezing weather was frightening and hard to believe that people are actually sleeping in this cold weather.

"This experience has made me realise how lucky I am and I will hopefully continue to carry out charity work in the near future."

Most Read in Ireland