A touch of reality

In 2008 RTE aired the first series of Celebrity Bainisteoir which instantly because a hit. The reality TV show followed eight non-sporting celebrities who took on the challenge of managing an intermediate club football team from their home county in an official GAA competition. Maryland GAA club from Drumraney, Co Westmeath along with their celebrity bainisteoir Mary Whelan were over all winners. The Athlone Advertiser’s DAVID MARTIN was captain of the winning team.

“My Celebrity Bainisteoir experience started back in December 2007 when Animo TV contacted our club, Maryland GAA about taking part in a GAA reality TV programme.

We were a little sceptical at the beginning, however we felt it was a good way to put our small club, and the sport as a whole, on the map. It was also an all-Ireland club competition which we might never get a chance to play in again.

Drumraney is a parish with around 250 houses and the GAA club is at the heart of the parish which has brought us all closer as a community.

Fianna Fail TD and Athlone native, Mary O’Rourke was picked as our bainisteoir, but due to work commitments she could not continue with us and was replaced by Marty Whelan.

Marty admitted to knowing nothing about sport and especially nothing about GAA, but he brought with him great confidence and enthusiasm and got stuck into the job from the start, getting to know the players names and people of the locality. We also had a great mentor in Westmeath footballer Dessie Dolan who got stuck into the job at hand.

I was honoured when Marty asked me to be captain of the team, and will be forever grateful for fulfilling a dream of lifting a cup for my club.

We won our first game away in Wicklow and then travelled to Derry. These trips were great for both ourselves as a team and the club, and it was also great for Marty to get to know the GAA way. He was surprised at the level of community sport in both our club and the clubs we visited.

We won the final of Celebrity Bainisteoir on a sunny evening in Parnell Park, Dublin against Mayfield of Cork. The atmosphere there was electric with every man, woman, and child from Drumraney there, behind us, wishing us well. It was a great experience for the team to play in such a big occasion for the club.

It was the start of the best season ever for Maryland as it helped us win our first intermediate championship in 28 years. I believe the experience we gained in these games was invaluable and brought our team and parish so much closer together.

It was interesting watching this year’s programme as it brought back great memories and we were looked after so well by Animo TV during it. “2008 is a year that Maryland GAA won’t forget in a hurry and it all started with Celebrity Bainisteoir.

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