Dublin footballer Michael Darragh MacAuley has spent the last 18 months helping children in Dublin's north-inner city connect with the home of the GAA right on their doorstep.
The seven-time All-Ireland winner is the Sport and Engagement Officer for the North East Inner City Initiative which aims to oversee the long-term economic and social regeneration for an area that is home to 18,000 people.
Dublin Footballer Michael Dara MacAuley works in the shadows of Croke Park with the Dublin #NEIC and is trying to inspire the next generation in the inner-city | report by @DCU_SOC for @offtheball | pic.twitter.com/sBI59xpJCw
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) April 9, 2020
Sport is a major part of this regeneration as is education and employment and the Dublin midfielder hopes everyone in the area can get involved.
“What we want is no child in the area, or any adult in the area, to say that there’s nothing for us to do because there is,” says MacAuley.
MacAuley has been working to help grow interest in sports such as soccer and boxing, while also working alongside Scoil Uí Chonnaill GAA club to set up a GAA academy and organising inner-city school blitzes.
When he first joined the North East Inner City Initiative, MacAuley was surprised at how few of the children in the area had been inside Croke Park.
The Dublin football star has since worked alongside the GAA to bring the youngsters into the stadium, a place they can see from their bedroom windows.
MacAuley says, “It doesn’t have to be an All-Ireland final but for them to even see what goes on there, which I thought was madness that they hadn’t been in before.”
The initiative is also working on providing work experience and job opportunities to the young people living in the area.
“We’re trying to place 400 transition year students this year to give them a taste of work,” says MacAuley.
Despite his Rathfarnham roots, MacAuley now feels like a part of this community.
He said: “A lot of the Dublin lads that have driven through this area a million times and don’t know the area. So it’s nice just to be embedded in it, and I definitely feel embedded in it. I could call into most houses around here for a cup of tea.”
Report by Elizabeth Molloy, Katie Lowry and Johnny Lynam.