Portarlington GAA club have taken a historic step for a Laois GAA club with the recent announcement that they are to launch a bursary scheme to assist young club members heading to college or serivng time in apprenticeships.
The club’s ‘Third Level Student/Apprenticeship Bursary’ is the brainchild of Niall Slevin, the club’s PRO and selector with the Laois U-21s for the last two years, and has been implemented by the club to give something back to the community. The club are now accepting applications for the new initiative, with the winner receiving a E5,000 grant to help offset the costs of college or an apprenticeship.
The club will be officially launching the scheme on April 7, with Míchael O’Mhuircheartaigh, Eugene McGee, Michael Dempsey and Ian Fitzgerald all set to be in attendance, and club chairman Seamus Hunt explains the reason behind starting such an program. “The idea came up at the end of last year. Niall Slevin put it to the club that we should be seen to be giving something back instead of looking for handouts, so we decided to do that.
“It’s a token of appreciation to the community, to help out youngsters who are in college or doing an apprenticeship, and it’s a significant gesture. It was approved by our committee and passed out our AGM.”
The club are certainly breaking new ground with the scheme, and Hunt confessed he was unaware of any other club with a similar chance afforded to it’s young members. “I’m not aware of any club offering something like this. There are scholarships available but they are available to people who play sport or are academical. This is not purely for college, and it’s open to males and females.”
Given the economic hardships faced by many families, and indeed GAA clubs, at present, it is indeed a bold move, and the club have already budgeted for the money and do not expect to leave themselves financially weakened by the move. “We have allocated five thousand in the budget and it means we may have to sell a few extra tickets” explains Hunt.
“In our overall budget, for a club the size of Portarlington, it’s not a massive amount because we would have a significant turnover, but it is a significant bursary, and if we get good exposure and it proves to be a success, we would be hopeful that in the long-term we could get a sponsor on board.
The closing date for applications is July 15, the date after which students have the chance to change their CAO forms, with a decision on the lucky winner not expected until August. The club are also taking steps to ensure the selection process is as impartial as possible, as Seamus Hunt outlines. “We have a five-person selection committee, with three from within the club and two outsiders.
“Both of those (the outsiders) are respected within their fields, and one of them works in the education sector. We will assess all applicants and if there are interviews, we will look to appoint an outside interviewer as well.”