For Irish sporting fans, especially GAA fans, the air is abuzz with talk of who might take the Liam McCarthy Cup in this strangest of years. Not many know that on 16 November, 1930, at a National Hurling League game against Kilkenny the Limerick Senior Team were short of numbers for a full team. They resorted to looking for players among the spectators. Among them was Mick Mackey, who duly made his senior inter-county debut.

Mackey had come as a supporter, but quickly took his opportunity to impress. The rest, as they say, is history. Even with the current resurgence of Limerick hurling, there are those in my native county who can take or leave the game. One thing for certain, however, is that you’d be hard pressed to find a Limerick person who has not heard of Mick Mackey.

“What was it that Mick had? Something we all know in our hearts, but find difficult to articulate. His dynamism, the sheer force of his personality, his leadership, courage, spirit of abandonment. All these and something more. Someone described it last night as ‘the old Dúchas’.”- Fr Liam O’Kelly speaking at Mick Mackey’s funeral.

From my perspective as an educator, three of the greatest gifts I could ever hope to give my students are the sense of initiative, of critical thinking and of spontaneous generosity. That is why I love the aforementioned story! Can you imagine, if it were November 2020 and not November 1930, in these days when our collective actions are predetermined by the endless red tape of officialdom, a GAA figure making possible Mackey’s ludicrously marvellous bursting onto the hurling scene from the crowds on a cold winter afternoon? Is it even possible that one man, even a hurling genius like Mackey, would, today in 2020, bravely and without a trace of self-consciousness, throw off the coat and tear into the fray to begin his sporting career proper in the unlikeliest of circumstances?

And yet, the spirit of Mackey, that old Dúchas that can be translated as an innate quality, instinct (or even alternatively, a wildness or madness!) is what is evident in organisations that, with few resources and no official backing, help those in need or crisis and feel helpless. That is what I have come to recognize in a small but very effective little organisation in Ireland called Gianna Care.

Nowadays, not everything needs official Ireland or state intervention to achieve marvellous things when marvels are called for in the most ordinary and often in the most difficult of circumstances. Sometimes all that is called for to achieve marvels is the willingness of ordinary people to take the initiative, think outside the box and roll up the sleeves to help others. Such a marvel, if only through a quiet beginning, is happening this December (as it has already happened in other parts of Ireland) in Mackey’s native Limerick. It is happening with Gianna care.

So who are Gianna Care? We are a non-profit organisation committed to providing compassion, accurate information and support to anyone facing a pregnancy or in need after an abortion. In fact, we believe there is a great need in Ireland for women and their families to be given every support necessary when faced with an unexpected pregnancy. In addition, we believe every client should be treated with the utmost respect and dignity and all of the information we receive is held in strict confidence.

The goal of Gianna Care’s work  is to reach out to every woman experiencing an unexpected pregnancy. “We aim to offer her care and support. Above all, we endeavour to break down the barriers she’s facing to empower her to continue with her pregnancy. Specifically, we do this by offering real, practical and tangible support based on the individual woman’s needs. Furthermore, we offer a wide range of non-judgemental, discreet and confidential services. In a word, Gianna Care aims to provide each woman with the individualised support for as long as she needs it,” said local outreach leader Mary Kenny.

Gianna Care Limerick Outreach has just recently formed as the latest initiative of this much-needed organisation. On Saturday, December 5th there will be a local collection of donations to support mothers who are under a lot of pressure to be able to get basic items together.

This is all the more needed, says spokesperson Mary Kenny, due to hardship caused by Covid 19. Items being sought are nappies, baby wipes, nappy cream, baby wash, baby lotion, maternity pads, breast pads, baby boy and girl clothing, Moses baskets (no stands), baby baths, cellular blankets and Moses basket sheets.

The collection points are: Limerick Train Station Carpark, 11 to 12.30am; Caherconlish Clippers Cuts (opposite Centra), 1.30 to 3pm; Adare Heritage Carpark, 11 to 12.30pm; Croom) outside Community Centre), 1.30 to 3pm. A van with a collection notice will be parked at the above collection points where you can drop off your donation while observing all social distancing guidelines. Second hand items are fine if in good condition.

“Please remember that Gianna Care will always offer continuing and future emotional support to the client in addition to practical support,” said Mary Kenny. See more at



Neil Carmody