Kevin Hanly

Kevin Hanly
Power of the Little Parish

When everyone is involved and included in a GAA club, the achievements of everyone are endless because everyone matters!!

Being involved with my local GAA Club is an honour and privilege! Looking back, I remember I was worried that they might see me as different because I had experiences of people judging me. Every day I’ve been involved with the club from the start; people just see me as Kevin and not the lad with autism.

There is nothing more special than where you’re from and that’s definitely the case for my club Solohead GAA. Back at the start of 2021, I helped promote Solohead and do whatever I could for them. Before I knew it, I was voted in as assistant secretary with James Dee as secretary so now I had a bit of responsibility! It felt great that people believed in me and gave me a role, especially because at first I didn’t believe I was up for the challenge. But all the officials and everyone in the club were very helpful and I clicked with James Dee as Secretary so we worked well together.

In 2021 we didn’t have a great year on the field. Things didn’t go to plan and while we had an early exit to the year, we all came together as a club to discuss what we wanted in 2022. The lads gave me great confidence and belief in myself. They encouraged me to achieve and succeed so I wanted to repay that. I gave them as much support as I could, with the motto ‘just do your best and never give up.’ That’s an attitude we can all have in sports and life: if you believe in yourself, the sky is the limit!

Solohead GAA- James Dee & myself

2022 came around and I was voted in again as assistant Secretary. I was determined to do what I could for the club by making posters for the games, helping at training and behind-the-scenes with emails and team sheets for games. All the hard work paid off this year as we won the West Junior B hurling Championship, for the first time in 16 years! It was great a day to be part of it all: I was part of something really special.

Being autistic, social environments can be a challenge.  However, I find my club and community respect me.  It doesn’t matter what ability you have, as everyone is a part of the team from the players to the people in the background. The ethos is for everyone to be respected for playing their part and getting involved.

When Solohead won Silverware this year, it was great to see the satisfaction it brought to people in my parish. Even though I wouldn’t be good enough to play, the lads saw all the work I do behind the scenes. They always say ‘you’re one of us no matter what.’ Having such good friends from the club makes it all worthwhile, and I’m a very proud Solohead man.

I am a very passionate Tipperary football supporter too. It doesn’t matter what game, club or even county: wherever and whenever it is I will be there. In 2021 SuperValu saw my passion and commitment to my Club and County and I was selected as a ‘Bring It On’ GAA/SuperValu Ambassador for last year’s football championship. I got the call again this year to be an ambassador with GAA/Supervalu and to be involved in the #CommunityIncludesEveryone Campaign!! It was an honour to be an ambassador representing the autism community again in 2022 and gave me great confidence in myself that Supervalu believed in me.

Great credit has to be given to SuperValu and AsIAm for promoting the inclusion of people of all backgrounds and abilities as there is a lot of amazing work being done. We are only at the start of it as we have a long way to go in the GAA to get more people involved with all different abilities. However, my experience shows that clubs and communities can make a real positive difference in the life of people with autism from my personal experience.

I also work with the Tipperary Camogie PR team and I edit the Camogie Report. I was honoured to work on a Special podcast to show what can be done with people with different abilities and how they can be involved in a GAA club. It was brilliant to showcase the amazing inclusion work of the Ballybacon Grange Club in hurling, Camogie & fun for kids with additional needs! It’s a great way to have included in a community where everyone matters no matter what ability and can all be part of the club.

If you believe in yourself the possibilities are endless and for me, there are times in my life I still doubt myself but if you take chances you don’t know where you might end up even on TV, radio or in the newspapers!! I have great support from my family, friends and club it makes all the difference.