'Behind Every Great Town'


Wilson Hartnell’s Creative Director Killian Burns and Ad Director Brian Durnin give the lowdown on the creative spark behind the latest Guinness TV advert ‘Behind Every Great Town’ which celebrates the volunteers behind Ireland’s unique sports organisation – the Gaelic Athletic Association.

How did this come about?

Killian: The brand tells inspiring stories about people who step up and positively contribute to the world around them. We got an exciting brief to shine a light on the everyday GAA volunteers as they epitomise that type of person. GAA people selflessly work in their local clubs throughout the year and help the towns and communities they live in to grow and be better places to live. I have experience of this first hand as a volunteer myself. We started the journey by delving into their world and unearthing the people and their stories which was creatively exciting for me.

What makes these people different?

Killian: Although they all have a shared love of the sport, pride in being part of such a unique organisation and a shared generosity of spirit; what we thought was also interesting to explore, was the different personal motivations that these people have for getting involved. The GAA is part of the fabric of nearly every Irish community. In a changing world where there is lots of uncertainty, the GAA has adapted with the times and has remained a constant positive beacon. People are drawn to it for different reasons and the films we created not only give a glimpse into their world, but also delve into those motivations. They are reflective of the people behind the GAA today.

How did you go about visually mapping the stories?

Brian: We knew these had to be real people with real stories. There is a mix of ages and people from different backgrounds who volunteer. They come from the four corners of Ireland, and many people who have settled in Ireland, have also embraced GAA life. We located four such people with four interesting stories and visited each of them in their natural surroundings, to get inside their world, before visually storyboarding the films.

What makes these films stand out?

Brian: The stories are told with an honesty and integrity, which benefits the generous spirit of the people featured. They are regular people, going about every-day and often unseen tasks, for their GAA club. The filming approach brings their reality to the screen so that the viewer is experiencing a genuine interpretation of their experiences in the form of a beautifully captured photo-essay.

Behind Every Great Town

Behind Every Great Town

Meet The Four Volunteers

Maurice Spillane
Castlegregory, Co. Kerry

70 year-old Maurice Spillane is fifty years helping as a volunteer with his beloved Castlegregory GAA Club in Co. Kerry. He took on the role of Chairman of Castlegregory GAA Club at the age of 23 and has been helping out ever since.  He has also been treasurer; he ran the GAA Lotto; he was senior player registrar and his block-building skills can be seen all over the re-developed Castlegregory GAA grounds, which was re-opened in 2003.

Maurice: “The GAA was a social outlet for me as a young adult. I was quite shy growing up and the GAA helped me in a way to get the shyness out of me. I remember it was 1970, I was 23 years of age and I was asked to go to a GAA meeting in the old Pearse Memorial Hall in Castlegregory village. Things were bad with emigration at the time. It was the AGM and there were only five, or six people at it. Somebody said to me, ‘Maurice, will you do chairman?’. Up to then, I had never been involved in any type of administration, but I said ‘OK’. I’ve been knee deep in the club ever since.”

Simon Murray
Inishbofin, Co. Galway

Islander Simon Murray, and those before him, have a dedication and conviction to succeed, having seen the people leave their neighbouring island, Inishark in 1960. Simon is one of the driving forces behind Inishbofin’s development as an island. Although the Island does not have a club team that regularly plays on the island, their GAA pitch, which was opened in 2004, is an important symbol of their Island identity. 

Simon: “My parents met when my mother was a teacher on Inishark Island, our neighbouring island. I think when the last of the people had to leave Inishark back in 1960, it did cast a shadow over Inishbofin.  They were so close to us and I think it kind of seeped into our psyche where people on our island said that was not going to happen to us. We used to kick ball down in a commonage and it just wasn’t good enough. I remember the day the posts went up at each end and I was standing there saying to myself, ‘yeah, we now have our football pitch’.

Wendy McEldowney
Slaughtneil, Co. Derry

Wendy is Camogie secretary in one of Ireland’s most remarkable GAA communities. Only founded in 1953, the Robert Emmets GAA club is the epicentre of community life in Slaughtneil and has helped to unite and grow the parish in many ways. As secretary, she was an integral part of the club’s All-Ireland Camogie club final success in 2017.

Wendy: “There are many of us up here seven nights a week helping out. It’s all we live for. Everybody gets stuck in. Because you’ve got a sense of commitment for it, you are happy to become the chairperson, secretary or just be the general dogsbody. You will do anything that is needed to help drive the club forward. Winning so much over the past 12 months is the icing on the cake for all the hard work. There are some nights I arrive home and I am completely exhausted, but you wouldn’t have it any other way, you definitely wouldn’t.”

Moses Wanjigo
Ongar, Dublin 15

Moses moved to Ireland in 2010. He met his Irish wife who was volunteering in his home country of Kenya.  Responding to an advertisement from the Erin Go Bragh GAA Club which was looking for new members to join, Moses was welcomed by the club with open arms and he quickly found a way to integrate into the local community. He is now very much involved with the volunteering side of the club. He helps out with fundraising, selling Club Lotto tickets and also putting up nets on the goalposts and the flags around the pitch on match days.  He also volunteers as a steward at Croke Park for big match days.

Moses: “I come from a very small village in Kenya. It’s hard to start fresh somewhere new.  I arrived in Ireland in 2010. When people like me, who are from different countries, come to a foreign land, the first thing you want to do is to integrate. You want to get to know your community. The lads down at Erin Go Bragh were so welcoming and I have never looked back.  I find myself doing lots of odd jobs down at the club. I love it though. It really is a way to belong.”