Ulster GAA has today joined forces with Ulster Rugby and the Irish Football Association, along with PeacePlayers International, at the Civil Service Sports Pavillion in East Belfast to launch a new initiative known as ‘A Game of 3 Halves’.
All Ireland Medal holders Diarmaid Marsden, from Armagh and Tony Scullion, from Derry were special guests at the event.
The concept was first developed by Paul Brown, Youth Co-ordinator at Knock Presbyterian Church, together with PeacePlayers International as a cross-community initiative which would bring the three governing bodies together and offer children from both sides of the community the chance to experience Rugby, Gaelic and Soccer.
Each governing body invited young people from local primary schools with whom they have formed lasting relationships over the years, and throughout the day participants received top class coaching from Development Officers from all three sports.
Ulster Rugby Community Rugby Manager, Barry Willis, commented on the event: “I am delighted to be able to deliver such an exciting sporting initiative alongside GAA and the IFA and am confident that this will be the first of many similar events in what has now become a bright and co-operative partnership between our governing bodies.”
Ulster GAA Provincial Secretary, Danny Murphy added: “Each sport here today brings our own unique contribution to the Game of 3 Halves programme, and despite all three sports having their own specific values and philosophies, we all have one common vision- to bring our sports into new communities and allow every child in Ulster to experience all three games.”
IFA Spokesperson Colleen Macauley also added: “Today’s event has been a massive success and I am pleased to see all three organisations coming together to promote grassroots sport. With over one hundred and eighty children taking part, it is a fantastic launch pad for similar future initiatives. The fact that we have such famous faces as Colin Coates, Ulster Rugby’s David Humphries and Paddy Wallace and GAA’s Diarmaid Marsden and Tony Scullion here to support the scheme and experience the enthusiasm of the local community, is a wonderful boost to the programme. Today’s event and the wide-spread support it has received have also shown what an impact sport can have on Community Relations in Northern Ireland.”
Gareth Harper, Managing Director of PeacePlayers International concluded by saying: “Today’s event was run as a pilot scheme for the Belfast area, but all three governing bodies are keen to adapt the concept further so that the three sports can be offered to young people right across the province in coming years. We have a vision for where the Game of 3 Halves programme can go, and for the benefits it can bring to all sides of the community.”
Everyone involved in the Game of 3 Halves would like to thank the Northern Ireland Civil Service Sports Association (NICSA) for hosting the event, as well as teachers from all the participating schools and all who worked together on the day to make the event so memorable.
· PeacePlayers International uses sport to address sectarianism and foster mutual respect and tolerance by enabling Catholic and Protestant children aged 10 to 14 year to play together. By competing together on mixed teams, children from divided communities can discover a common ground and forge new friendships, while former prejudices are overcome by the desire to play, have fun and win.