Teenagers from Belfast representing Ashfield Boys School, Corpus Christi College, St Patricks College and Boys Model School, visited two of Dublin’s finest landmarks on 10th July 2012. The trip was organised as part of Ulster GAA’s Cúchulainn Cup project.
The Cúchulainn Cup is Ulster GAA’s flagship community outreach initiative. The aim of the project is to bring Gaelic Games to those who would not normally become involved in the GAA. Typically the project brings together four schools, from all backgrounds, from one town to form a cross-community “Cúchulainn” team”. Coaching is provided by Ulster GAA and county board coaches to enable players to pick-up the basic skills in Gaelic Football and Hurling. All “Cúchulainn” teams then come together to compete in the annual Ulster GAA Cúchulainn Cup Blitz.
In its fifth year, the programme continues to grow from strength-to-strength with every county in Ulster now having taken part. This year Belfast Cúchulainns won the annual Cúchulainn Cup Blitz after a keenly contested final against the Roe Valley Cúchulainns. The Belfast Cúchulainns were then selected to represent Ulster GAA at the upcoming inaugural All British Championships taking place in London from 19th – 22nd July.
Belfast Cúchulainns have continued to train in preparation for the Championships but took a day off from training recently to find out more about the GAA’s roots with a tour of Croke Park. The boys visited the GAA museum, toured the Stadium spending some time in the Hogan Stand changing rooms, before experiencing the Croke Park “roar” as they emerged from the tunnel onto the impressive Croke Park turf. The experience was topped-off with a complimentary lunch in one of the corporate boxes.
After lunch it was off to Áras an Uachtaráin to meet Uactharán na hÉireann Michael D. Higgins. The President spoke with the group praising the GAA’s role in promoting Irish culture across the globe, highlighting the unifying impact of the GAA, and sport in general. The group were treated to light refreshments Áras an Uachtaráin style. The home-made short-bread was so popular with one of the group that he was presented with a stash to take home with him! The President spent time chatting with the group taking time to consider an offer from one of the players to cut the lawns for a small sum! Tour guide John kept the group entertained inviting player Paul Callaghan to show–off his talents on the grand piano.
All-in-all the group from Belfast were very well treated in Ireland’s capital city and it was no doubt a day that will live long in the memories of all involved. The Belfast Cúchulainns continue to prepare for the All British Championships under the watchful eye of team mentor Ryan Mellon. Despite these players having had little or no experience of playing Gaelic Games before their involvement in the Cúchulainn Cup they are heading to London with high expectations of success both on and off the pitch.