Twenty young men from Belfast travelled to London in mid-July to represent Ulster GAA in the All British Championships. Unfortunately the recent wet weather in London resulted in the playing fields at Greenford being deemed unplayable and despite all efforts of the GAA Council of Britian the competition was postponed. However, as arrangements were made it was decided the Belfast Cúchulainns would travel and play a few games while they were there.
The boys were representing four schools making-up the Belfast Cúchulainns, namely; Ashfield Boys School, Corpus Christi, St Patricks College and Belfast Boys Model. Teachers Lisa Brimley, Gareth Coogan, Declan McLarnon and Áine Armstrong gave up their summer holidays to accompany their pupils on this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Ulster GAA were represented by Uachtarán Aogán Ó Fearghail and his wife Frances, along with team manager and coach Ryan Mellon, and Maura Kelly.
Speaking on return from the Cúchulainn trip Ulster GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghail said, “The Cúchulainn Initiative continues to be Ulster GAA’s flagship Cross Community Project which uses Gaelic Games to break down barriers and build community relations.
“This year we are delighted to include the London trip for Belfast Cúchulainns as it provides an unique opportunity to bring together young men from across the Protestant and Catholic communities to travel to represent their families, their schools, their communities and their county. Many new friendships were forged during this trip and that really goes to prove the strength of sport in building Peace and reconciliation.
“All the boys who participated in the Cúchulainn Initiative have little or no experience of playing Gaelic Games, and we hope many will now sign up to play Gaelic Games with their local clubs and local schools.”
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Council of Britain for their warm welcome and Tir Chonaill Gaels for their hospitality throughout our stay.”
As part of the London Cúchulainn trip, the Belfast side played three competitive games. The first match was against a London U16 Development Squad. Although the result did not favour the Cúchulainns there were some impressive performances with the team playing better as the game went on. Two games were played on Saturday, and the disappointment from the previous day resulted in a more determined group of players on the second day. The first game was keenly contested against the travelling Naomh Padraig side from Leicester, however the Leicester side ran-out comfortable winners despite some excellent performances. The Cúchulainns faced London’s Tara Club in the final game. After a very entertaining game, and a huge team effort the Cúchulainns emerged as deserving winners by the narrowest of margins. The jubilant scenes at the final whistle demonstrated how much the victory meant to all involved.
The Belfast Cúchulainns had also the opportunity to visit some of London’s best attractions including Thorpe Park, the London Eye, the Tower of London, and Buckingham Palace to mention but a few.