Na Naomh Uile – Iománaíocht na n-Óg
(All Saints – Juvenile Hurling)
Autumn Hurling Programme
Although other sections of the club have taken a break from training and games, juvenile hurling continues and we are planning a busy autumn schedule of activities including blitzes for U8s and U10s and matches for U12/U14s. Final arrangements are being made but dates and details will be posted soon.
Our U8s and U10s were kept busy throughout the summer playing Saturday morning blitzes organised by North Antrim. We would like to express our thanks to Thomas McCann who co-ordinated the blitzes for clubs in the South West.
In September our U10s were invited to a tournament in Dunloy. They were unbeaten in their group matches and reached the final of their section but lost out to a strong Rasharkin outfit. Our thanks go to Sean Mullan for the invitation and to the members of Dunloy Cuchullains for their excellent organisation and hospitality.
Unfortunately, due to a clash with the Aldergove football tournament, we had to withdraw from an U10 championship blitz the following week. The boys were back in action in the North Antrim P7 championship and although they played well they didn’t reach the final and had to hand over the trophy they had won last year.
This year’s U14 squad are very young and are bolstered by our U12s. They were punching, metaphorically, above their weight for much of the season. We have the utmost respect for this bunch of players who kept training and turning up for matches despite shipping some heavy defeats during the league. Over the past number of weeks we arranged a series of U13 challenge matches to give them an opportunity to play against teams closer to their age profile. The transformation has been remarkable as the lads responded by putting in some fine performances to win their last three matches. We are delighted that they are getting this opportunity to realise their potential and are grateful to opposition teams who agreed to field teams at this age.
It is often said that the key to a successful juvenile club structure is to have strong links with local schools. We are delighted to say that at All Saints we have a very healthy relationship with local primary and secondary schools.
KS2 Club/School Hurling Programme
In 2009 we signed up to a programme with Antrim Coaching and Games Development Department and local primary schools whereby a county coach visits the schools to coach hurling to P5 – P7 pupils (Key Stage 2). Pupils are encouraged to come to Slemish Park and participate in club training sessions. The county coach also attends the club sessions and acts as an invaluable link between what is being taught at the schools and the club.
The programme has been very successful and all parties have benefitted significantly including the county coaches, as exemplified by PJ O’Mullan who, after being involved in the programme, went on to manage Loughgiel to back to back senior county titles in 2010 and 2011!
Last year Gerard Turley provided the coaching and we were especially pleased to welcome Braidside primary school into the programme and to lend helmets and other equipment for training sessions and games. The year culminated in a blitz at Slemish Park where over 140 children from Braidside, St Brigid’s, St Colmcille’s and Gael Scoil Ghleann Darach (Crumlin), and their teachers, enjoyed a memorable festival of hurling and the hospitality of All Saints GAC.
A mainstay of the programme is Dominic McKinley. Dominic has been involved in the programme from the start and he is back in the schools this term. The kids are enjoying playing hurling as much as ever and we have extended the U8 and U10 training season to capitalise on his expertise. Dominic will be helping out at club training on Sunday mornings until Halloween. The sessions are open to boys and girls in P5 – P7 and run from 11:30 – 12:45. New starts are particularly welcome so if you have a child or know someone who would like to try out hurling or camogie bring them along to Slemish Park on Sunday morning.
We would like to thank Co Antrim Coaching and Games Development team members, Ciara Ferry, Kieran Megraw and Dominic McKinley, for the hard work, time and help they give to All Saints in our efforts to promote hurling in the club and Ballymena area. The KS2 programme has been particularly successful and quite a number of children have started playing hurling and camogie for the club as a result.
Cumann na mBunscol
St Colmcille’s competed in a P7 tournament in June. The team reached the final where they played Creggan PS in a thrilling game. They lost by a goal but gained many admirers for their display.
St Brigid’s also did well in various hurling tournaments and blitzes. Last year their multinational team was at the forefront of the GAA’s drive to extend hurling’s international appeal with the inclusion of a young Polish lad who played in goals.
Another member of the team, Alex O’Boyle, was selected on the Antim Cumann na mBunscol team that played Armagh at half time in the Ulster Hurling Final in July.
The school opened its new grass pitch in September. It is a great facility and allows the young hurlers space to “open their shoulders” and drive the ball.
It is the natural cycle of life that children grow up and move on to “the big school”. At All Saints we maintain a keen interest in our young hurlers’ secondary college careers and we have close links with local secondary schools.
Hurling in secondary schools is going through a Renaissance at the moment and we are proud to say that All Saints players are leading the revival. Currently at St Louis there are over thirty students attending Y8/Y9 hurling training after school, half of whom are members of All Saints. The level of interest and commitment can be measured by the fact that the school fielded two teams in a recent fifteen-a-side schools tournament, a feat that could only have been dreamed of a few years ago. We commend the teachers involved and offer them any assistance we can provide to support their efforts.
GAA and Education
Considering the vibrant school/club scene it is an opportune time to explore the educational benefits to children of playing hurling, football and camogie. Apart from PE and the obvious health benefits gained from regular exercise, Gaelic games complement other strands of the national curricula. Whatever stage of education a child is at, he or she will benefit from playing Gaelic games.
Mathematics and Numeracy.
What better place for a child to gain appreciation of distance and space than a GAA pitch? With lines conveniently marked at 13m, 20m, 45m and 65 m. In addition there are rectangles, parallelograms and semi circles to explore shape and area.
The GAA scoring system encourages children to develop their mental arithmetic, while drills and races “against the clock” give them appreciation of and opportunity to measure time.
Players gain exposure to the Irish language, other dialects and occasional guidance on the meaning and appropriateness of miscellaneous “exotic” phrases.
GAA clubs are located in a myriad of wonderful locations such as glens and glacial valleys; reclaimed bogs, and limestone cliffs uplifted from primordial sea beds and protected from erosion by an icing of basalt. This geological legacy of tectonic movement and volcanic activity, sculpted by glaciers and fashioned by agriculture, provides a varied landscape, to be marvelled by players when they travel to games.
The act of striking a sliotar provides an ideal teaching model to demonstrate transfer of energy, conservation of momentum, and the forces governing trajectory of missiles, rockets and satellites.
Playing sport gives youngsters practical experience of physiology and body mechanics including an appreciation of the body’s homeostatic mechanisms such as maintenance of body temperature (increased blood flow to the skin, red faces and sweat) and the effects of adrenaline (psyched up and ready for action).
Ancient History and Civilisation
The Celts arrived in Ireland around 500BC at the same time as the Romans were creating a republic and the Greeks were engaged in wars with Persia. The Celts practiced their battle crafts by playing a form of hurling immortalised in the sagas of Cu Chulainn and Fionn mac Cumhaill which prompted PJ Devlin to declare,
“The men of Ireland were hurling when the Gods of Greece were young.”
Poetic licence perhaps, but an interesting link with antiquity nonetheless and a catalyst, to inspire the imagination of fertile minds to find out more about these great civilisations and their rich mythologies.
Home Economics and Healthy Eating
At All Saints we teach our players that the energy boost from junk food and fizzy drinks is a transient spike and ultimately leads to a crash in blood sugar levels with an associated drop in performance and concentration. Instead we encourage young athletes to eat a healthy diet and stress the importance of adequate hydration.
Learning for Life and Work (LLW)
Players gain understanding of our disparate local cultures and develop knowledge and confidence to debate topical subjects such as: “Is the editor of the NIE GCSE LLW text book to be pitied or scolded to include hurling in a list of foreign sports?”
GAA games, especially county and All Ireland Finals have been likened to interactive theatre with a high level of audience participation. The partisan nature of the GAA with its parish and county allegiances ensures high levels of drama whither your team wins, loses or draws. At a local level there is ample opportunity for “drama queens and kings” to demonstrate their emotions. However, the GAA encourages a more subdued style to that displayed by the divas of Premiership soccer and, at All Saints, we discourage Galvinist* pouts and tantrums.
Gaelic games provide young people an opportunity to express their individual flair and skill within the framework of a team. Participation encourages leadership both on and off the field of play and promotes a culture of respect for team mates, opponents and officials while allowing individuals to strive to achieve goals and ambitions.
Opportunities exist for young people to take on additional responsibility by becoming involved in coaching and management. Young coaches can gain experience in planning and organising training sessions, motivating players, teaching skills, communicating ideas, and dealing with disputes. These are key chapters in business and management texts but where else can a young person get such an opportunity to put theory into practice?
A key document for school leavers seeking employment or a place in third level education is their Personal Statement. What better accolade could a young person record on his/her CV than: “I belong and play with the GAA”.
* Clarification – this reference is to Paul Galvin, the Kerry footballer, not John Calvin the sixteenth century Reformist, (although he also did his fair share of protesting).