By Michael McMullan
ANTRIM GAA’s Director of Football Gearóid Adams has hailed the input of Gaelfast to help develop Gaelic Games in Belfast
Speaking in the build-up to his school, Rathmore Grammar, playing in their first MacLarnon Cup final since 2007 on Friday night, Adams feels there is much untapped GAA potential in Belfast.
With the help of Gaelfast and the Saffron Business Forum, Antrim GAA rolled out a new dedicated series of Post Primary School blitzes geared at Antrim schools.
“That was brilliant,” Adams said of the new initiative. “It came from Alfie Hannaway, Sean McKenna and people like that from Gaelfast.
“When we played years ago, we all played Belfast schools. It was great for people not involved in Gaelic to get games. We all enjoyed it and it was so competitive.”
Adams feels the greatest advantage was seeing non-traditional GAA schools involved and opening up a new pathway into Gaelic sports with the long-term plan to maximize the city’s population.
“That was the rationale behind it…Alfie has pushed it on,” he said. “There was massive representation; there were schools that weren’t even GAA schools that were sending their team.
“And some of these kids were getting All-Stars. If we can get a kid from somewhere that isn’t a GAA stronghold and bring them through as a county footballer later on that would be great for Antrim.
“I was involved with my own school, but was walking around all the games. It was really brilliant and when you see all the kids playing, you can see some of the talent in Belfast.”
The competitions took place across Years 8 and 10 in football in September with the hurling equivalent currently underway. It is something Adams can only see as a positive.
“If we can tap into more and more schools to get our children playing Gaelic Games, the benefits for Antrim are there to see. It’s all about participation and getting players through to represent the county,” he said.
It’s a busy week for Adams and his coaching team at Rathmore Grammar School who contest Friday’s MacLarnon Cup final.
It’s the school’s second season in the competition after making the decision to move up a grade.
“You there are a lot of GAA families in the school that have moved to Belfast and they talk about the MacRory Cup and us getting up to MacLarnon (level),” Adams outlined at their recent press day.
Moving up was always on the radar for Adams and the players began to realise the “massive step up” from playing at Grade C level.
There was more required than “a few weeks” of preparation and Adams pays tribute to the input of the clubs.
“The main club is St Brigid’s, they have done a lot of work. They’ve won u-15, u-17, u-19 and everything at juvenile level.
“We also have Glenavy, where Fiontán (O’Boyle) our captain comes from, where Mick Morgan comes from.
“Then we have a mix of clubs from West Belfast, O’Donnell’s, Davitt’s, St Paul’s, Lamh Dhearg, Sarsfields…that mix and range of clubs involved and some really good footballers among them.”
They face a Donaghmore side who have had an emphatic path to Friday’s final, but Rathmore are both happy and accustomed to the underdogs’ tag.