Successful schools blitz only the start for Cúchulainn an Ghleanna

By Niall Gartland

SAM Maguire is currently being paraded around the primary schools of Tyrone, but hurling and camogie took centre-stage in Garvaghey last Tuesday as 130 youngsters participated in the first ever schools’ blitz organised by Cúchulainn an Ghleanna.

Cathal McGarry, who is chairman of the Clogher Valley-based club, was delighted with how it went and says that the connection between schools and clubs should be explored further wherever hurling and camogie are played in the Red Hand County.

McGarry said: “There’s no doubt that schools’ relationships with clubs is where it’s at. As a club we’re going really well but we find we’re hitting a bit of a brick wall around U-13U-15 level, so we’re looking to schools to help fill that gap. We’re targeting not only forming an U-15 team next year but an adult team as well. It’s important that we give the youngsters coming through something to aspire to.

“What I’d actually like to see in Tyrone is that other development clubs, like Benburb and Cookstown, and even the likes of Strabane, carry out similar blitzes. They could enroll five or six schools within the area and put on a blitz for them.

“I’m not deluding myself into thinking that the 130 children who participated in ours will be out training for our club next February or March, but we got them introduced to the game and helped normalise it for them.

“We’re hoping that we could run this blitz twice a year – that come April or May time we’ll go again and the kids can play out in the sunshine.”

The Clogher Valley based hurling and camogie club put up The Cúchulainn An Ghleanna Cup and Shield for both genders and featured five different schools around the area; St Mary’s Ballygawley, St Mary’s Aughnacloy, St Bigid’s Altamuskin, St Macartan’s Clogher and St Malachy’s Glencull.

Tyrone County Board coach Damhlaic Rush prepped enthusiastic youngsters at two of those schools, while club volunteers Declan Bogue, Brian Cummins and McGarry divided themselves between the others. One of the most heartening aspects of the whole venture was the number of kids who picked up a hurley for the first time.

“The blitz went fantastically well. We’d 130 hurlers and camogs from five different schools in what is definitely not a hurling heartland. We recognised about 25 or 30 of the faces of the youngsters who have hurled and played camogie with us, so that’s 100 youngsters who would never have had a hurl in their hands before, out playing the games.

“To me, that’s a huge success, the standard was great and we rented Garvaghey as well which gave a bit of a buzz for the youngsters, as that’s where their heroes train as well.”

Tyrone is a football-mad county, but that’s not deemed a problem by McGarry, a former Fermanagh hurler who resides in Clogher.

“Tyrone’s a football county and we’re not going to step on anyone’s toes. We don’t ‘compete’ with the teams around us, we work with them. We won’t clash with their training evening or fixtures.

“It’s been a fantastic year for the footballers but you can’t underestimate how fantastic it’s been for the county hurlers, getting to a Nickey Rackard final.

“We’re not here to compete with gaelic football or rugby or soccer. For me personally, a multi-sport approach is the way to go for youngsters and we’re giving them the opportunity to do that.”

Equality is integral to the Clogher Valley club, and McGarry says that there’s no shortage of talented camogs in Tyrone.

“We are huge advocates of camogie at all age groups. It’s a camogie and hurling club, always has been and always will be.

“Our camogs play alongside the hurlers up to U-13 level but what I really want is for us to push on and have standalone camogie teams within our clubs. It’s a huge opportunity. Tyrone has been a real stronghold in camogie over the years and I think that’s something we need to push on with.

There’s plenty of camogie in the Clogher valley, we saw some fantastic camogs at the blitz and again that’s the reason why we carried it out.”

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