Club Focus: Craobh Rua riding high

camloch craobh rua

senior hurling team

2020 has been a year of huge disruption in all aspects of life, and hurling at Craobh Rua has been no different.

That said, it has been a season of great satisfaction and fulfilment. They regard this year as their most successful in seven years.

Their exploits in 2013 saw their seniors reach the Ulster Junior final only to lose out to Creggan Kickham’s of Antrim, who went on to take All-Ireland glory.

Since then the trajectory of their two teams could not have been further apart, with Creggan progressing through the Antrim ranks and taking Intermediate Ulster honours on the way. In contrast, the Camloch squad has, for numerous reasons, never regained its momentum.

During this difficult time the club delved back into their underage structures. Led by a number of the senior players, a serious commitment was placed into bringing forward a new generation of players.

Although challenging, these barren years have hardened the resolve of their players who have stuck with it and forged themselves into a determined team, eager to see just how far of a journey they can take the club.

The performances this year from what is a frighteningly young team, has given the club hope for new ground to be broken for hurling in south Armagh.

However, as the old saying goes, once bitten, twice shy and they will be keeping their feet on the ground as they get to work in 2021.

Club committee member Fiachra Bradley said: “We look forward to continuing our progress, working in tandem with the Armagh County Board to ensure the necessary structures are in place to afford us an opportunity to establish ourselves at higher grades over the coming years.”

an club

THE Craobh Rua club is strongly rooted in Camloch and Bessbrook, though it is also acknowledged that they have branched throughout the area of south Armagh with committed players from many of their neighbouring communities.

This has added to their growth, however their primary means of introducing new players remains their strong links with their local primary schools St Joseph’s, Bessbrook, St Malachy’s, Camloch, St Malachy’s, Ballymoyer and St. Peter’s, Cloughreagh.

With increasing player numbers there is now also a growing amount of work going on behind the scenes to underpin all these on-field activities; club maintenance, child protection courses, coaching development, administration with county board(s) and regulatory organisations, registrations, membership, to name but a few, and not forgetting meetings, meetings, and more.

The success of their on-field and off-field activities are greatly dependent upon the network of parents of underage players, patrons, sponsors, and their committee.

Things like assisting with food for blitzes, food for visiting teams, transport to games, selling tickets, fund-raising, maintenance, merchandising and the club shop all depend upon the time and generosity of these people.

With more activity comes the need for more money to keep the show on the road and over the past few years they have developed a very good calendar of fundraising events.

Their main sponsor, The Quays, Newry, have provided the club with regular sponsorship for some time and they have also tied in with them to launch some of their own initiatives such as the Spinathon in aid of PIPS Hope & Support Group.

mental heatlh

The Camloch club view this as a key element theirs and the GAA’s ethos.

Many of their members are involved with a diverse range of community groups, charities, voluntary groups and agencies.

During lockdown this year their committee members and coaches set up and led the ‘A Poc Around Gullion’ fundraiser in aid of local charity, Cuan Mhuire Addiction Centre.

They are determined to help in a proper way to highlight the issues of suicide, self-harm and addiction, to challenge the stigma associated with these issues and to shout out loud and clear,’ It’s OK not to be OK’. To mark their support both of these very important groups their senior jersey now has the PIPS logo and their new senior training jersey has Cuan Mhuire’s logo adorned on the back.

The Armagh County Board draw has been of great benefit to the club and has allowed the club to get their house in shape early in the year. Each year the Camloch club also hold a large draw for a weekend away to the All-Ireland Hurling final. Their youth players take to the doors around the area to drive this onwards. September is the month for their annual ‘Hooley round Cooley’ cycle which sees over 100 bikers cycling the now renowned route.

Who could forget their regular bucket collections in the village and they regard the good will of people as a great boost to their hardworking volunteers?

St. Paul’s High school, Bessbrook is situated just a poc of a sliotar away. It is, of course, another huge part of their community. So many of their players and families either work or attend the school.

Over the past number of years some of the Camloch club members have worn their Craobh Rua crest with pride and on one school trip to Kenya they brought along hurls, sliotars and a set of Craobh Rua jerseys as a way to share their culture and build friendships.

They club regard themselves as being very lucky that the school is proactive in getting their players some extra coaching and games and while this can often be easier said than done it is by making the effort that they demonstrate to the young people that their hurling efforts are to be valued.

underage games

Children’s section (u-6 – u-11)

MONDAY night has been a firm favourite for u-5 to u-11 coaching slots for many years in Camloch and any young player who goes along enjoys the buzz about it and usually finds themselves returning week after week.

This has helped the club to create an environment which allows them to share their passion in a positive way and supports their families in getting their children out to training.

With growing interest from girls in the locality they have now formed the Rua Ógs nursery for boys and girls aged 4-7 year olds and next year they hope to redouble their energies into this area of the club.

They are lucky to have a number of very passionate coaching personnel now leading their young players and they have worked hard to take their teams to regular blitzes and games against teams near and far.

Some of the highlights for these teams over the past few years have been blitzes in Armagh Athletics Ground, Páirc Esler under lights, Ballinascreen, Castlewellan and their own Richard Hughes Memorial Blitz which is now a rite of passage for all their underage players. These experiences are so important in providing a chance to test their skills and see what it’s all about.

Youth section (u-13 – u-17)

The past few years have been the most fruitful period they’ve had at youth level and more importantly this has enabled them to bring through a large number of players to the senior fold in 2020.

With this group having gone on to win the Junior Championship on their first time of asking they now consider this as a clear sign that their youth pathway is capable of bearing fruit.

While the vast majority of this development has come via their own club coaches and using their intuition, they have also benefitted from players gaining experience via academy squads and, in particular the Celtic Challenge teams.

The Armagh Minor Board also have provided them with leagues and championships which have provided the club with some very beneficial opportunities to develop their teams.

As well as competing in the Armagh leagues, they have also ventured into their neighbours’ leagues in county Down.

While this has been challenging in terms of logistics and an increase in standard, it is also a necessary task to find regular competitive games at the right grades.

It does have other perks and their players and coaches benefit greatly from the craic and camaraderie they build on journeys to the Ards and other clubs throughout Ulster.

They are hopeful that the next generation of youth players and coaches will have a steadier regional structure in place to tackle this issue.

The club were glad to see last year’s introduction of the Táin Óg Leagues, cross-county regional leagues which have been organised by Martin Fogarty (GAA National Hurling Development Officer).

Their u-13 and u-15 teams thoroughly enjoyed participating in these leagues, with both playing in finals’ days at Clones and Breffni Park.

Their coaches found it extremely well organised and it lessened their workload of having to navigate a games timetable of their own.

Unfortunately with the restrictions this year the leagues could not take place, however it has reaffirmed the importance of this league as one of the ways forward for both the Camloch club and for the game in their region.


HAVING benefitted from the good will of local clubs Carrickcruppen and Shane O’Neill’s to let them use their fine facilities to train and play matches in their early days, Craohbh Rua were lucky to establish their own field after many years of work.

These developments have always been supported by the local councillors and council who have the vision to see the opportunities available for the community in having a strong hurling club established in the area.

Over the past 12 years the club have had unimaginable levels of improvement to their facilities.

The pitch and clubhouse were the first to be built and having their own changing rooms, meeting rooms and kitchen allowed the Camloch club to establish and grow its identity.

Since then and with support from local council, they have gone on to develop a car and bus parking facility.

This has been a vital improvement as their numbers are ever growing. Parking around the club had become something of a nightmare, but they don’t have to worry about that anymore.

Their most recent development is a newly-refurbished gym in the upstairs of the clubhouse.

This is something which all in the club are proud of and provides them with the chance to offer their youth and adult players a place to work on their strength and conditioning throughout the year.

Like all clubs their field is their most prized possession and it is of particular importance for hurlers to have a tightly trimmed sod.

This is also an aspect where they have now garnered support and established ‘The Grass Cutters Union’ of local men who are timetabled to keep the pitch in tip top shape tackling numerous pieces of maintenance and up keep work.

The difference for a young player being able to strike the ball to their friend instead of having it held up in long, damp grass is a world apart. For a young boy or girl trying to play the game, this is everything.

Over this coming winter the club will be investing heavily in carrying out important renovation work on the pitch which will go a long way to sustaining what we have for the years to come.

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