ULSTER GAA ADVICE: Disability and inclusion programmes going from strength to strength

ULSTER GAA’s Disability and Inclusion programmes have become very popular throughout the year.

The Ulster wheelchair sports team train weekly at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena. This was a central venue considering the geographical spread of the players. Ulster won the National Wheelchair Hurling League competition this year. The squad participated in tournaments in Omagh, Limerick, Offaly and Sligo to take the title.

In October, the players competed in the All-Ireland Championship in Carlow where they finished runners up to a very strong Munster team, only losing by a point.

Wheelchair Gaelic Football has become very popular, and they have named their annual family and friends blitz in memory of the late Jack Henry.

Ulster GAA’s HERO Programme is a novel inclusion initiative that clubs can use to nominate individuals in their community. This project will offer clubs the chance to choose someone with a learning or physical disability in their club or community to become a HERO, allowing them to participate in their local club in a variety of ways. Participants receive an Ulster GAA HERO merchandise pack and certificate.

Ulster GAA continues to engage with players with a learning difficulty. There has been a huge increase in the number of clubs in the province with a ‘GAA for ALL’ team, with up to 45 All-Star teams now participating.

Coaching is delivered within the special schools and the community groups with several special school blitzes been held in Celtic Park. There are training and playing opportunities within counties in preparation for games at half-time during the regular championship season.

There are now regular participation opportunities for teams to attend.

The highlight was a Festival of Football event held in Donaghmore in October with over 350 participants. Teams also attended the ‘GAA for ALL’ days in Croke Park and got to play against other clubs and counties in the National Stadium. There were also regional football blitzes in Warrenpoint, Crossmaglen and Meadowbank Arena for players with learning disabilities throughout the year and these too were a great success.

Educating the players, coaches, parents and teachers continues to be an integral part of the inclusion programme.

Throughout the year, staff regularly deliver the ‘GAA for ALL disability and inclusion workshop’ to provide guidelines and examples of best practice to the participants. They have also delivered some specific autism workshops in conjunction with Autism NI as this is one of the main disabilities that occur commonly in a club setting.

Staff also have the capacity to deliver wheelchair GAA sports taster sessions in clubs, schools and community groups that want to incorporate someone with additional physical needs into their activities.

Recently, Ulster GAA held an Inclusive ‘Game of Three Halves’ – in partnership with Ulster Rugby and the IFA – in St Gerard’s Special School, Belfast, with three schools attending.

Some counties are running specific Cúl Camps while others are making all their camps inclusive. It is hoped that each county will host a specific camp soon.

Over the last few years, Ulster GAA have moved to ensure that their games are adapted and suitable for people of various abilities and will continue to work with partners, players and stakeholders to ensure a safe and inclusive sporting environment.

For further information regarding any of the programmes, contact or

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