Sport

An Ríocht are crowned for helping young and old alike

Raymond Tumilty of sponsors O'Neill's presents the Medium Club Award to Tara Campbell of An Ríocht

Medium Club Award winner: An Ríocht, Down

CATERING for all ages, across the community, ensured that An Ríocht was crowned the Medium Club Award winner.

The Kilkeel-based club’s Mol an Óige (Praise the Young) coaching project has helped double the number of children participating while the Men’s Shed scheme arranges cross-community visits for older males who might otherwise be left isolated.

Tara Campbell, An Ríocht’s finance officer, was “delighted” to receive the accolade, adding: “We put a lot of hard work into the community and to get a bit of recognition is fantastic.

“We go out and see all the children on Saturday mornings and the smiles our club puts on people’s faces, including the families. The club is the centre of our community.”

Although their most famous current member, Martin Clarke, recently returned from Australia, there have been more heading in the opposite direction, so times have been tough for the club, but they turned a potential negative into a positive, as Campbell explained:

“We’ve lost a lot of players to emigration – we actually could field a team in Australia at present. Even though they’re on the other side of the world we try to involve them as much as possible, such as selling club lottos and Club Down draw tickets in Australia.

“We had a football match in Australia to coincide with a fundraising event at home. It has been tough but you have to overcome challenges – there’s no point just lying down and accepting it, you just have to keep going.”

An Riocht have done that, and much more, as Campbell says: “We’ve lost a lot of people but we’re always looking at ways of getting new members. We have loads of wee ones coming on board and that helps bring their families along. Coaching is fantastic within the club.”

That statement was confirmed by club Coaching Officer Seamus Curran winning the Medium Club volunteer award for overseeing the children’s coaching programme.

Indeed, despite the emigration of some, membership has been increasing, Campbell revealed: “Trying to get volunteers would be the problem because the club is growing so much, so we did a club survey recently and were able to get a few more volunteers on board.” The judges praised this ‘research initiative among their membership that allowed them to draw into the club the skills and expertise of members that were not currently involved in the club.’

An Ríocht haven’t just been helping themselves either, Campbell says: “We have two pitches, excellent facilities, the Down team comes and uses them, but we’re always looking for new ways of bringing the best out of the club.

“We always try to give something back from our fundraising, like charity cycles, helping out the Hospice or PIPS. We did a charity climb of Slieve Donard, last year and we cycled 'Kingdom to Cooley’ with more than 120 people involved, and we’re doing that again this year.”

It’s understandable that Campbell concludes: “We’re very proud of our club and to get recognition at this level is fantastic.”

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