GAA Football

GAA needs to see results from Belfast funding: President John Horan

GAA President John Horan and Antrim chairman Collie Donnelly with the pupils of St Bride's at yesterday's 'Gaelfast' launch

NEW GAA President John Horan says there “has to be results” after Croke Park committed £1m over the next five years to rejuvenate Gaelic Games in Belfast.

The Dubliner attended Antrim GAA’s ‘Gaelfast’ launch at Belfast City Hall where the cash windfall was announced.

The aim of the initiative, backed by Belfast City Council, is to increase participation rates in Gaelic Games at primary school level.

While hailing the Belfast plan, Horan cautioned that huge challenges lay ahead of Belfast clubs in order to see a revival of Gaelic Games in Ireland’s second city.

“I think this is very important for Belfast,” said Horan.

“There is a lot of good work going on but I think we need to build on that and hopefully this injection of funding will allow us to get key personnel in to deliver on the plan.

“The clubs will have to buy into it and there is a commitment here over a period of time [five years] and obviously then it would be reviewed. There has to be results and there has to be outcomes to the investment.

“People have to understand too we’re starting with the primary schools so it will take time to grow but hopefully future generations will be strengthened by this and that the GAA will be strong and vibrant in Belfast.”

The participation rates among primary school children in Belfast are around six per cent.

“The participation rates are low [in Belfast] compared to a lot of other counties and it can only go upwards from that actual figure,” Horan acknowledged.

“I’m confident that the people who have accepted this responsibility will actually deliver it. Between the officials in the Ulster Council and the Antrim County Board I think we will get there and it’s great to have the support of Belfast City Council too.”

Alderman Tommy Sandford revealed at yesterday’s launch that the City Council had agreed to commit further funds to the Belfast GAA project.

The ‘Gaelfast’ plan will be spearheaded by a Regeneration Manager – on a salary of £60,000 per year – with four Urban Development Manager positions also to be filled.

The Regeneration Manager will oversee the project while the Urban Development Managers will go into primary schools one day per week for 26 weeks of the year to promote the ethos of the GAA and to introduce games.

Clubs in the surrounding areas will play a key role in nurturing Gaelic Games among primary school children and are potentially the main benefactors of the ambitious scheme.

Woodlands Park, Cliftonville Road, Sally Gardens and Cherryvale will be the four sports hubs that will be used by ‘Gaelfast’.

Speaking at yesterday’s launch, St Brigid’s clubman Pat O’Hagan said the idea of the plan was to “employ and deploy expertise”.

Between now and the end of May, Antrim officials will pitch their Gaelic Games services to local primary schools before rolling it out in September.

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