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Handball stars turn out for Ulster GAA She's Ace initiative

Over 150 participants attended the "Ulster GAA She's Ace Handball Conference" for young girls, at Loughmacrory
Tony McGee

Some top sports stars, once they wrap up their own glittering careers, give very little back to their sport.

But that is not the case with a number of Ulster handball stars who helped to make last weekend's first ever Ulster GAA She's Ace Handball Conference a resounding success.

The conference, held at the superb million-plus facilities at Loughmacrory, was organised by the Ulster Handball and Ulster GAA Councils and funded by the Department of Communities.

Well over 150 teenage girls from across the province, including Belfast, attended the function.

The group included post-primary students from 20 schools and there to impart knowledge of their own careers were triple Women's World Open Singles Champion Fiona Shannon, Doubles World Champion Sibéal Gallagher and One-Wall titleholder Lorraine Havern.

Experts in a wide range of disciplines imparted knowledge on subjects such as health and well-being, sports psychology, nutrition, fitness, speed and agility for handball, as well as, the ladies, who have been through it all for many years, delivering practicals on the sport itself.

In addition to delivering practical sessions to the girls, Fiona Shannon gave an inspirational talk on her own story of starting on the road to becoming one of the most successful players in the history of the sport.

"When I was growing up there was nothing like this in handball. It would have been quite lonely at times and needed complete focus and commitment on my own game,” she recalled.

“This She's Ace Initiative is brilliant. It is amazing to see over 150 girls from across the province here loving handball, wanting to learn and play the game, wanting to get better.

"It is a great credit to the organisers and, I hope, that the exercise will be repeated next year.

“I know that for many years ladies' handball may well have been pushed to the side but so much changed a number of years ago, including the attitude towards it. That was seen to amazing effect back at the 2012 Worlds in Dublin and now, again, here today at this Ulster GAA Initiative.

"The sport is going from strength to strength and in Ulster you have the top current senior players like Aisling Reilly and Lorraine (Havern) but you, also, have rising stars like Megan McCann and Mairead Fox, as well as, a host of other young players.

"The knowledge and expertise provided to young girls at this conference, in respect of nutrition, health and well-being, fitness and agility plus coaching for the game, itself, is certain to help and inspire future stars."

Undoubtedly, such an initiative as the day-long conference held at Loughmacrory is bound to inspire young handball hopefuls and guide them on the road to success.

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