Not having a 'traditional GAA background' shouldn't be a hindrance to any child says Antrim GAA Hall of Famer Terence McNaughton
NOT coming from a ‘traditional GAA background’ shouldn’t be a hindrance to any child from reaching the very top in Gaelic Games, says former Antrim player and manager Terence McNaughton.
Contradicting the widely-held "GAA family" belief, the Cushendall native who was inducted into the GAA Hall of Fame on Tuesday explained how neither of his parents had ever swung a hurley in anger.
“My father came from Cavan, my mother came from Kilrea, we didn’t come from a GAA background,” said McNaughton.
“There’s no hurling history in our background as long as you go but four of us played for Ulster out of the six boys just because we played in an area that played hurling.
“Arron Graffin’s father came to Cushendall, he wouldn’t have knew what end of the hurl to hurl. Neil McManus’s family has no hurling, none.
“Arron Graffin’s mother went to school with me; she would hardly have knew where our pitch was. If you had have asked her what colours Cushendall played in, she wouldn’t have knew. But now they are two of our finest hurlers in Antrim this past 30 years.
“I don't believe in this 'oul thing. Definitely it’s easier if you come from a traditional GAA family but just because your father didn’t hurl (you don’t hurl)… that’s bullshit. Kids love the sport and what sport teaches you is unreal.
“When I was 16 I couldn’t put two words together. I had a speech impediment, I couldn’t talk. “Hurling gave me confidence to sit here and have this conversation. Hurling made me because whenever the big boys picked a team in the street they wanted me in the team. That gave me the only confidence I got as a child.”
Young people, from whatever their background, are good for GAA clubs and GAA clubs are good for young people says McNaughton. The association with their club, and their community, is a bulwark against all sorts of anti-social influences.
“I’m at the coalface,” said the 1989 All-Ireland finalist.
“I’ve run a pub in the Glens and the kids who are involved in anti-social behaviour are not involved in the club or have been in my lifetime.
“The GAA kid will go down there, have his pints, but they’re not breaking into people’s houses or trying to buy drugs – they’re not that sort of people because the GAA club teaches them that.
“They behave how their mates behave. I’ve always drilled into the players that hurled with me: ‘The players will behave how the strong characters in the changing room behave’.
“So if you mess about, the kids coming in here will mess about. That’s the benefit you get from your kids being involved in GAA, that’s why I don’t think it’s hard to get kids involved in GAA.”
McNaughton has warned that the Gaelfast initiative which is aimed at increasing participation in Gaelic Games in Belfast holds the key to the success of Antrim GAA. He says the city has the sporting infrastructure to make the five-year plan work.
“I know there is more distractions in Belfast, that’s the thing they always throw at you,” he said.
“But there are more opportunities in Belfast - we don’t have 4G pitches (in country areas). We don’t have floodlights. It’s easy to throw in the negative.
“Every time I have this argument with people, I hear: ‘We have more distractions, more games, we have soccer’.
“Aye, you’ve also got a leisure centre on your front door, 4G, floodlights. Get organised.
“I never found it hard to get kids to the hurling field. Kids love hurling and when you get a kid out there and they pick a ball up and hit it down the field – the joy on their face!
“You’ve planted a seed there. He’s going to want to hit it again and again and again. Then you have him.”