All hands to the pump as Belfast club St Brigid's launches first senior hurling side
HE’S 66 years young and St Brigid’s GAC hurling devotee Gerard Mulholland will make himself available for action if the south Belfast club are short of numbers this season - their first in the Antrim senior hurling league.
Now a dual club, St Brigid’s have entered Antrim’s Division Four and the Junior Championship competition for 2021 and have assembled a panel of 33 players which includes an influx of youngsters who came through the club’s underage ranks.
With a good crop of U15 and U17 players waiting in the wings, the future looks bright for the club but Mulholland, who says he has been waiting 20 years for St Brigid’s to make the step into senior hurling, predicts that it’ll be all hands to the pump for the first season or two.
“We’ve got five U20s now who can play senior and we’ve been gathering up the guys who have come through our amalgamation previously so we have 17 young seniors under 26,” Mulholland, who played his club hurling for the John Mitchel’s club in Belfast, explained.
“We also have two guys who are 30-odd and nine more who are in their 40s or 50s.
“We’ve also gone out to the parish and the area and asked for people who have played to get in touch. We want boys who have put the stick down to lift it again and older fellas and I even said I would fill a space if they needed - I’ve been doing a lot of searching to find people who will stand up for us.”
Among his recruits is Mark Sidebottom (BBC NI Sports reporter) who has been pencilled in for a sport at corner-forward or in goal and the media connections don’t end with him since two of former RTE pundit Joe Brolly’s sons are also expected to be in the team.
“The key is that we have to field in every game this year – we have to represent ourselves,” Mulholland added.
“We have eight players coming through at U17, and some of them are real crackers, and 16 players at U15 so there are plenty coming through and that’s why it is sustainable – otherwise we wouldn’t even have attempted it.”
An eight-man management team is already in place and it includes Mulholland as well as Armagh native Oliver Lennon, whose brother Mattie stepped down from taking charge of the Tyrone hurlers at the end of last year having previously managed the Orchard county.
Success is relative in sport and success for the St Brigid’s hurlers this season will be fulfilling their fixtures while promoting the caman code in the area.
“I’ve been waiting 20 years for this,” said Mulholland.
“Last year I was down at the pitch and a young guy came over to me and told me that he was going to be forced to leave St Brigid’s because we didn’t do senior hurling. He said he would have to go to another club just to play the game he loves, so that was the trigger moment for me.
“After that I put a motion to our AGM to bring senior hurling to the club and to enter the Antrim league. It was passed and it is now going to happen.
“There is a very strong football tradition in the club (St Brigid’s are a Division One team in football) and it is difficult to bring the profile of hurling up – it is going to be difficult for the club to do both codes but we have to try it! The footballers will be trying to win Division One – we’ll be trying to field in every game in Division Four. There are different targets!”
If you are over 18 and would like to get involved with St Brigid’s, contact Gerard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07753803266.