It’s not a scene you’d expect to see in the Shankill.
But yesterday children from the loyalist heartland in west Belfast showed off their hurling skills to the head of the GAA.
Pupils from four primary schools — two from the Shankill Road and two from the Falls Road — left behind traditional differences yesterday when they joined forces to play the first ever game of hurling on the Shankill.
And GAA president Christy Cooney made the trip from his native Cork to the Norman Whiteside playing fields to take in the historic spectacle.
It is the first time the GAA president has visited the loyalist stronghold.
Pupils from the four schools — Edenbrooke, Glenwood, St Kevin’s and St Paul’s — have been training together for over 12 months and have formed a club called Lamh Dhearg, which translates as Red Hand.
The name of the club has been taken from a loyalist mural situated on the Shankill Road which has the words Lamh Dhearg Abu (victory to the Red Hand) inscribed on it.
Principal at Edenbrooke Primary School, Jonathan Manning, hailed the event as a “great success”.
He said: “It’s been very positive and the children have enjoyed learning a new sport, new skills and the physical attributes. On this occasion sport has been a vehicle to break down barriers.”
Head teacher at St Kevin’s Primary School, Angela McLaughlin, went to see the historic game.
She said: “The children have been meeting for a while to practice their skills. Last year they travelled to Croke Park to play against a Dublin team. It’s amazing to think children from the Shankill played hurling in Croke Park and children from the Falls Road have been on the Shankill playing hurling.”
Event organiser, principal of St Patrick’s College Bearnageeha, in north Belfast, PJ O’Grady, said the game was a massive success.
He said: “The initiative was part of our outreach dynamic of our school. It was a great success and Christy Cooney has invited everybody down to Dublin for a big hurling game there.”
The GAA president said he was delighted to have attended the historic event.
He said: “It was a unique event and I am delighted to have been here for it. I received such a warm welcome and I really appreciate it, it was tremendous.”