Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Derry boards hoping to reap cultural benefits

Derry county board chairman John Keenan is preparing for a busy 2013

The GAA is set to gain an even stronger foothold in Derry city now that several major events are planned there in conjunction with the comprehensive City of Culture programme next year.

The Derry county board’s 125th anniversary celebrations will actually coincide with the City of Culture festival and officials believe that the Association’s profile can be raised considerably.

Derry city, of course, has long been recognised as a hot-bed of soccer although it boasts four GAA clubs — Na Magha, Sean Dolans, Doire Colmcille and Doiretrasna.

And five other clubs — Ardmore, Slaughtmanus, Steelstown, Claudy and Craigbane — are all located within the Derry City Council area.

The annual GAA Congress will take place in Derry in April at a specially-built new venue that will host numerous prestigious City of Culture events while the Ulster hurling final, MacRory Cup final, National Scór finals and Féile Peil na nÓg have all been earmarked for the county.

It is expected that both the Ulster hurling final and the MacRory Cup decider will be played at Celtic Park while the National Scór finals and the Féile Peil na Nog have also been earmarked for other venues in the county.

Derry PRO Chris McCann confirms that the GAA will have an important part to play in the overall City of Culture itinerary.

“The GAA and the Derry county board have bought heavily into the City of Culture concept and there is no doubt that the Association stands to derive considerable benefits from this,” said McCann.

“It is a signal honour for the city to be hosting Congress, which is one of the most important events in the annual GAA calendar.”

And with the doors of the newly-refurbished state of the art complex at Owenbeg near Dungiven about to be thrown open, Derry GAA is preparing to usher in a new era.

Next Monday’s county Convention — at which McCann will step down as PRO — is the first major event to be staged there although the impressive complex will not be officially opened until the early part of next year.

The crusade to expand the GAA’s tentacles in Derry city, coupled with the opening of the impressive Owenbeg headquarters, marks a major step forward for the county board.

“We're in a new era with exciting possibilities and opportunities for the whole gaelic games family in Derry,”declares county board chairman John Keenan.

“We have new management across a lot of our county teams and after Monday evening we'll also have five new county executive officers.

“Change is needed in any organisation from time-to-time and change is now what is going to happen.

“Owenbeg is now a top-class amenity that would allow us to host 800 children at Go-Games in the morning and then stage a Derry county game or top club championship fixture catering for up to 6,800 fans later the same day. It will be the social hub of the county.”