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GAA camps for kids helping to plant seeds for future crop of stars

By Declan Bogue

Published 17/08/2016

Future stars: Just some of the kids who were at Bredagh GAC last week
Future stars: Just some of the kids who were at Bredagh GAC last week

On Monday morning, and again yesterday, I put calls through to two other GAA journalists.

Neither could find the time to talk to me as they were dropping off their daughters at the local Cúl camps, the GAA's summer scheme where children first learn how to pick up a sliotar or kick a football.

They also interact with other children, learn to appreciate the outdoors and get set on a wholesome path of activity and friendship and common bonds. The Cúl camps website itself says the emphasis is on optimising learning, enhancing friendships and improving physical and psychological wellbeing.

Over the last few weeks and the coming seven days or so, over 110,000 children across the island of Ireland will have attended Cúl camps and been exposed to the GAA. They will receive a kit, courtesy of sponsors Kellogg's, and a backpack.

Sporting organisations can try a number of different things to grow their playing resources, but nothing is as effective in forming habits as getting kids hooked when they are young. Why else is there a need for Ronald McDonald, for example, or even the Rose Buds at the Rose of Tralee?

Last week, Bredagh GAC in south Belfast had over 300 children at their own camp at the Cherryvale playing fields. It's hardly a traditional GAA heartland, but in recent times, the club membership has been swollen to 1,000 members, with over half under 18 years of age.

Given the rise of huge urban clubs like those in Dublin, the chances of Bredagh becoming a dominant force in Down football - should they harness the immense potential - is a clear reality. Already, they are the biggest amateur sports club in Belfast, all because they took an existing idea and hosted a camp.

The camps typically run from 10am in the morning to 2.30pm, teaching children different elements of each game. The cost might be £50 for a child, but if you have more than one, it could end up being as cheap as £20 per head.

This is the greatest marketing tool the GAA has ever had.

Belfast Telegraph

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