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Ulster’s Cup now runneth over

By Declan Bogue

Ahead of the fifth Ulster GAA Cuchullain Cup, which pits teams from different religious backgrounds against each other in an effort to understand differences through sport, the Ulster Council's Head of Community Development, Ryan Feeney, has praised the growth of the competition.

The Cuchullain Cup will be hosted at the Mid-Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown on Wednesday, between 10.30am to 2pm, and its' growth has been a real success story in the Ulster Council's commitment to reaching out to children of all denominations.

Initially beginning with four teams in 2008; Enniskillen, Armagh, Limavady and Belfast, the competition takes two schools from the maintained sector and two from the controlled sector to make a team that represents their town or village. While the popularity of the initiative has grown, it has spread across the border into Cavan and Monaghan.

“The children play a blitz of hurling in the morning, and a blitz of football in the afternoon,” explained Feeney.

“All the kids play and get a taste of both codes and are managed by Ulster coaches. They have been in the schools for about eight weeks prior to this, training the teams.”

Feeney continued: “Every team that plays has had a coach like Tony Scullion, Kevin Kelly, Diarmuid Marsden or Kevin Hinphey in the school taking taster sessions with each of the teams.

“A lot of these children, even the ones in the maintained sector, would have had no experience of Gaelic games before.”

Teams from Downpatrick, Coleraine and Monaghan will be making their debut in the tournament.

“The focus on Wednesday is for everyone to get everyone playing Gaelic games,” adds Feeney. “There is a blitz competition in both codes and then we present an overall winner award on the day, and we will have an officer of the Ulster council down to present a trophy to the kids.

While that's going on, we will meet the teachers and give them a bit of a background about what the GAA's about because for many of them, it's their first interaction with the GAA.”

Enniskillen won the cup last year, and along with all of the original teams to have entered, they have enjoyed a trip away to America over the summer. Last year it was the turn of Roe Valley to visit a GAA unit in the United States.

This year, the winner may have an added incentive, according to Feeney.

He added: “This year we are going to take a team, and we haven't decided if it's going to be an All-Star select team or a team that wins the event, but we are going to take a team to the Inter-Continental youth games held in London this July.”

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