Belfast Telegraph

Huge crowd expected for combined GAA and rugby training session

Jemar Hall of Armagh
Jemar Hall of Armagh
Luke Marshall of Ulster
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

An historic first training session between Armagh GAA and Ulster Rugby is set to draw thousands to Lurgan this evening.

The event at Pollock Park will see a pair of open training sessions with Armagh GAA and Ulster Rugby, and a series of 'games of two halves'.

These will take place between Lurgan Rugby Club and four of the local Gaelic Football Clubs - St Peter's GAA, St Paul's GAA, Eire Og and Clan na Gael.

It is the latest event from Lurgan's 'Building positive relations through sport' project, which has been granted EU Peace IV funding and been key to the drive to bring the sports into the classrooms of Craigavon area schools.

Raymond Acheson, events manager at the rugby club, has been a key figure in the organisation.

"We think it's very important for the community that we as sporting clubs and organisations do everything we can to bring people together through the power of sport," he said.

"There's a lot of transferable skills between the two and we think that those who love rugby will enjoy gaelic and vice versa. We've had people getting a bit of training and having fun with it.

"In an ideal world we'd have our contact sportsmen and women playing all through the year if they wanted, rugby in the winter and gaelic in the summer."

Lurgan RFC have been supported recently by local hero Jacob Stockdale, the Ulster and Ireland star who was named last year's Player of the Six Nations.

Mr Acheson added: "Jacob is a great support and when we started doing things for the Peace IV project it was huge to have him going out to schools and bringing along his Ulster team-mate Louis Ludik too.

"It's great to see guys like that taking the time and I know there's been a great buzz about the place these last few weeks that we'll have both Ulster and Armagh in Pollock Park."

Ulster Rugby CEO Jonny Petrie said he was only too happy to support the cause.

"Connecting with our local communities and supporting the growth of rugby at grassroots level is central to what we're about as an organisation," he said. "While the players attend many club, school and community events each week, it's extra special when we have the opportunity to get out and see the Ulster public en masse.

"Lurgan Rugby Club's PEACE IV programme is hugely encouraging and it's really pleasing to be able to put our weight behind their fantastic cross-community work.

"Hopefully this event will attract a large crowd and further highlight the positive role that sport can play in bringing people together."

Tickets to the event are free but must be downloaded online at www.eventbrite.co.uk

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