Sligo GAA is actively involved in the initiative known as "The Gathering." The Association is a small part of a steering Committee where up to 15 people from many walks of life are giving of their time to help organise cultural and sporting events in 2013.
The festivals that take place anyway, do so, due to the efforts of a group of volunteers that have kept these celebrations alive for many years by doing the mundane and essential jobs that make them a success; including sourcing finance.
At a recent meeting in the Sligo Park Hotel ideas to enhance existing events and create new ones were shared and discussed. The facilities for the meeting were provided free of charge and the proposed Calendar of events far from "shaking" anyone down would require a huge voluntary effort to provide free entertainment and protect and enhance a unique cultural heritage.
Connacht GAA is unique as an amateur sporting body in that it sends teams to New York and London as part of the preliminary rounds of the Connacht Championship.
The trip to New York had an estimated cost of €75000 and many supporters travelled to the game giving a boost to the economy of that City. The Leitrim County team travelled to London as part of the same Championship and Calry, St.Joseph's will play Fullen Gaels in Birmingham as the Connacht Club Junior Hurling champions in December. In the National league the Sligo hurlers will travel to play Warwickshire next year while Sligo footballers will play London, also in 2013.
These games are arranged by the GAA in recognition of the diaspora as are the All Star award trips and the Asian games. Irish people, from every County living in New York and London, eagerly await the annual Connacht game that sees a team from the Province coming to their grounds. The effort and financial support of Central Council in keeping these preliminary rounds on the GAA Calendar is very much appreciated by those who have made a new life for themselves in a new Country.
The founders of the GAA had as their goal the revival of Irish pastimes and Culture which was very much in danger of becoming extinct at the time. WB Yeats in the early part of the twentieth Century was among those who led the Gaelic revival. Much of the traditional music song and dance that was preserved during that time will become alive in performances during the year of the "gathering" and for generations to come.
Many in Sligo believe that there is potential to greatly increase tourism numbers here. It is felt that the Natural beauty and Cultural Heritage of the County have not been exploited enough in showcasing Sligo as a destination for visitors.
Business people and sporting bodies such as the GAA are conscious of the contribution that they can make to enhance the Yeats County as a value for money destination. Increasing the number of visitors to the area will give much needed employment and avoid the necessity for even more Gaelic players to seek work abroad.
Those who work in the hospitality sector are well aware that the visitor to Ireland has made the decision to come to the Country to spend their hard earned money after careful assessment of what's on offer in the same way that eight of the top ten US multinationals have located industries in the Western Counties. A holiday is a discretionary purchase that involves acquiring a service.
Those who are involved in the "gathering" in Sligo are attempting to improve and highlight this unique tourism product that is on offer in this County in 2013 and beyond.