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Gael Force

THEY are a club with heavy links to one of the most famous brand names in the world. Formed in 1994, St James Gaels are a result of the amalgamation of the An Caisleán and Guinness GAA clubs.

The Gaels were once a force plying their trade in the top divisions, but a downward spiral has seen them slip back as far as Division 6 in the AFL.

This season, however, they are making progress and find themselves pushing for promotion as well as having a junior championship semi-final to look forward to.

But the secret to their future lies in the development of young players, and every Saturday morning, Gaels host their nursery for five to eight-year-olds at Drimnagh Castle school grounds.

Nursery co-ordinator Eoin Darcy spoke about the work going on in the club and how they hope to push on even further in the coming years.

"The main purpose of our nursery is to teach the kids the basic skills of Gaelic football in a fun environment," he said.

"We have an U8 and U9 team currently, and the intention is to carry on with teams in those age groups every year and develop the children for the Go Games at that age level. We also do coaching in our local feeder schools, Assumption boys and girls as well as Drimnagh Castle."

While the nursery takes place at Drimnagh Castle, the older teams ply their trade in state-of-the-art facilities in the Iveagh Grounds. There is also a plan in place for further developments there that will allow the nursery children to relocate.

Given that St James Gaels serve the Dublin 12 area, they have to contend with numerous difficulties in attracting players, notably from the strong soccer presence in the area, but also from the various other GAA clubs on their doorstep.

"Soccer is big in the likes of Walkinstown, Crumlin and Drimnagh," he explained. "But as well as that we have Crumlin, Good Counsel and Robert Emmett's within two miles, so we are all competing for players.

"We are all in the same boat, working to get players in what is an area with an ageing population. Crumlin and Drimnagh are starting to regenerate but I suppose it is about doing the best with what we can do and trying to keep the kids as interested as possible."

Eoin is confident they are moving in a positive direction and hopes they can continue to build on the massive amount of good work taking place within the club.

"We have so many hard-working members it's terrific," he enthused.

"Lads like Ashley Lenehen, who is on the first-team, on the committee, vice-captain of the Dublin VEC team and helps out with the juvenile teams. With club men like that who are willing to put so much in, our prospects are good.

"We want to consolidate and continue to expand our numbers as well as further increasing participation in the ladies' side of the club.

"Then, of course, our biggest target is for our first-team moving up and gaining promotion."

St James Gaels summer camps take place at the Iveagh Grounds from August 20-24. All players, members and non-members welcome.