Friday 20 April 2018

UUJ make big strides since days of portable goalposts

UUJ's Conan Grugan takes on Danny McBride of St Mary's University College during last Wednesday's match. Photo: Sportsfile
UUJ's Conan Grugan takes on Danny McBride of St Mary's University College during last Wednesday's match. Photo: Sportsfile

Declan Bogue

From barricading the first vice-chancellor into his own office in an effort to gain more recognition for Gaelic games to hosting the biggest event in colleges competition, the GAA fraternity in University Ulster Jordanstown have come a long way.

One man who has journeyed down the road longer than most is John Farrell, president of the GAA in Jordanstown, who is busy getting ready for this weekend's Sigerson Cup finale on the Shore Road campus.

When the educational facility opened as a polytechnic in 1971, it was noted in the feasibility study of sporting facilities that they could foresee "no demand for Gaelic games".

In its early days, the GAA club played anywhere it could within the college grounds, using a set of portable goalposts.

The fight for recognition reached a dramatic point when Farrell and others barricaded the vice-chancellor into his own office.

The vice-chancellor of the time was Derek Birley, the renowned educationalist who brought parity to the numbers of Catholics and women who entered third-level education in Northern Ireland.


As a sporting enthusiast himself, he lent his support to the GAA club, which now boasts three full-size pitches, two of them floodlit. They also have a floodlit training pitch.

After graduation, instead of drifting away from the college, Farrell agreed to serve as club secretary and has been a fixture around UUJ ever since.

Jordanstown hosted the Sigerson in 1993, but staged the games at various Belfast venues because of the "terrible state" of their pitches.

Sigerson competitions have been scaled back from the blitz style that was previously used, with the semi-finals on Friday and the final on Saturday.

Happily, the UUJ team have made it to their own party, defeating St Mary's College last Wednesday.

They have a team sprinkled with stardust, including Donegal's Patrick McBrearty and Ryan McHugh, Mayo's Evan Regan, Niall McKeever of Antrim, Monaghan's Kieran Hughes, Cavan's Killian Clarke and Ronan McNamee of Tyrone.

Managed by prominent Tyrone coach Benny Hurl, along with Martin McHugh and Barney McAleenan, they will meet Dublin City University on Friday at 3.0.

The first semi-final will be between UCD and University of Limerick, while Saturday's final will have a 2.30 throw-in.

The semi-finals and final of the Trench Cup and Corn Comhairle will also be played over the weekend.

Irish Independent

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