Tuesday 21 May 2019

'Kids are choosing GAA over soccer and rugby' - Limerick success inspiring the next generation

In attendance during the Aldi Community Games Festival Launch are, from left, Sean Finn of Limerick, Marcus Southern, aged 11, former Munster rugby player, Ronan O'Mahony, Shannon Sweeny aged, 12, hurdler Sarah Lavin, Olivia Flannery, aged 10, Tom Morrissey of Limerick and Daragh Horgan, aged 11, at Maguires Field, University of Limerick in Limerick. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
In attendance during the Aldi Community Games Festival Launch are, from left, Sean Finn of Limerick, Marcus Southern, aged 11, former Munster rugby player, Ronan O'Mahony, Shannon Sweeny aged, 12, hurdler Sarah Lavin, Olivia Flannery, aged 10, Tom Morrissey of Limerick and Daragh Horgan, aged 11, at Maguires Field, University of Limerick in Limerick. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Limerick duo Tom Morrissey and Sean Finn say there has been a huge growth in the number of children who have taken up hurling since they ended their All-Ireland hurling famine last August.

Both are likely to see action this Sunday when the All-Ireland champions start the defence of their crown when they take on a Cork side at the Gaelic Grounds who are fighting for survival after their loss to Tipperary.

Ahane forward Morrissey (22) says bridging their 45-gap for a Liam McCarthy Cup can inspire another generation to replicate similar feats.

“It increased the hype and interest in the game for kids who might not have been interested in the GAA or hurling in particular,” said Morrissey.

“Going around to local clubs, especially my own one, the numbers did get that bit of a spike. It’s brilliant to see the optimism that is there and it’s nice to see the kids with a hurley in their hand.

“The kids were mad for local heroes and that is what they got from last winning last August.

“Going back to my local primary school in Lisnagry has been the standout moment for me. I went there with my brother Dan and we got an absolutely huge reception.

“They put in a huge effort in the hall decorating it all in pictures of myself and Dan, and the green and white of Limerick. To see all of the Limerick and Ahane jerseys, it was a really proud moment.

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“I was in their shoes when I was kid, seeing Ollie Moran coming in after winning his All Star. Ahane won the 2004 county championship and that team came in too.

“I was looking up to them as local heroes back then. It is roles reversed this time around.”

Morrissey was speaking at the launch of the Aldi Community Games Festival in the University of Limerick (UL).

Morrissey himself was a community games participant in athletics, soccer, hurling and gaelic football, while his Limerick colleague Finn focused his efforts on the athletics section.

And the 23-year-old Bruff defender was another who experienced last year’s 2-16 to 1-18 victory over Galway at Croke Park from the frontline.

“You even notice more kids start to recognise you as a hurler after winning an All-Ireland,” said Finn.

“There are so many kids turning to GAA rather than rugby or soccer now. If that continues to happen you would hope for more success down the line.

“I was nervous bringing the cup back to my school. I would have looked up to the likes of Gavin O’Mahony and those boys growing up on the hurling field.

“It was weird being in that position with the kids looking up to me instead.”

Over 3,600 contestants are expected to take part in Aldi Community Games Festival at UL over the next two weekends.

Numbers are rising in recent years with Talent, Art / Handwriting, Gymnastics and swimming all seeing a dramatic increase.

Last year there were 3,600 involved in the May with 3,300 taking part in the August events.

And Community Games CEO John Byrne says he expects a big growth in figures this time around.

“We hope to see around three to five percent growth on last year’s figures,” said Byrne.

“It is great and we have a lot of new areas for competition this year.

“When you are dealing with 170,000 kids around the country, from 42 different activities, it’s hard to come across anybody that hasn’t had some contact with the community games in their lives.

“The Aldi sponsorship has been brilliant and UL is a great place to have it too. The facilities are magnificent and they are developing it exponentially.”

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