THE NATIONAL Congress, Ulster Hurling Final and College Football Finals were yesterday unveiled as centre-pieces in a packed GAA programme to celebrate Derry City’s Year of Culture 2013.
Michael Wilson reports
The comprehensive schedule of events was officially launched by Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael, Christy Cooney and Derry County Chairman, John Keenan before an audience that included representatives of all nine city clubs in Cultúrlann Ui Chanáin.
The National Congress is scheduled to take place in the city between March 22nd and 24th 2013, four days after the MacRory and MacLarnon Cup Final are held in Celtic Park. The programme also sees the return of Féile Peile na nÓg, last held in the city two years ago, and which will form a particularly impressive June agenda that includes the Ulster Hurling Final in Celtic Park on June 23rd.
With events taking place every month throughout 2013, the GAA President said the association was totally behind the city’s Year of Culture.
“I think 2013 is going to be very challenging but also very fruitful for the City of Derry, for Ulster and for Ireland in general,” explained Mr. Cooney, “It is a very significant occasion.”
“At national level we are very supportive of it. We believe it is the right thing to do. We believe as an association, it is our duty to showcase ourselves and to promote our games as the wonderful games they are.
“It is also important to promote the Irish language and culture through events like Scor while bringing the National Congress to Derry will mark the year in a special way.
“It will be a magnificent year for Derry City and a magnificent year for our association to showcase the wonderful people we have within the organisation who give up their time in a voluntary manner.”
Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister, Carál Ní Chulín, Junior Minister for the OFMDFM, Martina Anderson, the Deputy Mayor of Derry, Colr Kevin Campbell and Chief Executive of Culture Company, Shona McCarthy, were all in Derry for the launch.
Echoing the sentiments of the GAA President, Derry Chairman John Kennan said the City of Culture was an opportunity to present the local GAA scene to a global audience.
“The City of Culture celebrations mean there will be an international spotlight on Derry throughout 2013 and we are delighted to take that opportunity to proudly display the cultural values of our association to a global audience.
“With strong support from Croke Park, the Ulster Council and Culture Company 2013, a dedicated team of Derry Gaels headed by Patsy Mullan and Mark Higgins has worked tirelessly to put together what is a fantastic programme of GAA events.”
Also among the audience was Derry senior manager, John Brennan who described the event as an opportunity to build on the ever increasing participation numbers within the city.
“I’m here representing the Derry players but the GAA is not all about players, it’s about all the people and we want to get more people in Derry City involved with the GAA. If I can help in that respect, then I will,” explained the Lavey man.
“I know a lot of the clubs struggle in the city but it’s hard to break down a tradition. The GAA is a tradition in the country parishes but soccer is the tradition in Derry City and you have to educate people. You have to talk and make the GAA entertaining, make it interesting for them.
“People have their own money, they can decide if they want to go to the cinema, the pub or to Celtic Park. That’s their decision but we have to make Celtic Park better than the alternatives.
“I was at the Steelstown Brian Ogs dinner dance two weeks ago. They are into the senior league in Derry for the first time yet they are a relatively young club. The likes of that can only breed positive elements of the GAA in the city and hopefully it spreads to one or two other clubs.”