Girls of Na Magha lead the way

Niamh Doherty, Aoife Collins and Dearbhla Mooney in action at the Na magha Camoige summer camp. (0308JB06)
Niamh Doherty, Aoife Collins and Dearbhla Mooney in action at the Na magha Camoige summer camp. (0308JB06)

Meabh Cassidy may only be 13 years-old but she carries her camán and her sliotar like they have been with her since birth.

Meabh, from the Waterside, joined Na Magha four years ago and is now captain of U14 Camogie team.

Evie Doherty practising her skills at the Na magha Camoige summer camp. (0308JB04)

Evie Doherty practising her skills at the Na magha Camoige summer camp. (0308JB04)

“Camogie is a great way for girls to stay fit and make new friends,” said Meabh.

“I’d be lost without it.”

Meabh, and several of her team mates attended a three week course aimed at introducing newcomers to camogie.

As a result of an intensive advertisement campaign Na Magha convinced 15 new girls to try out camogie at the event at their pitch near the Amelia Earhart Centre. The programme was attended by Croke Park youth development officer Joanne Byrne.

Na Magha Camoige summer camp participants with their coaches.(0308JB03)

Na Magha Camoige summer camp participants with their coaches.(0308JB03)

“Team sports are hard for girls to break into,” said Meabh.

“But camogie is a sport specifically designed for girls - it’s great fun.

“Not only are we getting the chance to get fit, meet new people but it’s a great way of learning discipline,” said the young U14 captain.

Meabh added: “Most of our team are at Thornhill College - we don’t have a team at the minute but I would really like to see us set-up a school team too.”

Na Magha is Derry’s only hurling and camogie club. In a city dominated by soccer, Gaelic football and rugby, both hurling and camogie sometimes have to take a back seat. But Na Magha Camogie Secretary Sharon McCullagh and the rest of her camogs are fighting back.

“The girls and I want to build as many teams as we possibly can at Na Magha and the only way we can do that is through taster events such as this one.

“We currently have a decent U14 team but hopefully through hard work, word of mouth and a bit of good luck our numbers will soon start to increase,” said Sharon.

Sharon became involved with Na Magha when she started taking her own children along to training. She said that if it wasn’t for the help and support of all the parents at the club she does not know where they would be.

“You soon find that where Na Magha is concerned it becomes a way of life. Picking up and leaving off the girls to and from training soon becomes second nature - all of the parents lend a hand and things would be tough without them.”

She added: “We went along to a few of the local schools as a sort of an outreach programme and we intend on going back again next year. We’ve also contacted Steelstown G.A.C. to see if any of their girls would be interested in taking up camogie.

“Hopefully we’ll start to see results over the next few months.

Nine year-old Hannah McCaughan is one of 15 girls who tried out camogie for the first time this week.

Despite being quite young, Hannah said that after being bitten by the camogie bug she is determined to get her hands on a green, white and black Na Magha jersey and make it on to one of the club’s teams.

“It’s been great fun this week,” said Hannah.

“All of the coaches have been teaching us the basic skills needed to play camogie - I didn’t think it was going to be so much fun,” she said.

“Since trying camogie for the first time this week I have to say that I will definitely be back at training. One of the other girls said that I could play for one of the teams - that would be amazing,” said the Culmore Road girl.

Sophie Brady is 13 years-old and has been with Na Magha for three years. Sophie plays at full-back for the U14s and she urged other young girls to at least give Camogie a go.

“Camogie will not be to everyone’s liking but girls my age should at least try it out because they might find that they actually enjoy it,” she said.

“I also play Gaelic football and I have to say that along with camogie it’s completely changed the way I think about sport.

“Hopefully through more events like this we’ll attract more members and before long we’ll have a few other teams at different age groups to boast about,” added Sophie.

Dermot McElhome’s two teenage daughters Bláthnaid and Áine are members of Na Magha and he said both girls’ confidence has improved since they started playing Camogie.

“It’s a great sport and my two girls really enjoy it particularly my youngest girl Bláthnaid - it’s really brought her out of her shell.”

Na Magha train on their pitch near the Amelia Earhart Centre on Saturday mornings from 11.30a.m. to 1p.m. and on Tuesday evenings from 6.30p.m. to 7.30p.m.

For further information on Na Magha Camogie teams contact Sharon McCullagh on 07756389425.