It’s just gone past 7.30pm on Wednesday when the car park at Shantallow Community Centre starts to fill up.
Women of all ages and from all over Derry have turned up to get fit and learn new skills by playing camogie.
The project, which is called Camogie for Beginners, has been going since early January and each week between 15 and 20 women take part; it’s funded by Sport NI and facilitated by Na Magha Camogie and Hurley club.
Sharon McCullagh is club registrar. Sharon’s two children play for Na Magha but she explained that the Camogie For Beginners project is helping to attract new members to the club.
“The main focus of the project is to encourage women of all ages to keep fit by taking up camogie,” said Sharon.
“Some of the women who are taking part have children playing for Na Magha but we have a few women who have never done anything like this before.
“There’s an amazing group of women here. The project has been going for a while now and there’s a real bond developing.”
Laura Crockett is from Pennyburn and up until several weeks ago she had never played camogie in her life. She heard about Camogie for Beginners through a friend and decided to give it a go.
“I wanted to try something different,” she said. “I am always training in the gym but sometimes it can get really boring so I thought I’d try giving another sport a go.
“I really enjoy coming here every week and I am delighted that I am learning how to play a new sport. If everything was to go well I would definitely think about joining the club at the end of the project.”
Sharon explained that whilst the project’s focus is to encourage women to exercise more she said it would be great if the club was to also increase its membership.
“There’s a good core group of women at the club but we desperately need more.
“I think that as soon as some of the women see how enjoyable camogie is they’ll never look back.
“It’s hoped that by the end of the 12 week programme we’ll conclude the project with a match between the women and the younger girls, many of whom are mothers and daughters - it should be fun.”
Christine Cassidy, whose daughter Meabh, (13), plays for the U14 camogie team and son Eoghan, (11), plays for U12 hurling team said that taking part in the project is one of the most enjoyable things she’s ever done.
“I became involved in the camogie for mums initially because my children are members of Na Magha and I saw it as a fun way to keep fit.
“I really enjoy it because as well as being great exercise it is a good way of getting out and making new friends.
“It has also given me an opportunity to play camogie for the first time and I now have an appreciation of how fast and skilful the game is.”
Mother of four, Linda Doherty, first got involved with Na Magha when her son Kealan started at the club five years ago.
Linda is the typical dedicated GAA mother; she’s made batches of sandwiches on match days and is always at hand when club members need a lift to and from a game.
“I played a bit of camogie when I was at school at St. Mary’s but that was many years ago,” jokes Linda.
“It’s been great fun getting back into the sport. Each week we finish of the session with a 15 minute match - that’s when it gets really competitive,” she laughed.
Marie Brady and Louise McGee are both mothers of three children. Like Linda, their first experience of camogie was through their children but when they heard that there was a camogie for beginners project starting their minds were made up.
“It’s only when you actually start playing the sport that you realise how tough it is,” said Louise.
“I am hopeless at it and but I enjoy coming here every week. There’s a great group of women here and I dare say that the match against the younger girls at the end of the project will be a spectacle to behold - hopefully for all of the right reasons.
Camogie for Beginners takes place every Wednesday night (7.45pm - 9.00pm) in the Shantallow Community Centre. For more information contact Sharon McCullagh on 07756389425.