The weather is never great when the ‘GAA For All’ event is held each year outside Dungiven.
It’s usually cold and windy, and there’s always the threat of rain.
Regardless of what Mother Nature has in store, there’s little that can knock the enthusiasm of parents and children who turn up each year at the Centre of Excellence at Owenbeg.
And that’s exactly how it was last Saturday.
The morning of fun is held specifically for children with special needs and also to mark World Down Syndrome Day.
It’s been going strong now for three years and is a big draw for young people and their parents from all over the county.
These are the days the GAA should be running nationally over the country because the GAA is for all.Tony Scullion
On Saturday past, local parishes and clubs from all over South Derry were represented.
On hand to make sure everything ran smoothly were Derry GAA staff including former Derry senior footballer,coach Enda Muldoon, and Derry GAA Games Development administrator, Ashleen McCaul.
Ashleen said the event was inspired after a phone call from Magherafelt coach, Adrian Moran a few years back. So successful wasthe first event, it was a no brainer for Derry GAA to run it again, said Ashleen.
On Saturday, Derry’s senior footballers made time to say ‘hello’ and mingle with the youngsters before they headed south for their game against Galway.
Derry legend Tony Scullion, part of Derry’s management team, said there should be more events like the one in Dungiven, not just in the Oakleaf county but throughout the country.
“It’s great to see these ‘GAA For All’ days and great to see the Derry players mingling with them. These are the days the GAA should be running nationally over the country because the GAA is for all and the more of these events that happen in this county the better.”
Tammy Cartin from Feeny attends the event each year withher son, Michael.
“Michael is 15 and has severe special needs,” Tammy explained. “Michael just loves football and hurling, and he goes to all the Derry games. There are plenty of events for that, but they’re mainstream events and they’re no good to him.
“So, to have days like this, close to home and that cater for young people who have special needs, is brilliant.
“Michael loves it, he really does, and this is theonly time he gets to playfootball and get involved.”
Tammy hopes other sporting organisations can have events like the one at Owenbeg each year.
“There should be more events like this, in general, because there’s nothing really in the local area for young people with special needs when it comes to football.
“I have to go to Kilrea so Michael can play football,” said Tammy.
“Even if there was a group set up locally,it would be great.
“This is brilliant to have this every year and we’ve been coming every year, it’s a really good day. It means too Michael can go off on his own and do his own thing and that’s great for him.”
Youngsters will then play during half time in the Derry v Cork Senior league game in Celtic Park on Sunday 26th March.
There will also be a trip to GAA headquarters, Croke Park on April 21st where the children will get to showcase their skills.