If ever there was a time to prove the Irish weather doesn’t matter when it comes to having fun it was in Dungiven at St Canice’s Ladies GFC annual summer camp.
Monday started off well.
“Usually, we get good weather for the camp,” said Tricia Harkin, summer camp coordinator for St Canice’s Ladies GFC. “Monday was good, the sun was shining, and we thought we would get a good week.”
Ah, the optimism but, come Tuesday, things went downhill weather-wise.
“Is there ever an uphill when it comes to the weather in this country?” fired one volunteer, shaking her head as she rounded up a bunch of kids for lunch inside for hearty homemade soup and wheaten bread.
But did the weather really matter?
“Sure the wind’s always blowing the head off you up here,” said one granddad sagely, as he walked his grandaughter to the car at Kevin Lynch Hurling Club, where the week-long camp is held.
It might have been wet and it might have been windy, and it may even have had the look and feel of an early winter’s day (some volunteers donned woolly hats and padded gilets) but to the kids laughing and running around on the pitch, playing games and making new friends, the weather didn’t even feature.
Just ask nine-year-old Francesa.
“Everyone is happy and friendly,” said Francesca about the camp. “I don’t play football, but I came here last year. I came back this year because it was so good. We’ve been doing team work and we’ve been doing lots of activities. I’ve met a few new friends and I’d recommend it. It’s the best thing ever.”
Cara, who’s nearly 11, and a back for St. Canice’s Ladies GFC, said: “It’s good fun. I love playing football and meeting new friends. It’s improving my skills coming to the camp and, no, the weather doesn’t put me off.”
The two girls sum up the feeling for the youngsters at the camp, judging by the non-stop squeals of delight and cheers coming from the kids on the pitch which sits at the foothill of Benbradagh mountain.
Volunteer Aisling Daly, 16, loves helping out. She attended when she was younger, and said she loves it just as much now.
“I play football and I love helping out, and getting to know the children has been a great experience for me. I was involved in doing the camp when I was younger. It’s a pleasure to work with the kids. They’re all so nice, and it’s a really good experience for me,” said Aisling.
Tricia Harkin, a former Derry senior ladies footballer, has been involved in St Canice’s Ladies GFC since her teenage years.
“We have girls who play Gaelic football all year, and then some who like to come to the camp but aren’t that interested in playing Gaelic football, so we provide more fun activities at the camp. We’ve done that from ‘day one’. The fun element is really important,” said Tricia. “When I played Gaelic football it was very competitive, and it still is throughout the clubs, but you have to take into consideration there are a lot of kids who aren’t competitive and they are just as important to us.”
Tricia heralded the volunteers, making sure everything goes smoothly.
“We have volunteers who have given up a week’s work to do this; young girls who could be working at part-time summer jobs. We’d be lost without the volunteers, without them it wouldn’t run and we really wouldn’t have a camp,” said Tricia.
As for the weather, hoping Mother Nature might give the camp a break for the rest of the week, Tricia revealed: “We have all the children praying hard for sunshine!”
Although, it would be fair to say, when it comes to St Canice’s Ladies GFC summer camp, whatever the weather, the camp will be just as popular and the kids will always have a ball.