THE SPIRIT of the late, inspirational Steelstown ladies’ captain, Charlene Griffiths lives on at the Ballyarnet club through the huge success of Campa Charlene.
At just 27 years, Charlene passed away after losing her brave battle against a brain tumour in January 2012, eight months after her diagnosis left family and friends devastated.
A true gael, the Irish teacher from Cornshell Fields, Charlene’s influence at the club she loved and played for from an early age is as strong as ever.
And that was evident at the second running of Campa Charlene - a celebration of Irish culture and sport which has been organised in her memory.
It was all hands on deck at the club this week as Steelstown coaches and officers battled against the elements to ensure the camp ran as smoothly as possible.
And despite the heavy downpours, 40 enthusiastic children attended the camp and took part in the many activities which encapsulates the life and spirit of the late Charlene.
Thornhill Irish teacher,
Mr Fergal MacGuigán taught Charlene when she undertook her A-Levels at the Culmore Road college.
He was delighted to be asked to lend his expertise and teach the young club members the Irish language, music and dance.
And he felt it was a fitting way to remember Charlene and her love for all things Irish.
She really was an inspiration. I know those types of words can be overused, but in terms of Charlene it was all 100 per cent true and more, and I just wish she was here.Fergal MacGuigán
As he sat on Charlene’s special memorial bench in front of the clubhouse, a sometimes tearful Mr MacGuigán, said it was a privilege to be involved.
“It’s great that Charlene’s legacy is alive and is inspiring younger folk,” said Mr MacGuigán.
“And it’s a privilege for me to be here in memory of Charlene and actually sit on her seat here.
“Campa Charlene really embodies everything that’s good about Irish culture and language and everything good about Irish people as well.
“Charlene displayed all those qualities from a young age. I had the pleasure of having her in my form class at Thornhill when she was 14 years-old and then later on in my A-level class as well.
“She loved her culture.
“And that’s what Campa Charlene is really all about and giving that on to a new generation to enjoy.
“We have 40 children here and they all join in and use as much Irish as they can. They’ve learned tunes on the tin whistle, they’ve learned an Irish dance and they really got involved in the sporting activities.
“It’s a very positive camp and Charlene was as positive a person I ever met.
“She was a ray of light when she came into the room. She came in with a smile on her face and was so full of life and energy in her Irish language and interaction with others in sport and drama. She really was an inspiration. I know those types of words can be overused but in terms of Charlene it was all 100 per cent true and more and I just wish she was here.”
Steelstown GAC has experienced its fair share of tragedy in recent years following the sad passing of the talented Brian Og McKeever in 2008 and then its ladies’ captain four years later.
But through the medium of Irish and the love for sport, the club has done a magnificent job in keeping their respective memories alive,
“Unfortunately death is part of life and the GAA is very much at the heart of the community here.
“Death is also part of community and the clubs as Ballinderry has found out tragically very recently as well.
“Things like Campa Charlene is a way for communities to turn it into a positive.
“When you see all the children here enjoying themselves today, isn’t that exactly the legacy anyone would want for their child?
“So it’s great that Charlene’s legacy is alive and is inspiring younger folk.
Maire McKeever, mother of the late, Brian Og was also on site during the week lending her help to the Campa Charlene.
And she even got involved in the classes, playing her son’s tin whistle - a poignant moment.
Moira McKeever lost her son Brian Og tragically and again, far too young. Moira herself was here during the week helping out and also playing on Brian Og’s tin whistle which was special for her as well,” said Mr MacGuigán.
So Campa Charlene is over for another year but Mr MacGuigán is confident it can continue to grow.
“I’m a Bellaghy man originally and my heart still lies there but if it was ever to move I would imagine it would probably move to Steelstown.
“They’re so well run and parents have confidence that their children will be well looked after. So it’s a tribute to all the officers at the club, who are too many to name.
Steelstown run a number of camps during the summer which is probably the cheapest baby sitting service you’ll get.. “I would like to look upon it as an annual event and something we can fine tune and improve.”