The competition, named after Na Magha legend Sean Mellon, will feature teams from across Derry, Antrim and Donegal as well as 'The Rockies' who are making the journey from Cork to take part after forging close links with the local club.
Na Magha’s great bond with Blackrock began in the early 1980s, thanks to Seán and his good friend, Al Coughlan and it became an annual custom for underage Na Magha and Blackrock teams to visit each other’s cities. Every trip is remembered fondly by all who had the privilege to be involved.
Following a brief break, the pilgrimage was renewed in 2018 with Blackrock coming to Derry on a wonderful May bank holiday weekend. The following year Na Magha enjoyed the hospitality of the Rockies in Cork. This further revived the connection between the two clubs and Sean was present to oversee the proceedings and give his insightful guidance to Na Magha’s young hurlers.
Eamon Harkin, Chairperson of Na Magha said: “Sean’s greatest contribution to hurling was as a developer and coach of young hurlers and camogs. Through Sean’s efforts, with a small band of enthusiasts, Na Magha was founded and is now thriving on the hill where Amelia Earhart’s plane landed. Páirc na Magha, with its green sward and sturdy club-house, is a testimony to the hard work of those people.”
Blackrock Hurling Club was officially founded in 1883 and is the oldest hurling club in Cork. Until 1888 the club was known as Cork Nationals, when it changed its name to National Hurling Club of Blackrock, and later in the same year to Blackrock National Hurling Club, nicknamed 'The Rockies'. In the 21st century, Blackrock have won five Under 16 Premier Juvenile Cork County Championships (2008-2013), four Premier Minor Cork County Championships (2009, 2011 & 2012, 2013) and the 2012, 2014 and 2015 Under 21 Cork County Championship.
Among many great Rockies players, the legendary Ray Cummins holds the distinction of being one of only four players to have been awarded All-Star awards in both hurling and football.
As a player with Blackrock in the provincial and All-Ireland club championships, Cummins's skill earned him a selection on the club championship silver jubilee team in 1996. Four years later he was given the ultimate accolade by his county, his province and the Gaelic Athletic Association when he was named in the full-forward position on all three Teams of the Millennium, marking him as the greatest No. 14 of all-time.
Gerry Murphy, speaking on behalf of the Festival organisers, added: “Fittingly, the connection fostered by Sean Mellon and Al Coughlan of Blackrock many years ago continues this weekend at the Sean Mellon Hurling Festival where Blackrock and 14 other clubs from across Derry, Donegal and Antrim will celebrate the great game of hurling.
"The festival, hosted at Påirc Na Magha, will further cement the relationship between the clubs, will help raise the profile of hurling in Derry City and it will give Na Magha the opportunity to pay tribute to its founding member and friend, Sean Mellon. Come along and join us.”
Full details of the Sean Mellon Hurling Festival can be found on Na Magha’s Facebook Page.