Ballymena Clubs Come together for Combined Games in Peace III initiative: All- Saints GAA club, Ballymena Hockey club, Ballymena Rugby club and Geraldine’s Camogie Club

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Peace III has provided funding that has enabled the under Fifteen teams of All- Saints GAA club, Ballymena Hockey club, Ballymena Rugby club and Geraldine’s Camogie Club to experience and take part in joint training in the different sports offered by each club. The boys played both Rugby and Gaelic Football and the girls played Hockey and Camogie.

This was launched on February 11th this year at a Seminar at Ballymena Showground’s where a representative of each club gave a brief insight into the History, Traditions and overview of their respective sports. Ballymena Council good relations unit kindly helped with the funding of this event on the night. Dignitaries from Peace III and the Mayor of Ballymena were also in attendance that evening.
Paul Kitchin and his Research team at the University of Ulster Jordanstown throughout this process have been involved in documenting our experiences. This will be used in the future to identify and streamline the process undertaken so that others have assistance and guidance on undertaking similar schemes.

Subsequently the clubs then ran a series of training nights, which allowed the players to participate in and learn from their hosts about their respective games. The Peace III funding enabled to clubs to purchase new equipment to allow these training sessions to go ahead, and in the current financial climate it will be a welcome addition to club resources. These were excellent nights with everyone learning the new skills required in a fun, exciting and unique manner. All the players were enthusiastic and keen to quickly put their new skills to the test.
This Saturday 26th March at Eaton Park the players came together to showcase these new talents. They played a series of combined cross code games prior to the Senior Ballymena RFC match against Belfast Harlequins. We were very happen to welcome Shaun Bloomfield our Branch Development Officer down to this event to witness firsthand the progress Ballymena is making in cultivating links with other like minded clubs from the area. Tom Wiggins Community Development Officer for Ballymena Rugby club when asked about the success of the initiative commented “This has been a tremendous day at Eaton Park with Rugby boys and Gaelic lads mixing with girls from Hockey and Camogie. It is a further sign of the strides the Club is making in respect of its Community Rugby Programme. The day has been a great success and we are already with the other clubs to assess how we can build on this initiative.”
Once again the Mayor of Ballymena Mr Maurice Mills was in attendance and commented on how good it was to see local young people finding common goals and interests through sport. After the matches the players came together and formed a guard of honour for Ballymena and Harlequins.
This was followed by an informal presentation of Sweatshirts for all the participants and a meal in the clubhouse once again funded by Peace III and administered by Copius Consulting on their behalf.
A young player from each club then took part in a short Question and Answer session with Scott Muir of Ballymena Rugby club on the benefits of taking part and what they had learned and gained from this forward looking and unique program.
When asked about his experience of the program Scott commented “Last year we ran a very similar event with All Saints for our Under Ten’s. Prior to that had we hosted Glenravel for a cross code match at Under 14’s. They were also very successful and provided the basis for this year’s event which has expanded on the great work that took place previously. We have benefitted from a number of the players that took part choosing to join us at both Mini and Youth level as the seasons are complimentary one starting as the other finishes. It also builds on the work being done by the club in the local schools and community.”
The common thread that came through from the Q and A session was that it was fun, exciting, and enjoyable to try new things and meet new people. The skills learned were transferable and that all the sports had a lot in common. It is hoped that this will become an annual event and as the seasons are complimentary each of the sports might just have a few converts.

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