Children will be given reusable water bottles instead of plastic
By Damian Dolan
Britain’s annual celebration of home-grown GAA talent, the All Britain Competition or ABCs, is banning plastic bottles.
Next month’s event in Greenford, West London, which last year attracted 2,000 children, will use water bowsers and all teams will be issued with reusable bottles when they register. This year’s ABC, the seventh, will be at Tir Chonaill Park, Greenford, on 12-15 July.
Boys and girls from school teams and clubs across Britain will take part in a four-day celebration of Irish culture, incorporating music and dance, and Gaelic football, hurling and camogie.
The umbrella organisation Irish in Britain (formerly the Federation of Irish Societies) will be offering free health screenings as part of its health initiative, Green Hearts.
At the launch of this year’s tournament at the Embassy of Ireland the chair of the ABC organising committee Michael Kingston said the plastic bottles ban is an “acknowledgment of the problem plastics are causing in our environment” and a “small but important attempt to reduce it.”
Among those present at the launch were Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK Adrian O’Neill, who hosted the event, GAA President John Horan, Chair of Ladies’ GAA Marie Hickey, Chair of Provincial Council of Britain Paul Foley, President of the Ulster Council GAA, Michael Hasson, and Secretary of Ulster Provincial Brian McAvoy.
Ambassador O’Neill said that the values of the ABC were in “full conformity” with the GAA’s own mission statement, that the GAA is a “community-based volunteer organisation promoting Gaelic games, culture and lifelong participation.”
Mr O’Neill highlighted the story from last year’s ABC of St Colmcille’s Niamh Gallagher which, he said, was “an aspiring reflection of the drive and passion that the Irish diaspora continues to foster for sport” in this country.
The Hertfordshire girls’ team was started by Niamh’s GAA-mad Donegal Dad, Neill, to allow her to carry on playing Gaelic football, as she was no longer able to play with the boys because she had reached Under-14s level. Neill gathered Niamh’s friends from school and her football, rugby and netball teammates. Of the resulting squad of 25 players, only three were Irish or had Irish ties.
“None of them knew what it [Gaelic football] was, so we just showed them clips on YouTube,” said Niamh.
They trained for 12 weeks in preparation for the 2016 ABC, at which they won the Under-14 title. The club returned last year to not only retain the Under-14 title, but they were also crowned Under-16 champions, winning a place in the All Ireland Sevens.
This year, the club will enter girls teams at Under16 and Under-18, and Niamh and her teammates are setting their sights high.
Niamh added: “Our ambition this year, because we watched the senior ladies All Ireland final, while we were in Ireland [playing in the All Ireland Sevens] we want to play in Croke Park in a final as a Hertfordshire team in juniors.”
Mr O’Neill said this was because of not just the GAA’s ability to “transmit Irish identity down through the generations” but also the “compelling attraction” of the Games across “global communities”.
He said: “This competition is the major underage tournament that celebrates diaspora interest in Irish cultural heritage and games.”
Mr Horan praised the “wonderful concept” of the games and those involved in its organisation, and people who work “quietly in the background”.
He said: “These events don’t come together without an awful lot of preparatory work or the diligent and efficient nature of the part of those people who serve on the committee.
“Well done on what continues to be a great job and a great flagship for our organisation and out games here in Britain.”
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