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Ambassador hails ‘heart lifting’ diversity of ABCs

Ambassador hails heart lifting diversity of ABCs
Mr O’Neill and ABC Secretary Stephen Lavery

By Damian Dolan

Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK, Adrian O’Neill, has applauded the diversity of the All-Britain Competition (ABC) – the largest celebration of underage Gaelic Games in Britain.

The 2021 ABC tournament is set to take place from 10-12 September at Tir Chonaill Park in Greenford, West London.

Speaking at last week’s official launch of what will be the ninth ABC event, Mr O’Neill said is it was “heart lifting” to see children from non-Irish backgrounds taking part, when he visited the 2019 ABC.

“To see all those kids, and not just those of Irish decent but those of non-Irish decent, participating in GAA, and loving the opportunity to play the game, is really, really heart lifting,” said Mr O’Neill.

He went on to praise the “great work” of those involved in organising the tournament.

Ambassador hails heart lifting diversity of ABCs
Brian McEvoy (Ulster GAA CEO), Noel O’Sullivan (Provincial Council of Britain Chairperson), Adrian O’Neill (Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK), John Gormley (ABC Chairperson) and Ciaran McLaughlin (Ulster GAA Vice President)

“The ABC has become a really well-established fixture in the GAA globally,” he said.

“To bring the number of people together that you do, from all across Britain, is a fantastic feat of organisation and couldn’t happen without immense commitment and organisation.”

The 2021 ABC has been reduced to a three-day event, from its usual four days, with no primary or secondary schools taking part this year. All participants, therefore, will be members of GAA clubs.

It’s still hoped that nearly 2,000 children and youth players, from under 7s to under 17s, will engage in girls and boys Gaelic football, hurling and camogie across the three days.

Among the clubs attending will be the cross-community team from Ulster, Cúchulainns GAA, who will be sending both a girls and a boys team.

Ambassador hails heart lifting diversity of ABCs

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In 2019, the ABC attracted nearly 2,500 participants from GAA clubs and schools across Britain. No tournament took place in 2020 due to Covid.

New GAA President Larry McCarthy is expected to attend the games in September.

In attendance at last week’s launch, which was held at the Irish Embassy in London, from the 2021 ABC Committee were John Gormley (ABC Chairperson), Stephen Lavery (ABC Secretary), and committee members Seamus Carr and Rebecca Carroll-Griffin.

They were joined by Noel O’Sullivan (Provincial Council of Britain Chairperson), Michael Conry, of sponsor ESB, Ciaran McLaughlin (Ulster GAA Vice President), Brian McEvoy (Ulster GAA CEO) former ABC Chairperson Brendie Brien and John Molloy (London GAA Secretary).

Mr O’Sullivan joined Mr O’Neill in paying tribute to the many volunteers involved in organising and running the ABC event, as they’re the people who “make it happen”.

Ambassador hails heart lifting diversity of ABCs

He went on to stress the importance of this year’s ABC in the mental well-being of its young participants.

The social interaction, teamwork, sporting activity and community partnership the three days will provide will be “invaluable”, and will have a “huge impact” not just on those taking part, but on their families too.

The very first ABC tournament took place in 2012, when the number of participants was approximately 750. More than 60 GAA clubs from across Britain took part in the two-day event.

Originally fixed for July, rain forced the inaugural event to be postponed until September, which restricted it to just GAA clubs.

The tournament has gone from strength-to-strength since then, swelled by the introduction of teams from primary and secondary schools.

Mr O’Neill also went on to praise the role of GAA clubs in Britain, within their local communities, during the Covid pandemic.

Numerous clubs were proactive in reaching out to help elderly and vulnerable people in their local area, by assisting with anything from food deliveries to collecting prescriptions and medication, and supporting foodbanks.

“GAA clubs all around Britain mobilised to give that support,” said Mr O’Neill.

“If elderly people can’t come to the community centres anymore, then they’ve been getting volunteers to go to them, and among those volunteers have been young men and women involved with the GAA across the country.

“It’s another fantastic contribution by the GAA to community life in Britain.”

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