St Comgalls GAC began 2006 with the determination to turn around our fortunes. In the previous few years they had sunk to the disastrous level of having no teams at all competing in any competition!
From a situation some half dozen years previously of having had Senior Football, Hurling and Camogie teams plus all the under age teams in football, this was indeed a tragic circumstance.
It was however inconceivable for local Gaels, that a town designated as an area of major growth, and where Gaelic games had been played as far back as the 1920s, would have no GAA presence. For many years GAA activity had been a part of community life without attaining a strong position. The huge increase in participation across Football, Hurling and Camogie during the 90s was undermined when promises made by Local Government and Parish Authorities to assist with the provision of playing fields were not honoured.
Without a base to develop, the resultant demoralisation led to the disintegration and eventual collapse of almost all Club activity in 2004. Consequently, a new committee of 2006 set about the task of rebuilding. Readily identified as the prime source of this collapse was the lack of facilities. The difficulty surrounding earlier attempts to acquire land to develop as a permanent home had resulted in a loss of that earlier momentum and a gradual ebbing away of morale. Adult and juvenile players forced to change in cars just don’t belong in the 21st century.
So operating almost like a start-up club, our small committee set about the task of building. The short term targets were identified as (1) clear existing debt to the County (2) Enlist team mentors and provide Foundation Coaching (3) Recommence under age football (4) Raise awareness in the community of the GAA presence and expanding the membership base. (5) Enlist additional active support (6) Locate suitable grounds for purchase. Over the following 12 months, these targets were enthusiastically tackled, and considerable progress was made. Fund-raising activities soon erased all debt and covered expenses and are now directed towards the development fund. Coaching courses were set up and volunteers were encouraged to get involved. As of 2009, more than 40 coaches are now accredited to at least Foundation Level.
The juvenile presence in the South-West leagues was re-established in April 2006 when St Comgalls under 12s took to the field against Sean Stinsons. Five months later they played their last competitive fixture against (by co-incidence) Sean Stinsons. In the intervening period, they experienced the huge enjoyment of playing our games in competition with all the South-west teams and gained much experience, to the extent that the Sean Stinsons players and mentors were relieved to come away with a victory the second time around. Juvenile participation has increased at a tremendous rate, and after just 3 years of re-building, we now have full participation in all juvenile football leagues, from under 12 to under 18. A good measure of the overall success was the winning of the 2008 under 14 league championship, our first juvenile success since 1991! Activity is now flourishing in many of the Antrim schools and boys and girls are both catered for from under 6 up. Regular mini-blitzes with other Clubs are enjoyed in both hurling/camogie and football. Ladies and girls football is beginning to enjoy similar growth and the re-establishment of Hurling and Camogie teams is well down the track.
The search for a new home, which was launched pre-Christmas 2005 has now evolved to a stage, where County and Province have joined in forging a bright future for Antrim GAA, by way of a Centre of Excellence, which will cater for the growing needs of the three partners, Club, County and Province over the coming decades.
The future is assuredly bright!
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