Young players from Dalriada School and Our Lady of Lourdes School in Ballymoney created memories together at the weekend as they travelled to London to represent their schools and town as the Ballymoney Cúchulainns in the All Britain Competition.
Speaking at the competition in London, Ulster GAA President Michael Hasson said, "The Cúchulainn Initiative continues to be Ulster GAA's flagship Cross Community Project which uses Gaelic Games to break down barriers and build community relations in the education sector. Ulster GAA is committed to the development of a shared future based on tolerance and respect for the differing cultural traditions that share our community.
"This year we were delighted to include the London trip for Ballymoney Cúchulainns as it provides a unique opportunity to bring together young men from across the different backgrounds to travel and represent their families, their schools, their communities and their county. Many new friendships have been forged during this trip and that really goes to prove the strength of sport in building Peace and Reconciliation."
Competing at the U15 level, the Ballymoney Cúchulainns had victories over Tir Chonaill Gaels and St Colmcille's to reach the quarter finals, unfortunately this ended in defeat to the eventual champions Tara Gaels. Despite being a team made-up of players who had little or no experience playing Gaelic games, the Ballymoney Cúchulainns represented themselves with distinction showing some incredible skills, passion, and team-work as they came up against club teams who have had several years of experience playing together.
Away from the playing field the group were invited to a tour of the Houses of Parliament at Westminster which was kindly facilitated by Conor McGinn MP, and during the visit Ian Paisley MP for North Antrim welcomed the Cúchulainns and commended them for their participation in the programme.
The group also met with Adrian O'Neill (Ireland's Ambassador to the UK) and Ciaran Cannon (Irish Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development) during their time in London, both of whom praised the schools and players for their engagement in the Cúchulainn Initiative.
The real value of such an experience was profoundly seen on the young men, as they forged meaningful and lasting friendships. Praise must go to the school-teachers John Devlin and Brendan Kirgan who accompanied their pupils alongside Ulster GAA staff, making it possible for the young men to have such an experience.
This initiative has been funded by The Executive Office through their Good Relations Funding Programme.