Belfast GAA set for £1m investment over five years

19th April 2019

The GAA is set to pump £1m (€1.16m) into Belfast in a bid to increase Gaelic Games participation in the second largest city on the island of Ireland.

The proportion of school-children playing Gaelic Football or hurling is as low as 6% in the city.

Belfast has a thriving club scene but, given its population of over 600,000, Antrim has long punched below its weight at national level.

The Saffrons have only appeared in two All-Ireland hurling finals, the last in 1989, winning neither, and the footballers haven’t lifted a senior provincial title since 1951.

It is hoped that this investment over five years will help the county team, as well as boost numbers at grassroots level.

The initiative, branded Gaelfast, was launched in Belfast on Friday by new GAA President John Horan.

This represents the biggest ever non-capital initiative by the GAA in the North, and will place coaches in schools across the city.

This will supplement the ongoing facilities developments for Gaelicgames within the City by a partnership of GAA and Belfast City Council, which started three years ago.

The aim of the plan is to reinvigorate the Association in the City, with a view to increasing membership levels in GAA clubs across Belfast.

Gaelfast will commence in September 2018 and initially will see around 20 schools across Belfast taking part.

Coaches will be in the schools one day per week and the scheme will be overseen by an appointed Belfast Regeneration Manager. The advertisement seeking application for this post was published in local and national media outlets during the week.

"GAA in Belfast is a sleeping giant," admitted Antrim GAA Chair, Colin Donnelly. "This initiative will provide real impetus to Gaelic Games.

"Indeed over the past number of years we have seen a big increase in participation levels in GAA by schools from a range of community backgrounds, which has been fantastic."

A decision on planning permission for the proposed redevelopment of a 34,000-seater stadium at Casement Park is expected soon.