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Culmore Cú Chulainns ready for battle in St Patrick’s Day parade showcase

08 March 2018

The county’s newest GAA club will make one of their first ever public appearances this St Patrick’s Day when they take part in Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Spring Carnival Parade in the city.

Since CLG Culmore Cú Chulainns were officially launched in the Autumn, their network of volunteers have been hard at work preparing their underage sides for competitive action away from the public’s gaze in the grounds of Thornhill College.

But on Saturday March 17th the players and coaches will parade through the city centre in front of hundreds of people, armed with spears and shields in a colourful depiction of the story of the mythological hero after whom they were named.

“Cú Chulainn was a renound figure in folklore who defended Ulster from attack and we felt he was a suitable symbol for the history of our area where Culmore Fort was a strategic target during the plantation in the 16th Century,” explained Club Chairman Dermot McErlean.

“Cú Chulainn was known for his bravery and we felt he was a figure who would inspire our young members and give them an identity to be proud of.

“Our performance will feature a Cú Chulainn mascot who will be backed up by our young members in their costumes which they have been working with representatives from Studio Two to design and make.”

Although the live project remains in its infancy, the work at forming a GAA Club for the community in Culmore has been years in the making.

Given the growing population in the area, Dermot is confident the club can reach its goal of fielding minor teams competitively at their own ground in Culmore Country Park over the next ten years.

“We formed a committee of nine GAA enthusiasts who did a parish survey to gauge the appetite for a GAA club in the area,” he explained.

“The feedback was excellent and we secured 1,200 signatures of support to form the club.

“We felt it was an opportune time to form with the development of the Culmore Country Park coming to fruition and the plans to allocate playing pitch provision within it.

“There are 6,000 people living in Culmore, it is a young population which is growing all the time with more housing developments in the pipeline that will see more young families move in.

“We felt there was a demand for a new sports club in the area and that the time was right to start organising at underage level.

“The club officially formed on September 23rd 2017 and started coaching the following Saturday and we are delighted with the progress.

“We have been overwhelmed with the response from the community and the number of children who are taking part is growing month on month.

“Having fielded U8 and U10 teams in Go Games blitzes over the winter, our main objective now is to prepare for Go Games to be held in Owenbeg in the summer.

“We are grateful to the parents who have been so supportive to us from the start, we train every Saturday at Thornhill College and the parents have seen that it’s a fun and safe environment for kids to come and get involved in sport.

“A development plan is in place and our aim is to be competing at minor level in the next ten years and have our own pitch at the Culmore Country Park.”

While fielding competitive sports teams is a key element to the project, Dermot is keen for the club to have a wider role within the community and he feels their participation in this year’s parade fits in well with that aim.

“We are delighted and privileged to be asked to take part in the parade and it’s a great opportunity for us to showcase our brand in public,” he continued. “Our club is about much more than just excelling on the sports field, we want to offer young people the opportunity to participate in a range of activities and represent their community at different events.

“GAA clubs are the heartbeat of their communities around the country and we want to have a fully inclusive club where everyone has their role.

“The kids have already received instruction on singing and dancing and there are opportunities for them to learn and develop Irish language skills as well.

Many of the performers in this year’s parade, which has a new route starting at Bishop’s Street before coming down Shipquay Street and along the Strand Road, will reflect the 100 year anniversary of women’s suffrage in their performance.

Female representation is something that is particularly important to Culmore Cú Chulainns who are keen to build on the huge recent strides that have been made in women’s football in the city in recent years.

“Half of our players are girls which is great to see,” he noted. “Women’s football in Derry has really taken off over the last few years and particularly in the city with a huge representation on the county team who reached a Junior All Ireland final last season.

“I’ve been really impressed with the girls that have joined us and their skills and development is just as good as the boys.

“On behalf of the club we’d like to thank the Council for the invite on the parade, it’s an experience we are all looking forward to.

“I’d also like to express my gratitude to the parents of our players and the people of Culmore who have been so supportive of what we are trying to achieve.”
Full details of the Spring Carnival programme for Derry and Strabane are available at www.derrystrabane.com/springcarnival.