A Cúl Camp for future All Stars
Sports camps are a hugely popular summer attraction with Wexford kids. Anna Hayes visited one GAA Cúl camp to find out why
Future stars of the GAA world were being put through their paces at Crossabeg-Ballymurn GAA Club last week as over 100 kids, aged between six and 13, took part in their Kellogg's Cúl Camp.
Coaches, under the guiding eye of Alan Monahan, brought kids through the various skills of hurling and gaelic football, as well as focusing on fundamental movement and coordination. Kids are split into age-specific groups and make their way through six stations of games and skills, taking on plenty of water as they go to combat the hot temperatures.
Most participants are from the parish and immediately surrounding area, with many attending the club already or playing with local schools.
Alan commended the club, saying they gave great support to the event. All coaches are from the local area so the personal connection is, for the most part, already there with the kids. Wednesday, he said, is the hardest day of coaching as, like all of us, the kids hit the mid-week slump!
That slump was hardly evident during last Wednesday's visit as the kids were haring around the pitch, executing jab lifts, striking the sliotar with ease, and fearlessly thrusting their paw into the air for a high catch. At the other end of the pitch, a young boy collected a football ahead of his marker before turning on a six-pence and leathering it to the back of the net.
Alan points out that the participation numbers rise every year, something he attributes to club nursery programmes as well as strong school-club links. Some venues, he says, have over 200 kids taking part.
The local coaches get plenty of training in advance of the camps, running a day of camps in local schools to get a feel for the group management aspect of the job.
With six different groups passing through their stations, the challenge for them is to freshen up the activities and present the various skills in age-relevant games and drills.
'The standard of coaching is super. In most clubs, county representatives visit for a day too which always causes great excitement. The kids are all GAA mad.'
Each participant receives a half-zip, a t-shirt and a gear bag as part of their camp experience and Alan said that many arrive on the first day in their gear from the previous year.
The success of the Cúl Camps is evident from the smiling faces, the wicked strikes under (and over) the bar, and the sound of laughter and happy squeals ringing out across the pitch.
Oisin (11) is a professional Cúl camper having participated every year since turning six. A lover of both hurling and football, his favourite players are club star Paudie Foley, and gaelic footballer Daithi Waters.
Eibhlín (12) was enjoying her first Cúl camp with her friends but happily voiced her preference for gaelic football.
Seán (11) was enjoying his second camp, having gone to most of the Wexford hurlers' county games since the beginning of the year. Asked what his favourite sport was, the answer is unequivocal: 'Hurling all the way!' As expected, his favourite player is senior hurler, and club man, Paudie Foley.
His friend Jack (11) echoed that sentiment, picking Paudie as his laochra gael also. Another stalwart of the camps, he was enjoying the week.
Alan explained that there were some kids who went from one camp to the next, in different parishes - kids who, effectively, hurled and kicked football for the whole summer, all over the county.
In other clubs, they had visitors from Dublin, Kildare, and even Spain and Australia.
'It's a great option for relatives and cousins down for summer holidays as well as the local club kids.'