Kathleen Darragh launches ABC goes GAA

Former Cushendall teacher Kathleen Darragh today launched a beautiful little children’s book of words and illustrations aimed at 3 years olds and up. The book, which is entitled ‘ABC goes GAA’ is designed so your child can learn their ABC’s, look out for their club and county colours, and learn about all the exciting activities they can take part in with their friends, when they play GAA.

The book is dedicated to the memory of her son John Darragh who died tragically thirty years ago on April 9th 1991 after collapsing during an Under 14 hurling match. He was taken to hospital but died three days later. John Darragh may only have been 14 years of age but in his short years he made a lasting impression in his club Ruairi Og, his school Cross & Passion College and throughout the county. The Darragh Cup is now played for in his memory by minor teams throughout north Antrim.


Kathleen and husband Malachy with grandson John Og Darragh of Naomh Padraig GAC and granddaughters Niamh and Aoife McIlroy of McQuillan’s Ballycastle

Kathleen Darragh grew up in Belfast, close to Casement Park but only became an active GAA follower when she married Malachy Darragh and moved to the Glens in 1972.

Kathleen takes up the story “Sunday afternoons were devoted to attending hurling matches. Then when the children started hurling, there were a lot of training sessions, matches and events to attend.

As an early years’ teacher, my instinct towards writing always leaned to this age group.

The idea for “ABC goes GAA” started a few years ago. Like all book ideas it took quite a few drafts, edits and head scratching! I wanted the book to reflect the ethos of the GAA in terms of its place in society as a voluntary Irish sporting organisation, which promotes the health and wellbeing of its members and followers, taking account of age, gender, race and disability.

The text was stored on my laptop. Near the end of the first lockdown, a friend asked me “ What have you done about your book idea ?” So spurned on to accomplish something in lockdown, I started the search for an artist. I was put in touch with Grace and when she sent me some samples of her work, the decision was made. At this stage I knew I would be going down the self-publishing route.

Lurig mountain forms the backdrop as Kathleen presents copies of her book to Ruairi Og Camog Laura McMullan and hurler Martin Burke

Over the following months Grace and I collaborated closely and with the assistance of Impact Printers Ballycastle, we now have “ ABC goes GAA “ on sale.”

The book was completed in April, thirty years on from the event that cemented the Darragh name in Antrim hurling history. As Seamus Heaney so beautifully put it “When history and time rhyme”

This is wonderful publication which is on sale online at just £7 – a must for any GAA fans with a young family.


My favourite illustration in the book. The eXtra man is a painting of Ruairi Og mascot Wee John McKillop from a photo by Irish News photographer Seamus Loughran. The fada above one of the stars is a nod to Seamus’s son Seamus Og who passed away three years ago.

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