On Friday evening St Malachy’s GAC in South Belfast held a get-together and mural unveiling in an attempt to get the club up and running again at something near the levels it once did. At the reception held at St George’s Market club chairman Ciaran Galway welcomed special guests, all of whom have a direct connection with the famous Markets area in the city. Top of the list was Minister of Communities Deirdre Hargey MLA, former club stalward Seán Flynn plus two members of the Antrim Senior Hurling team, Neil McManus of Ruairi Og Cushendall whose father and grandfather were ex Markets men and Domhnall Nugent of St John’s GAC whose granda came from the same area. Domhnall’s granda Eamon Boyle is a brother of Liam Boyle who captained the Antrim All Ireland Under 21 winning team of 1969.
The following is the speech delivered by the club chairman at the function.
Dia dhaoibh a chairde, agus fáilte romhaibh go léir anocht – hello everyone and welcome to this St Malachy’s GAC reception which will be addressed by Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey MLA.
As most but not all of you will know, I’m Ciarán Galway, current Chair of St Malachy’s GAC. Firstly, I’d like to say it’s great to see so many familiar faces and club veterans here tonight.
I’d like to begin by welcoming our four speakers this evening – Deirdre Hargey, Neil McManus, Domhnall Nugent and Seán Flynn. We know that you’ve given up your time to join us this evening and it’s very much appreciated. Thank you.
I’d also thank everyone involved in organising tonight’s reception – especially Fionntán, Ciarán and Siobhán from the Market Development Association, the St Malachy’s GAC committee and club members, particularly Seán Kelly who couldn’t be here tonight. Go raibh maith agaibh.
Before we hear from our panel of speakers, I’d just like to say a few words about the current challenges faced by the club, our ambition, and how we achieve it.
As most of you know, St Malachy’s GAC is the oldest GAA club in south Belfast. Established in the Market in 1936, it has served as a vehicle of sporting and cultural expression for the people of St Malachy’s Parish for close to 90 years. Today, our catchment area extends from the Market to the Ormeau Road and the Short Strand.
Like many clubs grounded in inner-city, working-class communities, since its foundation, St Malachy’s GAC has endured much hardship and, with characteristic resilience, achieved many successes.
Now, however, it is no exaggeration to say that proud legacy of this club is in jeopardy.
A tailing off in participation and a failure by the club to provide opportunities to young people in the areas has created a disconnect from the local community.
On top of this, we have failed to secure the support of local women – the backbone of our communities.
Tonight, therefore, must mark a turning point in this decline. This reception marks the grassroots relaunch of this club.
Across the world, the GAA is the bedrock of each and every Irish community. It is a community-based organisation promoting Gaelic games, culture and lifelong participation and crucially, it is built and underpinned by volunteers.
Allied with efforts to reconnect with the community, including through collaboration with St Malachy’s Primary School, Gaelfast, QUB Public Engagement team, the MDA, and others, we are seeking to re-establish our underage structures and ultimately revitalise the club.
Mól an óige agus tiocfaidh sí!
To achieve this, St Malachy’s GAC is proactively seeking volunteers to take on the mantle up and help nurture the next generation of St Malachy’s Gaels who will lead the club into its centenary and beyond.
External organisations are lining up support us. We must seize the opportunity and stand on our two feet. If you are willing and able, please fill in the registration sheets at your tables and we will be in contact in the coming weeks.
Let tonight be a turning point. The future is in our hands. Bígí linn!