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Everything you need to know about this year’s participating finalists Expert analysis from Brendan Cummins and Tomás O’ Flatharta An in-depth interview with Kerry legend Colm Cooper Plus community, family fun day and more

to Your complete guide Club this year’s AIB GAAls Championship Fina


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AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

Contents 4 Meet the Finalists

Mark Corcoran and Emma Hill tell you everything you need to know about the clubs who will be going to battle on St Patrick’s Day.

6 Paths to the Final

We examine how each finalist has made it to Croke Park and profile the players to watch at this year’s finals.

7 The Hallowed Turf

Tara Leigh examines the history of Croke Park and discusses why it is so special to play there.

8 The Final Countdown

Your complete guide to this year’s AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship finals.

Is cúis mhór áthis dom na focail seo a leanas a scríobh roimh dheireadh seachtaine oll mhór d’ár gclubanna agus go hairithe iadsan a bheidh páirteach sna cluichí ar Lá Féile Pádraig.

10 The Captain’s View

Mark Corcoran talks to four men who are desperate to lift a trophy on Saturday.

11 The Skills Master

GAA legend Colm Cooper talks about his role with AIB and his involvement with the AIB Skills Challenge.

12 Legend’s Predictions

Tipperary’s star goalie Brendan Cummins tells Tara Leigh who he thinks will be taking home the Tommy Moore Cup. Plus Tomás Ó Flatharta predicts the AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Club Championship final will be a classic encounter.

14 AIB Skills Challenge

The AIB Skills Challenge celebrates the talent on show at GAA clubs around the country.

15 Kid’s Corner

Here you will find fun and games for youngsters.

Welcome note from Billy Finn

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he road to Croke Park, be it with club or county, is a long and winding one but the destination makes the journey worth every sacrifice along the way. For the club player, that journey involves winning out against neighbouring clubs and communities to then battle it out against the best clubs in the country for a coveted spot in the AIB GAA All-Ireland Club Championship Finals. The four club finalists will journey to Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day with the full weight of their club and community’s support behind them which has been building in momentum and anticipation since the first ball was first thrown in many months ago. The AIB GAA Club Championships is a unique competition, it transcends sport, tapping into the deep

A BeCreative Editorial Production www.becreative.ie

Editors: Mark Corcoran, Tara Leigh Contributor: Emma Hill Thanks to: AIB, WHPR, www.clubisfamily.ie Photography: All images courtesy of Sportsfile Advertising: Fergus Farrell (01) 705 5441 Design: INM Design Studio Repro: Independent Newspapers (Ireland) Limited 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1

emotional connection that players have to their club and community. It is that ‘club is family’ ethos which exists at grassroots level that provides such a strong base for the Gaelic Athletic Association. AIB have been a proud supporter of the GAA since 1979 and in 1991 became the title sponsor of the GAA Club Championships. For us, the competition embodies all of the values which we endeavour to align ourselves with; passion, commitment, pride and community. In 2008 we extended our sponsorship remit to include the Junior and Intermediate grades as a further indication of our commitment to the club competition. Success with club and the chance to play in the AIB GAA All-Ireland Club Championship Finals on March 17th, as any club or county player will testify, is the ultimate goal. This weekend, Croke Park welcomes two newcomers who will be bidding to win the titles for the first time. In the hurling final, Coolderry make their AllIreland Final debut, having made their first ever appearance in a provincial final this year, what a marvellous achievement for the Offaly champions. Loughgiel Shamrocks stand in the way of their All-Ireland ambitions with the Antrim side bidding to reclaim the honour which they took from proud opponents St Ryanaghs in 1983. Defending champions Crossmaglen are back on familiar ground, making their seventh AIB GAA All-Ireland Football Senior Club Championship Final appearance. The Armagh giants take on Croke Park newcomers Garrycastle, whose semi-final encounter with neighbouring St Brigids captured the interest and imagination of GAA fans throughout the country. The Athlone club certainly won’t make life easy for Crossmaglen who are striving for a sixth All-Ireland title. Whatever the result of the finals we are assured

of a great day out in Croke Park this Saturday and I would actively encourage family members of all ages to come along and be part of the action on the day. It is a unique achievement for a club to reach an All-Ireland final and each of the finalists deserve the greatest level of support. On a final note, I’d like to acknowledge and thank the families of the finalists and all of those within the club as I’m sure without their support, encouragement and belief club success would not be possible. The best of luck to all involved. Is mise le meas, Billy Finn, AIB Bank

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ithin Cumann Lúthchleas Gael St Patrick’s Day has become a day that is synonymous with our clubs as Croke Park becomes the platform on which they get the chance to compete for the ultimate honours in both club football and hurling. The massive interest in these competitions is underpinned by the fact that club teams can emulate county teams by striving for All-Ireland and Croke Park glory at the outset of their local county campaigns. We have been extremely fortunate with the standard and excellence shown by so many club teams in recent seasons and the 2011/2012 campaigns have not bucked that trend. This year’s AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club final pairings provide a mixture of the novel and the familiar. While football kingpins Crossmaglen Rangers return to Croke Park yet again they face first time finalists Garrycastle. On the hurling front Offaly’s Coolderry are rewarded with a final day out after a superb run and they meet a talented Loughgiel Shamrocks team out to lay down a marker for Antrim hurling. If any set of games in the GAA calendar epitomises what the association represents, it’s our club finals. These games on St Patrick’s Day and our junior and intermediate finals shine a light on the all-important link between the big days out at Páirc an Chrócaigh and the games that are played in every pocket of the country before the long journey is completed. A special word of thanks also to AIB and Billy Finn, who have been ardent supporters of these competitions. AIB are also proud supporters of our GAA President’s Awards, which honour some of our lesser known heroes – our club volunteers across all disciplines – who gather at a special banquet in the stadium on the eve of the club finals. I hope you all enjoy your visit to Croke Park for what should be finals to savour. Ar aghaidh len ár gcluichí,

Criostóir Ó Cuana Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael


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AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

s d r a w A s ’ t n e d Presi

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he annual GAA President’s Awards, sponsored by AIB, will take place on Friday night – the eve of the AIB GAA All-Ireland Club Championship finals. Fifteen award-winners will be honoured by GAA President Christy Cooney at a banquet at the home of the GAA, Croke Park. These winners were drawn from across the full spectrum of the GAA family to include representatives from all four provinces, Camogie, Ladies Football, GAA Rounders, GAA Handball, Scór and the Overseas and Schools sectors. Representatives of the teams participating in Saturday’s football and hurling finals will also be present. Live coverage of the GAA President’s Awards will be shown on TG4 on Friday 16th March from 7.30 – 9pm, presented by Micheál Ó Dómhnaill and Dara Ó Cinnéide.

It was a family affair at the AIB Provincial Players Awards as the Dolan cousins were honoured

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he 16th annual AIB Provincial Players Awards had a distinct family feel to them when they were presented in Dublin last Tuesday at an event in the Radisson Blu St Helen’s Hotel in Stillorgan, Dublin. Among the seven awards that were distributed at the event, two such honours were given to club rivals and blood relations Dessie and Frankie Dolan. Receiving his second consecutive award, Connacht provincial football winner Frankie Dolan was accompanied on stage by his younger cousin Dessie, who picked up his first award for his performance in the 2011 AIB GAA Leinster Senior Football Club Championship. The cousins were joined in the football honours by Colm Cooper who collected the Munster Football award for the second time, having previously picked up the accolade in 2006. First-time recipient Jamie Clarke scooped the Ulster award for his outstanding attacking play which has propelled his club Crossmaglen to a seventh AIB GAA Club Championship Final. The three AIB Provincial Hurling Awards went to Na Piarsaigh’s Shane Dowling, Loughgiel Shamrock’s

r u o n o h d n a y l i m a F Joey Scullion and Cathal Parlon of Coolderry; no doubt a crowning achievement on what has been an historic year for the first-time Leinster Champions and All-Ireland finalists. Two Coaching and Games Development Awards were presented to Matt Gaffey of Mohill GAA and Tom O’Connor of Ballyheigue in Kerry for their outstanding contribution to the development of the game in their communities. Speaking at the awards, Billy Finn, AIB Bank said, “Our seven award-winners thoroughly deserve this recognition as they epitomise the commitment and dedication that the modern GAA player has for their club. Their personal performances have contributed in no small way to their club’s success in the AIB GAA Club Championships.”

2011 AIB Provincial Player Award Winners FOOTBALL

Connacht Frankie Dolan (St Brigid’s, Roscommon) Munster Colm Cooper (Dr Crokes, Kerry) Ulster Jamie Clarke (Crossmaglen Rangers, Armagh) Leinster Dessie Dolan (Garrycastle, Westmeath)

HURLING

Leinster Cathal Parlon (Coolderry, Offaly) Munster Shane Dowling (Na Piaraigh, Limerick) Ulster Joey Scullion (Loughgiel Shamrocks, Antrim) ** No award for Connacht given automatic qualification 2011 Coaching and Development Awards: Matt Gaffey (Mohill GAA) Tom O’Connor (Ballyheigue GAA)


04 Profile

AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

e h t – s r e g n a R n Crossmagle l l a b t o o f r e t s l stalwart of U

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hile Armagh is not well known for its intercounty football success, one group of young Armagh men have been on the tip of the nation’s tongue for some time when it comes to the Football Club Championship. Crossmaglen Rangers is the club with the most Ulster Senior Football Club Championship titles under its belt and by far the most successful club in Armagh’s football history. With a record of 13 consecutive Armagh County Championships, nine Ulster titles and five All-Ireland wins to their name, Crossmaglen will be hoping to add another All-Ireland win to their 125th anniversary celebrations this Saturday. Crossmaglen is the largest parish of Upper Creggan which is made up of approximately 1,600 families. With a current membership figure of 800, Rangers have maintained a strong support throughout their 125 years. The Crossmaglen GAA club was founded in October 1887 and won its first County title in 1906, three years before the name Rangers and the black and amber colours were adopted. Rangers soon made their presence felt winning championship competitions in 1911, 1912, 1913 and 1916, winning over 40 matches in succession in those years. The 1920s saw Cross win five championships in a

row from 1923 to 1927. Their success continued until the 1950s when they failed to win a title, despite now owning their own grounds and the Rangers Hall. The team that emerged in the latter half of the 1960s became legendary winning three in a row from 1965 – 1967. In 1969 the club faced into one of the darkest periods in its history with the occupation and destruction of the club’s property at St Oliver Plunkett Park throughout the Troubles. The impact

of the occupation left the club unable to make any developments to its facilities and the club was soon left 20 years behind the times. But this dark period did not lessen the club’s resolve and success at championship level was achieved in 1975, 1977, 1983 and 1986. A barren spell of 10 years then passed until Joe Kernan’s young team took the county by storm and recaptured the Armagh county title in 1996. This win saw the beginning of Crossmaglen’s

legendary period of success which has landed 13 consecutive Armagh County Championships, nine Ulster titles and five All-Ireland titles. The tally of county titles stands at 38, pipping Castleblayney’s record of 37 to the post. Rangers’ third consecutive Ulster club title achieved in December 2008 also matched the Ulster record of consecutive titles in this competition. Will Crossmaglen achieve their sixth All-Ireland title this Saturday?

y r o t s i h f o s r e t i r w e h t – e l t s a c y r r a G l l a b t o o f h t a e m t in Wes

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arrycastle GAA Club was founded in 1981 to cater for the growing population on the eastern side of Athlone. Garrycastle tasted early success when the Junior county title was won in 1982. However, the age profile of the team was quite high and they were eventually relegated to Junior in 1988. In the intervening years Garrycastle established itself as one of the country’s top underage clubs. A county minor title eluded the club until 1996 when Garrycastle defeated Athlone with a team that included David O’Shaughnessy (captain), Dessie Dolan, Cathal Mullin, Karl Henson, Enda Mulvihill and Alan Daly of this year’s senior team. A second minor title arrived in 1999 with Seanie O’Donoghue, James Duignan, Gary Dolan, Tom McHugh, John O’Shaughnessy, Paul Dillon, Justin McAteer, Robbie Shine and captain Padraig Rattigan leading the way. Garrycastle’s underage achievements are all the more remarkable as the club had no full-sized playing pitch until a nine-acre site was purchased in 1989 and a new pitch opened in 1992. The following year a young Garrycastle team clawed back to the Intermediate grade. Four years later came the big breakthrough when Garrycastle attained senior status.

Another four years later came the first of six senior championship titles, just 20 years after the club’s foundation. Two more championship titles followed in 2002 and 2004 before the club secured a historic three-ina-row from 2009 to 2011. In 2009 they became the first Westmeath team to beat a Dublin club when they ousted Ballyboden St Enda’s to reach the Leinster final. An experienced Portlaoise team proved too good on final day, but Garrycastle bounced back the following year with wins over Longford Slashers and Mattock

Rangers before facing the might of Kilmacud Crokes who had three points to spare at the final whistle. After Garrycastle won their sixth county title in 2011 they wanted more than ever to secure the elusive Leinster title. A win over Longford Slashers brought them to the semi-final against a young Athy team. Garrycastle’s four-point win gave them a final place against the highly-fancied Dublin champions St Brigid’s. In a nail-biting finish a pointed free by Conor Cosgrove brought the McCabe Cup to Garrycastle, making them the first Westmeath team to win the

Leinster Senior Club championship. Any suggestion that the players would be happy to settle for a Leinster title were firmly quashed in Pearse Park on 18th February 2012 when Garrycastle recorded a victory over another St Brigid’s team – this time from Kiltoom, Co Roscommon. Whatever the future holds, this group of Garrycastle players have already secured a permanent place in the history books of Westmeath GAA. But can they go one step further and be the first in their county to win the AIB GAA Football Club Championship?


AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

Profile 05

d n a e d i r p e h T – y r Coolder g n i l r u h y l a f f O f o joy

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oolderry – or Cul Doire (meaning the back of oak wood) – is a small hurling club located in south Offaly near the Tipperary border. The club accounts for three parishes, Kilcolman, Ballybritt and Coolderry and a mere 370 homes. But Coolderry are the embodiment of big things coming in small packages. Since the club’s foundation in the early 1880s, Coolderry GAA club has been the jewel in the crown of Offaly hurling. Coolderry sit proudly on top of the Offaly GAA role of honour. Having won their first Offaly Senior Hurling Championship in 1899, the club have gone on to win numerous more in the years since. In November, Coolderry retained their Offaly Senior Hurling Championship. It was the first time that they had won back-to-back Offaly championships since 1963. While Coolderry have become a Goliath within Offaly hurling, they have often looked more like a David on their adventures in Leinster. Despite having 28 previous attempts, the club only managed to capture their first Leinster title this year. Saturday will be their very first appearance in a Senior All-Ireland Final and a very proud day for the club. Despite the fact that Coolderry are the most

successful club in the history of Offaly hurling, they have often had to live in the shadow of their fierce rivals Birr. Their near neighbours have been much more successful outside of the county and have won seven Leinster Championships and four All-Irelands. On St Patrick’s Day, Coolderry will get the opportunity to step out of Birr’s shadow and into the limelight. The club have also made a significant contribution to Offaly’s inter-county teams down through the years.

Names such as Dooley and Carroll are synonymous with the successes of both the Offaly and Coolderry hurling teams. Coolderry legends Pat Carroll, Liam Hogan and Tommy Errity helped Offaly to All-Ireland success in 1981, while Pat O’Connor, John Miller and David Dooley won All-Ireland medals in the 1990s. The backbone of the current Offaly panel is also made up of Coolderry players. Brian Carroll (the

current captain of the Offaly team), Joe Brady, Kevin Brady, Damien Murray and Cathal Parlon are all regulars in the Offaly set up. Club captain Brendan O’Meara is also frequently involved with the Offaly team. O’Meara recently had to make a big decision regarding his wedding day. He and his fiancée had set the date for March 16th. They quickly had to reschedule their special day as soon as they realised he would be busy the following day.

e h t t a – s k c o r m Loughgiel Sha heart of hurling

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he people of Loughgiel love their hurling. They have for generations. Reports of hurling matches in the North Antrim town date back as far as 1830. However, the Loughgiel Shamrock Hurling club, as we know it today, only came into existance around 1915. The club was started by a man named Eddie Connolly. Little did Connolly know then of the impact that his beloved Loughgiel Shamrocks would have on Antrim and Ulster hurling. Loughgiel’s first major success came in 1920 when they won the Antrim Senior Hurling Championship for the first time. Since then they have won 16 more and have become one of the most successful teams in Antrim hurling history. Loughgiel’s most successful period came in the early 1980s. They became the team to beat in Antrim and the envy of the club hurling scene. After winning the 1982 Ulster Championship, Loughgiel found themselves in an All-Ireland semi-final against Moycarkey Borris from Tipperary. It took a spirited comeback and two late goals from Paddy Carey Jr and Aidan McCarry, but the northerners eventually prevailed and advanced to their first All-Ireland final. Similarly to this Saturday, Loughgiel’s opponents in the 1983 All-Ireland final were from Offaly. On that occasion Loughgiel faced St Rynaghs in a

thrilling encounter that ended in a draw. A week later, Loughgiel triumphed to win their only All-Ireland title to date. The years since have been relatively baron for Shamrocks. In 1989 they won the Antrim and Ulster Championships; however they would have to wait 21 years before they won them again. Loughgiel have had to put up with their fair share

of heartache. They were beaten in six Antrim finals in a row from 2003-2008 before finally achieving breakthrough glory in 2010 by beating Cushendall. The northerners have made a habit of finishing games strongly. They faced Cushendall in the Antrim final again in 2011 and scored 1-04 without reply to close out the game. The trait was also evident in this year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Na Piarsaigh when

Loughgiel outscored their opponents by nine points to one in extra time. It is fair to say that Loughgiel have made a great contribution to Antrim GAA. Today, Loughgiel Shamrocks have seven players on the Antrim Senior hurling panel including star man Liam Watson. They also have a number of players on the Antrim U-21 panel.


06 Key Players

AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

Liam Watson enters the final in flying form. The Antrim star scored 16 points against Na Piarsaigh in the semifinal. On the back of such an impressive point tally, it is clear that he is the one to watch on the Loughgiel team. The Shamrocks attacker has proved time and again to be a tormentor for his opposing defenders. His ability to slip past his markers will give Coolderry’s management team much to ponder as they attempt to formulate a plan to stop him.

rs Crossmaglen Range Jamie Clarke

ks Loughgiel Shamroc Liam Watson

Defending AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Club champions Crossmaglen Rangers, have so many inspirational stars in their team that it is difficult to single out just one to watch. However, if Garrycastle fail to keep a close eye on Jamie Clarke, they will no doubt find themselves in serious difficulty. Despite only scoring 0-1 in the semi-final victory over Dr Crokes, Clarke was a constant menace to the Kerry outfit’s defence and earned the Man of the Match award. Clarke is an exciting player and a huge scoring threat. Should he bring his ‘A’ game to Croke Park on Saturday, the Garrycastle defence could be in for a torrid afternoon.

Garrycastle Dessie Dolan

Coolderry Cathal Parlon

Garrycastle have become the first Westmeath team to the AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Club final. Their success is thanks in no small part to forward Dessie Dolan. Emotions ran high in their dramatic semi-final victory over nearneighbours St Brigids. Dolan showed calmness in both body and mind to help steer Garrycastle to the final. Garrycastle will be hoping that Dolan can produce a similarly inspirational performance to lead them to victory in the final.

Many people may consider Coolderry to be the underdogs heading into this Saturday’s game against Loughgiel. It would however, be a mistake to write them off when you take their dangerous forward line into consideration. Spearheading their attack is Cathal Parlon. All season long the fullforward has shown his prowess in front of goal. In the semi-final Parlon gave a Man of the Match performance, setting up one goal and scoring another.

Routes to the final AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

Coolderry v Loughgiel Coolderry 3-16 Gort 0-17 Leinster final

All-Ireland semi-final

Coolderry 1-15 Oulart-the-Ballagh 1-11

Leinster Coolderry 1-18 semi-final Ballyboden St Endas 0-15

Crossmaglen v Garrycastle Loughgiel 0-27 Na Piarsaigh 2-13

Loughgiel 2-18 Ballycran 0-8 Loughgiel 2-18 Kevin Lynch’s 1-05

Crossmaglen 3-08 Dr Crokes 2-08 Ulster final

Ulster semi-final

All-Ireland semi-final

Garrycastle 1-11 St Bridgids 1-09

Ulster final

Crossmaglen 2-11 Burren 0-10

Garrycastle 1-08 St Bridgids 0-10

Leinster final

Ulster semi-final

Crossmaglen 0-17 Ballinderry 1-10

Garrycastle 1-10 Athy 1-06

Leinster semi-final


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AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

f r u t d e w o l l The ha Tara Leigh traces a history rooted as much in sporting legends as Irish identity

The AIB GAA Fanzone Experience Fun for all the Family on Match Day Live coverage from the AIB GAA All-Ireland Club Football and Hurling Finals on TG4 TG4’s coverage will include all the latest news and action from GAA headquarters with pre-match, half-time and post-match analysis on both of the big games. The coverage will also examine how all four teams got to Croke Park with a review of previous matches in the Championships. GAA Beo will be presented by Micheál Ó Domhnaill with commentary and analysis by regular commentators Brian Tyers and Mac Dara Mac Donncha who will be joined by former Offaly hurler Pat Fleury and former Cork and Limerick manager Donal O’Grady. The football pundits include former Galway manager Tomás Ó Flatharta and Armagh’s Jarlath Burns. SATURDAY 17 MARCH 1.30pm GAA Beo coverage begins on TG4 2:00pm Hurling Final: Coolderry (Offaly) v Loughgiel Shamrocks (Antrim) 3:45pm Football Final: Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh) v Garrycastle (Westmeath)

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etting an opportunity to play in Croke Park on St. Patrick’s Day is the dream of every GAA hurling and football player in Ireland. A dream that is as prevalent today as it was in 1971 when the first AIB GAA All-Ireland club finals took place. Back then, the stadium was a shadow of what stands today, undergoing minor developments when funds permitted. In fact, the famous Hill 16 was constructed from the rubble left in O’Connell Street after the 1916 rising and eight years later the Hogan stand was erected in honour of Michael Hogan who was shot during Bloody Sunday. However, it wasn’t for some time that any real alterations occurred. From 1993 to 2005, Croke Park endured a radical makeover, transforming it into one of the finest stadiums in Europe.

That being said, today Croke Park remains as much a part of the fabric of Irish history as it did in the past; and what a unique and engaging history that is. The dawning of an era On the 17th of June, 1885, Michael Cusack, Maurice Davin, John Wyse Power and John McKay met at Hayes Hotel, Thurles and the Gaelic Athletic Association was born. This proved a turning point for Irish sport as up to that point Irish sports were governed under the laws of the English Amateur Athletics Association and those four men wanted to put it back in the hands of the Irish. While the GAA had a purpose it would not have a home for another 28 years. In 1913 the GAA ran a tournament to raise funds for a monument to the GAA’s first patron, Archbishop Thomas Croke. Attendance at the

Got your ticket yet?

Tickets for the AIB GAA All-Ireland finals on St Patrick’s Day are priced at just €25 for an adult and €5 for a child. Tickets are available on www.gaa.ie/tickets.

Getting there

Located just one kilometre from Dublin City Centre, Croke Park is easily accessible through public transport. While LUAS and DART lines both bring you to within easy walking distance of the stadium, as well as providing car parks at various stops along the way, Irish Rail provides convenient travel services from numerous rail-connected areas throughout the country. Croke Park is situated in a residential area with limited parking but there are car parks available surrounding the grounds. Cusack Car Park is located on St Joseph’s Avenue, off Clonliffe Road, while the Canal Car Park is located off the North Circular Road via St Margaret’s Avenue (first left after Gill’s pub). Payment is necessary and early arrivals are advised to ensure a space, and to beat the traffic.

St Patrick’s Day – 17th March 2012 Open 12.00 pm - 4.00 pm Davin Car Park, Croke Park m AIB Hurling & Football Skills Game m Prizes to be won m Food and beverages & special kiddies €5 meal m HB ice cream van m Live traditional Irish music m 2FM Roadcaster live – special guest appearances m Entertainment with stilt walkers and giant puppets Be sure to get there early and soak up all the fun and action!

tournament was so successful that the GAA were not just in a position to erect the monument but also to buy the grounds. A truly Irish endeavor As the purpose of the GAA was to foster and support Irish sport, there has been much debate throughout the years over the playing of nongaelic games in Croke Park. In fact up until 1970 the constitution of the GAA ruled that no ‘foreign games’ could be played at Croke Park. Still, it was not until 2007 that a non GAA game was permitted to be played at the stadium. When Lansdowne Road was being reconstructed the GAA allowed the Irish soccer and rugby teams to use Croke Park. Ghosts of history past It is in large part due to the stadium’s rich and varied past that Croke Park is not just thought of as the home of the GAA but a field of dreams for everyone that has the pleasure of playing and gazing upon it.


08 Preview

AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

Crossmaglen Rangers v Garrycastle AIB GAA All-Ireland Football Club Final Throw in: 15.45 Exclusively live on TG4

Dare to dream

This year’s AIB GAA All-Ireland Football Club Championship final will either see Armagh’s Crossmaglen win back-toback titles or will make Garrycastle the first club in Westmeath to lift the Andy Merrigan cup

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hy do we dream? That’s just one of the science related questions that the 2012 St Patrick’s Day Festival Parade in Dublin is promising to explore. As the parade meanders around the streets of the capital, just how many of the thousands that will line the route will be thinking of such lofty notions is anyone’s guess. However if you are looking for an answer you could do worse than cast your eyes in the direction of another of our national holiday’s greatest attractions; the AIB GAA All-Ireland Football Club Championship final which this year pits Crossmaglen Rangers of Armagh against Westmeath’s Garrycastle. Crossmaglen have been the dominant force in the competition since their initial All-Ireland success in 1997. The story of a club who had emerged from the shadows of the Troubles is well documented. Between then and now they have amassed five titles in all and go into the game as the defending champions following their win against St Brigid’s in the 2011 decider. That win was, in many ways, the beginning of a new era for the club with players like Jamie Clarke winning a first All-Ireland medal. After a comprehensive defeat of Ballymacnab in the 2011 Armagh final, Crossmaglen plotted their way along a difficult path in Ulster. 2010 All-Ireland winners St Galls, Derry’s Ballinderry and Burren from Down were all put to the sword. That set up an All-Ireland semi-final showdown against Dr Crokes

from Killarney. Cross found themselves trailing by seven points after 20 minutes while playing with a gale, but by showing a spirit and ability for which they have become renowned they fought their way back to claim a dramatic win. The dream of a sixth All-Ireland title still intact! The story of Garrycastle is at the other end of the spectrum. This is their first appearance in the final; indeed it’s the first time any team from Westmeath have reached the decider. A win for Garrycastle would be a particularly special one for Manager Anthony Cunningham, as Saturday will see his last game at the helm before focusing on his position as Galway Hurling Manager. The club came into being just over thirty years ago,

winning a first county title in 2001. In recent years they have come to dominate the Westmeath championship. They claimed a sixth title in all and completed a threein-a-row when they defeated Mullingar Shamrocks in the 2011 county final. Their path to a first AIB GAA All-Ireland Club Championship decider has been a dramatic one. Longford Slashers were comprehensively beaten in the Leinster quarter-final before they had four points to spare against Kildare’s Athy in the semi-final. Dublin champions St Brigids awaited in the provincial final. Garrycastle had a late Conor Cosgrove free to thank for their win having had a big lead pegged back. That set up a clash with near neighbours St Brigids of Roscommon in the semi-final. Despite being reduced

to 14 men during the second half the Westmeath men, inspired by Dessie Dolan, held on for a narrow win. And so Crossmaglen Rangers and Garrycastle meet in Saturday’s final at Croke Park. For one club it’s a familiar and, at this stage, well worn path. The Armagh and Ulster champions have been there and done that. For the other it’s a new experience. The Westmeath and Leinster champions are facing a trip into the unknown. Crossmaglen are the clear favourites but being the underdog has not encumbered Garrycastle in any way on their journey to get this far. Why do we dream? Well, because sometimes dreams come true. Will that be Crossmaglen’s or Garrycastle’s dream this Saturday in the AIB GAA All-Ireland Football Club Championship final?


AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

Coolderry v Loughgiel AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Final Throw in: 14.00 Exclusively live on TG4

A long time waiting Both Coolderry and Loughgiel have an opportunity to make history on Saturday, writes Mark Corcoran

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or both finalists, the road to Croke Park has been a long and winding one. Participating in an AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club final is, for the majority of GAA players, the ultimate goal. Coolderry and Loughgiel have had a month to prepare for what will be the game of their lives. They have run endless drills and watched countless video clips. Both sets of players will by now be desperate to get out on the field and take their shot at the title. The time for talk is almost over. Let the ash clash. While Coolderry and Loughgiel Shamrocks may not have much experience of the ultimate club hurling showpiece, what they lack in knowhow they will more than make up for in hunger. Both sets of players will be desperate to grab the title this time around. They know all too well that there are no guarantees that they will get another chance. In many ways Coolderry are the Manchester United of Offaly hurling. Having won their first Offaly Senior Hurling Championship in 1899, Coolderry have gone on to win 28 more in the years since. History shows that the men from south Offaly have struggled to carry their County Championship form into their provincial campaign. Despite having many attempts in previous years, Coolderry only managed to capture their first Leinster crown in November. The St Patrick’s Day final will be the biggest game in Coolderry’s history. They will be dipping their toes into an experience of a magnitude and importance of which they will not have witnessed before. On the other hand, Loughgiel Shamrocks are the only Ulster club to have won the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship. If they believe in omens, Loughgiel supporters will take some joy at

the fact that their only All-Ireland victory in 1983 came at the expense of a team from Offaly (St Rynagh’s). It has been a long road back to the final for Loughgiel Shamrocks. In 2010 they won their first Antrim title in 21 years. In the seven years before that victory, they lost six county finals and a county semi-final. Last year, the northerners were defeated by nine points in an All-Ireland semi-final against O’Loughlin Gaels. The scoreboard told a story of a demolition job by the Kilkenny men. However Loughgiel’s players will tell you a different story. On that day they fell short of their potential. They missed golden opportunities to score and quickly found themselves out of the contest. Loughgiel have used that defeat to inspire them to retain their Antrim and Ulster crowns and to help them through this year’s semi-final against Na Piarsaigh. It took extra time to separate Loughgiel from Na Piarsaigh. The northerners persevered despite a spirited comeback from the Limerick side. One thing that the Antrim men do not lack is character. From goalkeeper DD Quinn up to cornerforward Liam Watson, Loughgiel have intensity in every position on the pitch. Watson is undoubtedly Loughgiel’s key man. The sharp shooter scored 16 points against Na Piarsaigh (including six points from play). Coolderry will need to keep him quiet if they have any intentions of bringing the trophy home. While the challenge may seem steep, Coolderry will not doubt themselves for a second. Their eight point semi-final victory over Gort will have sent waves of confidence flowing through the team. In Cathal Parlon Coolderry have a significant threat at full-forward. Loughgiel have been warned – failure to monitor Parlon closely will lead to the concession of goals. Should Parlon have a quiet day on Saturday, Coolderry have a number of other forwards who are capable of keeping the scoreboard ticking over. Amongst them is Damian Murray. The corner forward chipped in with an impressive 1-08 in the semi-final victory. On his day Murray can be a lethal free taker and the Antrim side must not give away cheap frees. On Saturday, two teams who are desperate for success will go to battle. It has been a long and winding road to Croke Park. Now only sixty minutes of hurling separates both teams from the Promised Land. On St Patrick’s Day the road ends. Let the ash clash.

Preview 09


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AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

Hurling Name: Brendan O’Meara

Name: Johnny Campbell

Club: Coolderry

Club: Loughgiel Shamrocks

Age: 29

Age: 29

Position: Left-half back

Position: Left-half back

“There has been a great buzz around the town since we beat Gort in the semifinal. It is great to see all of the flags and the bunting decorating the town. It has been a dream come true to reach an AllIreland final. Hopefully we can come out on top on St Patrick’s Day. “Loughgiel Shamrocks are a great side. They looked very strong in their semifinal victory over Na Piarsaigh. They are a well balanced team who work very hard for each other. Liam Watson is an exceptional hurler, but we cannot afford to just focus on him as Loughgiel have many other great players. We will have to ensure that we are well prepared and focused on the task at hand. “Winning back to back Offaly titles was a great achievement for this team. It is something that we are very proud of. Captaining the team to win the first Leinster title in the club’s history is another of my highlights from the season to date. If Coolderry were to win on Saturday, it would be a huge boost to the club and also to Offaly hurling in general.”

“It is an unbelievable feeling to have reached an All-Ireland final. Last year, after we were beaten in the All-Ireland semi-final, we set ourselves the goal of going one step further. It is incredible to have achieved that. “The feeling in the dressing room after the semi-final was one of incredible joy. We had lady luck on our side that day. Na Piarsaigh really came back at us strongly in the end to force extra time. But we just had enough to win that day. “When going into a final you have to be quietly confident. However, we won’t be taking Coolderry lightly. They have beaten some good teams along the way. They also have a lot of big name players who have played in Croke Park before. “I don’t think I could put it into words what it would mean to win an AllIreland. Whenever I was asked as a child what my ambitions were, my answer would always be that I wanted to win an All-Ireland with my club. We’re one game away from achieving that.”

w e i v s ’ n i a t p a C Football

Name: John Gaffey

Name: Stephen Kernan

Club: Garrycastle

Club: Crossmaglen

Age: 28

Age: 29

Position: Full back

Position: Midfield

“We are delighted to be playing in an AllIreland Final. We were underdogs going into the semi-final against St Brigid’s and it was a huge relief to get through it. We played great football in that game and if we perform like that in the final we have a chance. “Our last two victories have done our confidence the world of good. We have been through a lot together and have had many ups and downs. But right now our confidence levels are probably the highest they have ever been. “But we are under no illusions on the task that we face. Crossmaglen are the kingpins of Ulster Football. We know that we are underdogs going in against a club of that quality. “We won’t dwell on what Crossmaglen plan to do. We will make sure our own game is in tiptop shape. At the end of the day it’s 15 men against 15 men and if we can perform to our best on the day then we have a chance.”

“Every year Crossmaglen’s main goal is to try to win the All-Ireland. Of course we have smaller individual goals that we want to achieve along the way, but the end goal is to win in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day. “We have watched videos of Garrycastle. They are a very impressive team and they have played very well recently. We didn’t perform well in the first 20 minutes against Dr Crokes in the semi-final. If we do that again on Saturday, we won’t beat Garrycastle. “Garrycastle may be playing in an AllIreland final for the first time but a lot of their players have intercounty experience with Westmeath. They won’t be worried about playing in Croke Park. “We didn’t perform in a manner we would have liked in the semi-final. Our concentration now is 100 per cent on our performance. What happens after the final whistle will take care of itself.”


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AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

r e t s a M s l l i k S The C olm Cooper might just be the greatest Gaelic footballer of all time. He is an icon. A star who’s picture is blu-tacked to thousands of walls across the country. He is to the GAA what Lionel Messi is to soccer – the master of all he surveys. Recently some lucky kids not only met the Gooch but also received a coaching lesson from the seventime All Star. Cooper along with other top GAA stars such as Paul Flynn, Brendan Cummins and JJ Delaney travelled to a club in each Provence giving skills sessions as part of the AIB Skills Challenge. Cooper says the AIB Skills Challenge was a great experience and something he really enjoyed. “It went really well,” says Cooper. “There was great enthusiasm from all of the kids. It’s a way for AIB to give back to the community and it ties in nicely with their sponsorship of the club championships.” Cooper simply loves working with kids and would relish an opportunity to do something similar in the future. “As players, we are under pressure every time we go out on the field,” says Cooper. “It was a nice alternative to just put on the boots and go out and play with the kids. It is just pure fun with them and I could just relax and enjoy it.” The skills challenge was not all plain sailing for Cooper however. The kids were treated to the novelty

Having worked with some of the GAA’s most talents youngsters, Colm Cooper is confident that the association’s future is bright, writes Mark Corcoran

of seeing Kerry’s finest struggling with a hurley. “I wouldn’t be known for being too good with the hurley,” jokes Cooper. “Brendan Cummins had a good laugh at me but it was something different and I enjoyed it.” When he is not playing Superman on the pitch, Cooper works as a Youth Ambassador with AIB. “I

travel to primary, secondary and third level education centres all over Ireland. I give talks about the importance of budgeting and saving and the products that AIB have on offer.” The Gooch played a pivotal role in helping his club Dr Crokes win the Munster Senior Club Football title. It is something that he is very proud of. “We had lost the Munster Final in 2010,” says Cooper. “The fact that we came back and won it (in December) showed great resilience in the team. In the All-Ireland semi-final, we came up short against an excellent Crossmaglen team. But we will regroup again. We won’t give up just yet.” While Cooper has enjoyed Dr Crokes’ run in the AIB GAA Club Championships, he is now looking forward to getting back into the swing of things with Kerry. On the opening day of the national league Kerry enjoyed an impressive victory over Dublin. Cooper admits it was difficult not being involved. “It’s hard watching games when you are used to being involved,” says Cooper. “Hopefully Kerry will be able to build up a bit of steam during the league. I think this year’s championship will be very open. It will make for an interesting championship.” At 28 Cooper is in his prime and he won’t be going away anytime soon. That might be bad news for corner-backs but it is great news for the kids who idolise him. Cooper is a talent that only comes along once in a blue moon. Enjoy him while you can kids.

Improve your game in three simple steps Kick with both feet

“It is vital to be able to kick with both feet,” says Cooper. “It might seem obvious but it is certainly true. When I was younger I was mostly left footed. But as soon as I developed my right foot, I became more comfortable and a better footballer.”

Hand pass with both hands

“The ability to hand pass with both hands can add another dimension to your game,” says Cooper. “Most of the kids that I have worked with have been very comfortable with their strong side but when you ask them to do a drill using their weaker hand it can take them a while to get used to it. If you can develop this skill you can go a long way.”

Enjoy yourself

“It is vital to enjoy yourself,” says Cooper. “When you are doing anything in life, be it sport or anything else, once you are enjoying it and have a bit of enthusiasm towards it you will invariably do well.”


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AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

e l t i t e h t g n i s a h C dan Cummins Tipperary hurling legend BrenIB GAA Hurling A shares his predictions for the final All-Ireland Club

“H

earing the final whistle and realising you’ve done it.” That’s the magic moment in an All- Ireland final for Brendan Cummins. The Tipperary goalkeeper won his first inter-county All- Ireland title in 2001 and went on to secure his second one nine years later in 2010. “Coming back to my club with the cup was a proud moment for me, so I can only imagine what it would be like to win an All-Ireland with your club,” affirms Cummins. “Playing in an All-Ireland Final is a massive occasion but to play with your club just magnifies everything.” On Saturday, Coolderry and Loughgiel Shamrocks will be given an opportunity to experience just what Cummins is speaking about when they battle it out to lift the Tommy Moore Cup in Croke Park. Whichever way it goes it will be a historic moment in club hurling. The last time Loughgiel Shamrocks played in the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Club Championship final

was 1983 and this will be the first time Coolderry get an opportunity to take the title. “So far the Hurling Championship has been unusual in that the so called powerhouses like Ballyhale Shamrocks and Portumna have not been there,” continues Cummins. “This year, clubs who would be seen as lesser lights have shone. Having Loughgiel and Coolderry in the final is a great example of what effective team work can achieve and gives encouragement to other clubs that it can be done.”

Under pressure

Cummins is anticipating a close game on Saturday with the decider coming down to how each team reacts under the pressure of the day. “Stage fright could prove a possible weakness for both teams. A lot of the players wouldn’t have major experience playing in Croke Park and all the hype which surrounds the occasion could get to them.”

The road to this year’s All-Ireland final has been filled with uncertainty and surprises and there is no doubt the final on St. Patrick’s Day will be exciting. But who will prove victorious? Still, both teams will bring blood, thunder and passion to the game. “Liam Watson is a huge strength on the Loughgiel side,” continues Cummins. “He has been unbelievable

especially in extra time in the Na Piarsaigh game. He really came to the fore and showed great leadership.” That being said, Coolderry have a good knack of getting goals which is very important in Croke Park. “In the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship semi-final Coolderry scored 3-16 in normal time which was great shooting. From that point of view, the wide open spaces at Croke Park will help.” The road to this year’s All-Ireland final has been filled with uncertainty and surprises and there is no doubt the final on St. Patrick’s Day will be exciting. But who will prove victorious? Brendan Cummins thinks that Coolderry have just enough to nudge Loughgiel Shamrocks on the day. “It’s going to be close but from the point of view that Ken Hogan, a Tipp man is in charge and he has done a fantastic job I am going to say Coolderry. They really have been very consistent throughout the championship.” You heard it here first!


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AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

m o r f s e t u n i m Sixty paradise W

hen Tomás Ó Flatharta thinks back to March 17th 1995 he can’t help but smile. It was an awful day. Hail pelted down from the heavens and gale force winds shook everything in sight. But the harsh weather did not stop Kilmacud Crokes from reaching the mountain’s summit. On that day the Stillorgan club accomplished something so few have – they won an All-Ireland title. Ó Flatharta was part of the Kilmacud Crokes panel that won their first All-Ireland title when they beat Bellaghy (Derry) by 0-8 to 0-5. Croke’s goalkeeper Mick Pender famously saved a Damian Cassidy penalty late in the game and the Stillorgan club held on for victory. “It was a great team to be involved with,” says Ó Flatharta. “There was a great spirit in the team and all of the lads got on very well. There was a great ethos in the team and everybody worked hard for each other. “The final was a great occasion for the players who had put in a huge effort throughout the year. Afterwards it was a very joyous dressing room.” In essence, this is what club football is all about. As a team you win together and you lose together. You share the highs and the lows. And you never stop working for each other. On Saturday, Crossmaglen Rangers and Garrycastle will compete in the AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Club final. Ó Flatharta is anticipating a close game between two teams who epitomise hard work and team spirit. “Both Crossmaglen and Garrycastle play a similar style of football,” says Ó Flatharta. “Neither team fill up their back line and both teams tend to kick the ball a lot. With the brand of football that both teams play I think it will be a very exciting game. I think it could be a classic.” Crossmaglen are no strangers to All-Ireland finals.

Tomás Ó Flatharta believes that this Saturday’s AIB GAA Football AllIreland Senior Club final will be a great contest and a close game, writes Mark Corcoran The Armagh side have been victorious on St Patrick’s Day five times in the last 15 years. They are the current champions and are looking to become the first team to retain the title since they did it in 2000. On the other hand Garrycastle will be participating in their first All-Ireland final on Saturday. Ó Flatharta acknowledges that Crossmaglen have a vast base of experience to draw from. However, he doesn’t think that the Armagh men will have everything their own way. “Garrycastle have earned the right to be full of belief and confidence,” says Ó Flatharta. “Nobody gave them a chance in the Leinster final or in the All-Ireland semi-final. They have worked very hard to get this far.” Ó Flatharta was the manager of the Westmeath team from 2005-2009. He has worked with many of the Garrycastle players and knows exactly what they are capable of.

“Garrycastle have a lot of leaders in their team,” says Ó Flatharta. “In Dessie Dolan they have one of the star forwards in the country. But they have a lot of players who stand up to be counted when it really matters. “Against St Brigid’s (Dublin) in the Leinster final, players like Seanie O’Donoghue, Gary Dolan and Conor Cosgrove all gave huge performances to help Garrycastle to win. In the semi-final against St Brigid’s (Roscommon), what they needed was somebody to stand up and show leadership. That’s exactly what David O’Shaughnessy, Patrick Mulvihill and James Dolan did.” Ó Flatharta knows that Garrycastle will have to be very wary of their northern opponents. “Crossmaglen have a number of quality players like Aaron Kernan, Jamie Clarke and Oisin McConville,” says Ó Flatharta. “If you look at that team overall, they are all workhorses. Crossmaglen don’t do panic. They don’t

let the referee or anything else bother them. They just focus on the game and their own performance. They just keep working until the very last minute. That’s the hallmark of their success.” While many people consider Crossmaglen to be favourites, Ó Flatharta believes that the underdogs tag could work in Garrycastle’s favour. “A lot of people think that Crossmaglen are going to win convincingly,” says Ó Flatharta. “I wouldn’t really go with that. I have seen Garrycastle play a lot over the last seven or eight years and I have never seen them play as well as they have in the last two games. They were brilliant in the Leinster final and even better in the All-Ireland semi-final. “No matter who wins on Saturday, I think it is going to be a fantastic occasion. It should be a great game and I believe that it will be a close contest.”


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AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

y t i n u m m o c g n i Ignit spirit AIB Skills Challenge Day is as much about the players as the supporters

A

sk any Irish person what the AIB GAA All-Ireland Club Championships represent to them and you will get the same response: ‘True Irish sport coupled with a real sense of community.’ Reaching the final be it at junior, intermediate or senior level is a source of pride for not only the players that take to the pitch but members of the community that support the players year in and year out. By way of acknowledging the dedication of those on and off the field AIB launched an initiative offering clubs who had won their county finals across both codes and at all levels the opportunity to celebrate their achievement. One club from each province was selected at random to host an AIB Skills Challenge Day. “Supporting clubs and communities has been at the heart of AIB’s sponsorship strategy for years, and the central aim of this activity is to give something back to the club, and its community,” says Billy Finn of AIB

Bank. “AIB want to celebrate the huge role the GAA club plays in its community and reward club members, supporters and the wider community for the great work they do. It is also an acknowledgement of the huge achievement and honour it is for a club to win its county final.”

AIB Skills Challenge Days

The first Skills Challenge Day took place on Saturday 14th January at Na Piarsaigh GAA Club Grounds, Limerick. The event was hosted by celebrated GAA stars Brendan Cummins, Paul Flynn, J.J. Delaney and Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper. “I know just how much winning the county championship means to a club and its members, and the wider support within the community,” says Cooper. “It’s great that clubs have a chance to host this day and thank their members and supporters for helping them get that far.”

Subsequent Skills Challenge Days took place in Ballyhaunis GAA Club, Mayo on the 21st January, in Castleblayney GAA Club, Monaghan on the 28th January and Portlaoise GAA Club, Laois on the 4th February.

The future of GAA

One thing that was evident from each of the AIB Skills Challenge Days was that the future of GAA was intact. At each of the AIB Skills Challenge Days Brendan Cummins, Paul Flynn, J.J. Delaney and Colm Cooper lead teams made up of members from the club’s underage panels through a series of interactive

and challenging hurling and football skills. The four GAA stars were impressed by the level of skill and enthusiasm of the young players. However, the highlight of the events had to be the real sense of support from all those in the community. Members of the community came out in their droves to celebrate with the players and took part in activities like interactive hurling and football games, face painting and spot prizes. For more information on the AIB Skills Challenge Days log on to AIB GAA Club is Family Facebook page or check out www.clubisfamily.ie


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AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship

Kids’ page

O’NEILLS

Did you know? m There are over 2,300 GAA clubs throughout Ireland and abroad

m While the GAA was founded in 1884, the

All-Ireland Club Championships did not begin until 1971

m The winners of the AIB GAA All-Ireland

Football Senior Club Championship will be awarded the Andy Merrigan Cup, while the winners of the AIB GAA All-Ireland Hurling Senior Club Championship will take home the Tommy Moore Cup

m Football finalists Crossmaglen Rangers of

Armagh hold the title of the most county titles after winning 38 in total – just one more than Monaghan’s Castleblaney

m Garrycastle were the first club from Westmeath to win the Leinster senior title and are hoping to be the first Westmeath team to win the All-Ireland

m Despite winning their first Offaly title in 1899

and winning 28 more since, only in 2011 did hurling finalists Coolderry win their first Leinster Championship

m Antrim’s Loughgiel Shamrocks are in the midst of a come-back since 2010 saw them win their first county title in 21 years

Colour the jersey in your local club’s colours Wordsearch

Find these words within the wordsearch Football, Hurling, Goal, Point, Tackle, Jersey, Player, Referee, Ball, Sliotar

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AIB GAA Club Finals