CARRYDUFF is one of the fastest growing GAA clubs in Ireland and now has 900 playing members from pre-school to senior level and coaches from all over the world.
The county Down club won the ‘Underage Initiative of the Year’ category at the Irish News Club, School and Volunteer awards because of their visionary, all-inclusive strategy which has united people from a wide variety of backgrounds and faiths under the Carryduff GAC banner.
Andy Moohan has been involved with Carryduff for 20 years now but, like so many other adults in the community, he grew up elsewhere. Moohan is originally from Ederney in county Fermanagh and followed a familiar path to the south Belfast club.
“I did the classic Carryduff thing which is you go to university and you never go home,” he explained.
“I came up and started to play for Carryduff and then I started to coach and then, when the kids came along, I went down the levels and I’ve started to coach at underage now.
“Carryduff has a big population, there’s a lot of people like me who have moved up and have no connection with the place and so the thing we tried to do with this strategy was to get the sense of community.
“What we’re trying to do is create this community of people and how we do that is get the kids involved and also get the parents involved. There are a lot of parents who don’t know the area and are first generation GAA people and so we’re trying to teach them about GAA and also infuse a sense of wanting to be from Carryduff.
“We’re saying: ‘Carryduff is a place, an important place, it’s where we and our children are going to spend our lives’. It’s a wee community, a wee town and we’re doing our bit in the GAA club to build on that so we’ve gone out to all the schools and that’s why we’ve got the big numbers coming in now.
“Everybody seems to enjoy it, we’re teaching kids the fundamental skills and giving them a good grounding in physical activity for any sport.”
Moohan and his colleagues designed a developmental template for running the club’s ‘nursery’ intake which now numbers 200 kids from pre-school to P2. Graduates of their underage system include emerging Down senior stars Daniel and James Guinness and Owen McCabe.
“When those lads started we had 60 at that level and we thought that was a big number but now we have 200 and we had to come up with a new template for bringing in young players and parents,” Moohan explained.
“We have great potential within the area and, if we do things right, Carryduff could become a force within Down football and you can see that with the representatives on the Down squad and the fact that we’re going well in Division Two.
“We want people to have that sense of community so they keep coming back.”
When Andy first joined Carryduff in 1999 there was no ladies’ football or hurling and there were seven teams in total at the club. Now there are 34.
“We give good quality coaching of the fundamental skills such as balance, throwing, catching, running,” he explained.
“Then we set up a structure of how to run it including how we set up the pitches, what equipment we need and then we invite the parents to come down every Tuesday.
“We have 80 parents involved now coaching the kids and they’re from every county in Ulster, all the provinces of Ireland, France, Spain, eastern Europe, India, Pakistan, New Zealand…
“They come to us and say: ‘We don’t know anything about GAA’ and we say ‘That’s fine we can tell you about Gaelic, get involved’.”