May 7, 2021

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What took you so long?: Belfast woman Heather Wilson receives flurry of responses after GAA query

A north Belfast woman from a unionist background has received a flurry of responses after expressing an interest in joining a GAA club.

eather Wilson stood as the SDLP’s first female candidate from a unionist background in 2019 and now works as a housing policy and engagement officer for the Chartered Institute of Housing.

On Tuesday, she expressed an interest on Twitter in whether a woman could “just rock up” to a GAA club to try their hand at football or camogie.

“Could a gal (hypothetically speaking) just rock up to a GAA club having no clue of the rules or whether the ball was blown up or stuffed to have a go at it?” she said.

GAA clubs around Northern Ireland have now replied saying they would welcome any prospective players to join them to have a go on whatever basis.

SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh Justin McNulty was another who replied.

“Heather you’d get one hundred thousand welcomes in any GAA club and you’ll have great fun and craic whilst learning the game and keeping fit and you will build bonds for life,” he said.

“The only question you’ll be asking is, what took you so long!”

St Paul’s GAC in Holywood replied to Ms Wilson: “Come on down on Thursday night and join our Gaelic for Mothers and Others,” they said.

“No experience required and the craic is 90.”

Bronagh Whittaker agreed: “I’d never played Gaelic before I joined St Paul’s. It’s been a great experience. I’m not very coordinated (to say the least!) but I’ve even managed to play in a few matches. Our team is made up of women of a range of ages and abilities. They are super welcoming to all newcomers.”

Joe O’Carroll said in response to Ms Wilson she would “absolutely” find a club to suit her.

“Depending on the size of the club, there is usually a standard for everyone. Many clubs now have “GAA for Mothers & Others” or “GAA for MAAs” for adult women more interested in fitness & craic (until they turn into competitive Cora Stauntons after the first friendly!),” he said.

Kieran Burke had a suggestion for Ms Wilson once she gets comfortable with Gaelic football. “Once you’re OK with the football, you can progress to a real game – hurling.”

Emer Hinphey said Ms Wilson would be “most welcome” at her club. “Bredagh GAC have football and camogie for retired players/those who just want to enjoy the games – no experience needed,” she said.

Emeralds Camogie in Brisbane also replied: “We have an established club here in Brisbane and have a fantastic mix of culture and skill. And we have won championships with a skill mix. It’s about community first, worry about medals after.”

Another Tweeter expressed her doubts. “I would say East Belfast GAA Club would be that kinda place but no other GAA club (unless it’s for the GAA for mums thing and then it’d be ok),” she said.

“I am not from a GAA family so my impression is that you’re only accepted if you are three generations in the club!”

Belfast Telegraph