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International dimension to hurling festival

HURLERS from New York, San Francisco and across Britain will puc out in South Galway next month as part of the International Hurling Festival.

The festival takes place across Galway from September 18 to September 21. Selections from New York, San Francisco, Kilburn Gaels and Rest of Britain will play their games in Gort and Beagh.

While the influx of teams will undoubtedly bring a much-needed economic boost, the teams will stay in the Clayton Hotel on the outskirts of Galway City.

“We would have loved to have hosted them here in Gort but organisers wanted all the teams accommodated together and we just didn’t have the capacity here in Gort. We are hoping though that family members and friends of the lads on the teams will come along to support them and they can stay in the B&Bs and hotels here in Gort because there are a number of other events taking place around the games,” one of the South Galway organisers commented.

“We are holding a lot of events around the matches to promote Gort and South Galway and what we have in the area from a tourism and heritage point of view,” he added.

“We are looking at four clubs playing their games in South Galway. These guys are coming from across the United States and Britain but many of them are Irish and are living away from home. Some of them might not have been home recently and this is a great chance for their families and friends across Ireland to come and see them and support them.

“We are hoping that the local pubs and shops will come on board and offer discounts on various goods and services over the weekend and that will certainly promote the town,” he continued.

The festival begins on Wednesday, September 18 when the teams arrive for warm-up sessions at Gort and Kilbeacanty GAA pitches. This will be followed by a welcome ceremony and Irish cultural event with local traditional music and dance at the Lady Gregory Hotel.

The following day sees the first round of games taking place, with San Francisco taking on a Rest of Britain selection at Gort GAA pitch. Over the road in Kilbeacanty, New York will face Kilburn Gaels.

The festival’s opening ceremony takes place in Loughrea that night, with local businesses encouraged to adopt a team and decorate their premises in the appropriate colours.

On Friday, September 20, the second-round games take place in the early afternoon, with the American pairing of San Francisco and New York playing in Gort, while the British teams will compete in Kilbeacanty.

Later that day, the Round 3 games will see San Francisco take on London’s Kilburn Gaels in Gort, while in Kilbeacanty the Rest of Britain team will play New York.

“The games are being held in Gort and Kilbeacanty pitches but we really want to get other South Galway clubs involve. This is not just about Gort, this is about all of South Galway,” he said.

While all of the teams will be welcomed to South Galway, for members of one club this will be a homecoming.

“When we were approached by organisers of the festival, we came back in force. There was a really positive reaction from the club here. Then there was an open draw to assign clubs to different groups and decide where the clubs would be based.

“We got Kilburn Gaels and we are really delighted with that because Gort and this area have a good few links with the club. A few lads from here actually play with Kilburn so that will make it all the more interesting and enjoyable,” the spokesperson stated.

There will also be a mini-juvenile blitz for Kilburn Gaels and local teams, including a special training session with a selection of Galway senior hurlers.

That night, proceedings in South Galway draw to a close with a farewell ceremony in O’Grady’s Pub and the Square.

“We want to see the South Galway and North Clare clubs coming together with the travelling teams to make this a real social event. We will have a barbecue and marquee and we will be showcasing local interests and tourism and all that. I think the Friday night will be a real highlight,” he said.

This is the first year of the International Hurling Festival. It brings the best hurlers from the USA, South America, Canada, the UK, Continental Europe, the Middle East and Australia to Galway for the three-day festival.

The tournament will feature 16 teams competing in four groups of four, with the eventual winners crowned in Galway’s Pearse Stadium. Teams and matches will also be hosted in Loughrea, Ballinasloe and Galway West.

After the qualifying rounds, the semi-finals and finals will take place in Pearse Stadium on Saturday, September 21.

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