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Friends Benais Vaskys and Jacob Todd having fun at the Clare GAA Autism Activity Cul Camp in Cusack Park. Photograph by John Kelly

Young All-Stars get their turn on the Cusack Park stage

NEW YOUNG GAA All-Stars will show they are a match for the best when they showcase their skills on the biggest day in the Clare football calendar.

Two groups of children with additional needs from Corofin and Éire Óg will demonstrate what skills they have learned and the fun they derive from participating in Gaelic Games before the Clare senior football decider in Cusack Park this Sunday.

This initiative was the brainchild of Adrian Beakey from Corofin All-Stars who asked Clare sports inclusion disability officer, James Murrihy last May, if he could organise a slot for their group to play in Cusack Park before one of the county finals.

While most teams have to win a championship in their county grounds before they can even dream of playing in Croke Park, Corofin All-Stars played in the GAA’s national hallowed stadium off Jones’ Road on August 22 last before their Cusack Park debut.

Having secured a new kit of Corofin jerseys, socks and togs, Adrian is delighted children from both clubs, ranging in age from five to 12, will get a chance to play in Cusack Park.

He expects the children will really enjoy displaying their hand passing, kicking and catching skills in a series of drills before the eagerly-awaited senior football decider between Ennistymon and Éire Óg.

“Playing in Cusack Park will hopefully show representatives from clubs throughout the county what can be done with these children.

“I completely underestimated these children before we started the inclusive training camps. Some of the children are fantastic. I am shocked at how quickly they are able to learn and perform the necessary skills.”

Over the last two summers, Clare Sports Partnership in conjunction with Clare GAA have run an Autism Activity Cúl Camp in Cusack Park for children on the ASD spectrum.

In 2021, 45 children took part in the inaugural camp while 60 children took part this year. While the children get to experience both football and hurling at the camp, the activities are designed to make sure the children have a fun and enjoyable experience.

These camps could not have happened without the 18 experienced coaches from Clare GAA together with another 30 volunteers that support the camp during the week.

Following the success of the Camp in 2021, Corofin GAA set up an All-Stars Inclusive Section in their club. In March this year Éire Óg followed suit, while as recently as September, Newmarket on Fergus GAA began a pilot programme within their club.

The GAA All-Stars cater for children with additional needs of all disabilities in their local community. The aim of the All-Stars is to provide an opportunity for all children to be part of the local GAA community; to participate in sport; to socialise with others and to have fun. All children are supported by their club coaches and volunteers.

Following the GAA Autism Summer Camp, Mr Murrihy recalled the Clare Sports Partnership wanted to build on the example set by Tulla and Derg AC by using this template for a similar programme in Corofin GAA club.

“An inclusive programme will only work if there is a drive and participation from volunteers within the club. It is also important to set up a sustainability plan with the help of the CSP to ensure it doesn’t end after six weeks. CSP can provide training and education for volunteers as well as advising them about grants for equipment,” he said.

Corofin GAA, Éire Óg GAA and Newmarket GAA are part of a growing number of All -Stars inclusive teams in Clare and the Clare Sports Partnership would encourage all clubs around the county to get involved and get a team going in their club.

For more information on how to set up an inclusive section in any club contact james@claresports.ie / 087-967696. If you wish to join Corofin All-Stars or Éire Óg All-Stars, contact the following: Corofin All-Stars meet on a Sunday morning. They can be contacted on corofinallstars@gmail.com. To contact Éire Óg All-Stars, who meet on a Tuesday evening email eireoginishealthofficer@yahoo.com

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