An Caisleán Glas Liathroid Láimhe (Greencastle HC) in Tyrone was one of the first two Clubs nationally to achieve Club Iontach Gold Status. We take an in depth look at the Club and it's history.
Can you tell us a little bit of background about your Handball Club?
An Caisleán Glas Liathroid Láimhe is a small rural club based at the foot of the Sperrin mountains an area of unspoilt beauty, was one of the last Irish speaking communities in Co. Tyrone. Gaelic Games is central to the local community and with a population of approximately 750 people, there is a unique close-knit spirit and sense of community.
Although the GAA club recently celebrated 50 years in continuous existence in November 2019 the handball club has been a relatively new addition officially opened in 1999 by Sean McCague (GAA President). This was a momentous occasion for An Caisleán Glas GAC as handball had been growing for a number of years within the parish due to the popularity within secondary education in the surrounding areas. Passionate young Gaels who had been participating at school’s level, like Enda Clarke, Emmett Clarke, Peter McCullagh and Fergal McCrory played an exhibition match at the opening.
It would be remiss not to recognise that a new development like this is only possible through the hard work and dedication of key committee members like Pat Clarke, Sean Clarke, Michael Warnock, Colum Devlin, Eugene McCullagh, Peter Tracey, Fr Ryder and Sean Clarke who strived to develop the opportunities for Gaels in the community to participate in handball. To these stalwarts of our club and those who came before them we are indebted.
After the official opening An Caisleán Glas started an internal winter league to keep-fit among the senior players at the time with Kevin McCullagh prevailing over Sean Teague in the inaugural final. In the years following the opening of the handball alley a more formal structure for coaching was introduced by Martin McCullagh and Gerard Murphy (Cranagh) in 2001. This foresight would be the initial roots for the club to grow and develop the skills and confidence of youth players, to enable them to compete with neighbouring well established clubs like Loughmacrory, Carrickmore and Breacach.
A structure for U8 - U16 players was setup in the club with Martin and Gerard spearheading internal leagues to help develop the youth players before entering into the Tyrone Handball Leagues. The club had representatives in the Tyrone Leagues each year from U8 to senior level with limited success until 2007 when An Caisleán Glas tasted their first county success with Daniel Tuohey and Christopher Gillen winning the Teamtalk Tyrone Under 13 Doubles competition and Niamh Murphy winning the Teamtalk Tyrone Under 16 Singles title.
With a change at the helm of coaching in the club at the end of 2007, Emmett Clarke who had been participating in the adult leagues took over for the 2008 season. Emmett focused on developing the structures already in place and this paid dividends with Dara McDermott winning the 2007 Teamtalk Tyrone U10B title. As An Caisleán Glas began to become more established thoughts turned to encouraging more girls into the game of handball and so a big push was done at both primary and post primary levels to engage more young girls to try the sport. This bore fruit in 2010 as Claire Tuohey done An Caisleán Glas proud when she claimed the U-13 Tyrone singles title. She then went on to represent Tyrone in the Ulster Championship’s U-13 doubles competition alongside Niamh Clarke of Brackey, convincingly defeating their Donegal opponents in the Final in Kingscourt, Cavan.
The club continued to strive to compete at all ages within the males and female Tyrone Leagues up until 2013 when the club eventually closed due. In November 2015, at An Caisleán Glas GAC Annual General Meeting, Darryl McCullagh was appointed the new Handball Officer for the club and one of the main objectives for the incoming year was to get handball up and running within the club again after a 2-year absence. With some minor renovation work to create a more welcoming environment, coaching began for both boys and girls ranging from Primary 1 to 3rd Year. With assistance from Christopher Gillen and Daniel Tuohey who had previously being involved as players with the club, coaching began in January 2016. In April 2016 as the handball started to gain support and grow steadily, the club had 40+ youth players registered and a recreational adult league with 12 players involved.
A discuss around developing the game in our community lead to the An Caisleán Glas investing in a One Wall facility at Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School. In early April 2016 Darryl McCullagh approached Noel McGinn (Principal) about the possibility of erecting a One Wall Court in the school which was well received and thanks to some hard-work by Plunkett Tuohey and Darryl McCullagh the new facility was built over the Easter break.
To further bolster this initial An Caisleán Glas Handball club received some funding from Fermanagh and Omagh District Council to purchase some new equipment and for coach education. This led to Darragh Daly delivering a magnificent Foundation course at An Caisleán Glas Handball Club for the teachers and coaches. This was the first step in a long-term plan to grow the game and the quality of coaching on offer.
In 2017 an influx of new members from the primary school meant that An Caisleán Glas Handball Club had 60+ youth players registered from U8 - U14 as well as recreational leagues for adults. As with previous years An Caisleán Glas Handball Club decided to run internal leagues for girls and boys across all age groups. This led to the formation of An Caisleán Glas Handball Club Internal Competition with over 30 children participating across a full weekend. On the County front although no real success in the County Leagues some of the players had really learned and benefitted from their experience and the taste of success was drawing closer.
In 2018 Kieran Tracey took over the leading role in the handball club and started to grow the game from strength to strength, by encouraging more players to start competing in the Tyrone County Leagues to broaden their horizons and develop their resilience. This experience started to show with success in the Tyrone County Leagues (Alice McGlinchey U10B Tyrone Handball League winner, Caislin Tracey U11A Tyrone Handball League Runner-up, Sorcha Hughes U11B Tyrone League Handball Winner and Caislin Tracey and Sorcha Hughes U12 Tyrone Doubles County Champions) and other competitions like the Lough Wallball Showdown. (Alice McGlinchey U10B Lough Wallball Champion, Caislin Tracey U11B Lough Wallball Champion and Conor Haughey & Tarlach Tracey U10B Lough Wallball Doubles Runners Up) and Mount Talbot (Caislin Tracey U12 Silver Competition Winner Mount Talbot, Co. Roscommon and Tarlach Tracey U10 Competition Runner-up Mount Talbot, Co. Roscommon). Similar to 2017, An Caisleán Glas Handball Clubs Internal Competition was run for all players within the club with 52 entering the juvenile and 12 entering the senior competition.
Building upon the success of 2018 An Caisleán Glas Handball Club decided that some renovations were required to reinvigorate and improve the Handball Alley to be able to host some of the major competitions like the Junior Nationals which were being hosted by Tyrone in 2019. Work got underway in January 2019 removing the viewing area to allow for a greater capacity of seating area, as well as replacing the floor, heating and ventilation. This was only made possible through the hard-work of the local community in volunteering their time and expertise. As a result of this An Caisleán Glas Handball Club were delighted to be able to host an exhibition match for the reopening of the alley between two of the games top stars in Sean Kerr (Tyrone) and Michael Mulkerrins (Galway). This was an exhilarating contest and a wonderful event for the youth of the club to aspire too.
Building on this An Caisleán Glas Handball Club then hosted part of the Irish Junior National Competition with players from across Ireland visiting the club as well as Joe Masterson (Handball President). This was a first for the club and we hope to build upon this for the future.
Like 2018, success was starting to grow in the club across 2019 with Tyrone League and provincial success (Grace Teague Under 10A County Handball Champion, Sean McGlinchey Under 10C County Handball Champion, Alice McGlinchey Under 11B County Handball Champion, Caislin Tracey Under 11A County Handball Runner-up, Shane Morris U11B County Handball Champion, Niamh Conway U12B County Handball Champion, Eoghan Conway U12B County Handball Champion, Niamh conway Under 12B County Handball Champion and Caislín Tracey U13 Handball Ulster Doubles Champion). This was also starting to shine through on the school’s front with Caislin Tracey winning the U13 Ulster Handball title (Cumann na mBunscoil). Similar to 2018, the Tracey siblings entered Mount Talbot with Caislin winning the U12 Handball Girls competition and Tarlach was runner-up in the U10 Handball competition. To build on this we had numerous entries at the Lough Wallball Showdown with Caislín Tracey winning the U13 Girls,Tarlach Tracey coming runner-up in the U11 Boys and Alice McGlinchey coming runner-up in the U11 Girls.
Although a very successful year for the club having only been reopened 3 years this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the parents to drive players to the weekly competitions and weekly training, the commitment and passion shown by all the players to constantly push and develop themselves and their peers, and finally the coaches who sacrificed their time and effort to ensure the players had the best opportunity to grow and develop in a positive and healthy environment.
An Caisleán Glas Handball Club were honoured to be shortlisted for Club of the Year at the GAA Handball All-Stars in November 2019.
As we entered into the 2020 season the focus was to encourage more adult players to participate in the game, to be role models for the youth, benefit their health and well-being while representing the club in County Leagues.
January seen the start of the Tyrone juvenile championships with An Caisleán Glas Handball Club hosting a range of age groups across boys and girls with all players competing to a very high standard. With growing success in 2019, expectation was high in 2020 and this didn’t disappoint with Mia Coyle contesting the U10B title, Grace Teague and Emma Conway contesting the final of the U10A league and championship finals, Shea McAleer contesting the U10B final, Tarlach Tracey missing out on the U11A title in a tightly contested tie-breaker, Shane Morris contesting the U12A semi-final and Mícheál Meenan winning the U12B final, Sean Óg Teague and Eoghain Conway contesting the U13B final, Niamh Conway winning the U13A league and championship finals, Mickey-Joe McGlinchey reaching the U14B final, and the hotly awaited U14 ladies final where Caislin Tracey missed out by a point in the tie-breaker. An Caisleán Glas also tasted their first adult success at a County level with Darryl McCullagh winning the Division 4 title.
An Caisleán Glas Handball Club were also well represented at the annual She’s Ace tournament with Niamh Conway and Caislin Tracy travelling to Mayo to participate in a fantastic opportunity. The mother and daughter duo of Caislin and Ursula Tracey showed great character and determination winning the plate competition, again a first for the club.
On the provincial level An Caisleán Glas Handball Club were truly honoured and proud to have 5 club players representing Tyrone in the provincials. Niamh Conway in the U13 girls singles who lost out to Clara Laverty, Alice McGlinchey in the U12 girls doubles with Karla Corcoran (Killyclogher) who defeated Cavan in the Ulster Final, Tarlach Tracey and Ben Mc Garvey (Breacach) in the U12 boys who defeated Monaghan in the Ulster Final, Caislin Tracy in the U14 girls singles who travelled to Monaghan to claim her Ulster title defeating Niamh McIIwaine from Monaghan and John McGlinchey in the U16 boys who partnered Conor Fox (Loughmacrory) missing out against a strong Cavan duo.
This is not the only success Tarlach Tracey had in 2020 as he represented Ulster in the U11 All-Ireland Cumann na Bunscoil Day, winning all his games on the day which was held in Kingscourt in March.
Unfortunately, in mid-March the world was hit by the Covid-19 virus and this suspended formal training and games across the board. Although the children couldn’t come to the club, coaches and committee set about designing a 4-week skills challenge for the players and parents to attempt at home. This was extremely successful. During this time the club committee did not falter and decided this was the prime opportunity to develop the structures and procedures within the club undertaking some maintenance of facilities, updating the club policies in line with Club Iontach, coach and committee education through the GAA Learning portal (referee education, safeguarding etc). Committee members and coaches also availed of the 8-week GAA Handball webinar series looking at various elements like coaching, social media, safeguarding, finances etc.
What would you consider as some of the Strengths of your Club?
An Caisleán Glas Handball Club is no different than any other Handball across the country and even further afield. A club built on the passionate and dedication to the game, evident in the amount of thankless time and effort given without ever wanting anything in return. As I previously mentioned, Greencastle is a small parish with limited membership. This enables the club to treat all our Gaels like family as we develop relationships inside and outside of the club from very early on, which creates a positive affinity and sense of belonging unique to Greencastle GAC.
Although a small rural club with approximately membership has grown in the past year by 44%, due to the immense effort of committed coaches and committee. Currently we have 70+ youth memberships and approximately 20 adult memberships. To cater for this growing demand coaching sessions are back to back every evening to accommodate large interest from juvenile and adult players. Even with the hectic schedule of coaching in place we are finding we don’t have enough room or time to accommodate everyone who would want to play especially players from surrounding parishes. With an eye on the future the club committee are already planning ahead, where the future will hopefully include a new outdoor wall, a second 40 x 20 court, additional trained coaches and more.
Striving to progress constantly as a club growing membership, developing new facilities, building on coach education only possible through putting the correct structures and protocols in place. We are proud to acknowledge that most of our coaches and parents assisting with coaching had very little or no knowledge of the game to begin with and were doing a great job in coaching and developing our youth, while developing their coaching skills through engagement with GAA Handballs Coach Education. This shows that you don't have to have previously played or know everything about handball in order to coach it, you just need the will to make a difference.
An Caisleán Glas as a GAA community have a strong sense of pride to ensure a positive experience for everyone visiting the club across all our codes. We believe that this approach allows the club to build strong relationships with partner clubs to share expertise and resources to benefit all our clubs and communities. This is particularly evident with Loughmacrory and Killyclogher Handball Clubs who provide access to their one wall facilities for our players to practice, and to Breacach, Carrickmore and Pomeroy who help us facilitate practice matches across clubs so players get experience of playing in varied environments.
The largest strength that any club can have is the people within it and An Caisleán Glas Handball Club have a strong community, which supports the club though time, money and expertise. The support of coaches, parents and volunteers is why the club is going from strength to strength.
Why did your club decide to do Club Iontach?
An Caisleán Glas Handball Club had been growing continuously since reopening its doors in 2016 with the key focus on providing opportunity for players to participate. In 2019 with the club having upwards on 80+ members across juvenile and adult games, new structures and procedures had to be implemented to cope with the ever-growing demand. The Club needed to look at putting the correct structures and protocols in place early to allow the club to grow and develop standards of good practice and excellence across the board (striving to be the best). When Club Iontach was launched in late 2019 this provided the perfect opportunity to benchmark our club against GAA Handball’s new quality standards, devised to help clubs to achieve minimum operating standards in core areas and aimed at improving all aspects of club development.
Alongside this with new club development plans in progress of expanding our facilities, the club needed to raise the bar with regards the necessary standards to be competitive when applying for potential capital funding to help see new expansion to fruition.
What have been some of the benefits of The Club Iontach process for your Club?
An Caisleán Glas continuously endeavour to create positive and enjoyable sporting experiences in a safe and supportive environment and Club Iontach allowed for reflection on currently practices around coach education, coaching ratio’s, appropriate competitiveness for each individual and while protecting everyone involved.
The process has also helped engagement with parents, players, coaches and committee as consultation with each group has informed the future direction and provided an opportunity to educate all members on:
● Future club’s aim’s and objectives
● Education around coaching structures for parents and coaches (better communication)
● Allowed parents to provide invaluable feedback
● Provided players with the opportunity to feedback on current practices and future direction
Club Iontach has also helped with planning for the future, as it allowed the club to critically evaluate its current standing and improve the club's overall sustainability and effectiveness. This has been achieved through the development of fantastic links with GAA Handball (Darragh Daly, Austin McKenna, Pauric Dowdall to name a few) and being able to tap into their expertise and wider links they have to share good practice.
This process has also helped our An Caisleán Glas Handball Club reflect on its rich history and built up a portfolio of information, from the clubs initial conception to the present day which will be useful moving forward to mark key celebrations and remember key persons who contributed across the decades.
How did your club find the accreditation process of Club Iontach?
As previously mentioned the structures put in place by GAA Handball through the online portal were invaluable in making the process simple. Although spearheaded by Darryl McCullagh, we urge all clubs to consult with people past and present to help with this process. Overall this process took approximately 4 months due to the templates and guidance provided on the Club Iontach portal, which were fantastic resources and starting points to develop the necessary evidence.
Uploading was simple (although some small technique issues with the portal to begin with), but Pauric Dowdall was on the ball to help rectify any issues.
Was it left to one person or was a small sub-committee set up to work on Club Iontach?
Darryl McCullagh took the lead on this initiative as he had experience of the Club Maith Accreditation process for An Caisleán Glas GAC which made the process easier, but in the case if there isn’t the same experience a sub-committee would be very beneficial to share the workload.
What advice would you give to other clubs who are thinking about starting out on their own Club Iontach journey?
- Remember this process is a marathon not a sprint. Sometimes it’s better to take your time and really use this as an opportunity to evaluate your current club structures.
- Try and reach out to people who have been involved in the past as well as the present as they will be invaluable for parts of the accreditation.
- If you aren’t very computer literate then be smart and reach out for help from other members of the community and were possible share the workload across the committee/sub-committee.
- Lastly reach out to GAA Handball for help as they will be happy to provide you with a listening ear and friendly advice.
If anyone in your area is interested in joining your club, how can they contact you?
Twitter - @greencastleGAA
Facebook - @greencastleagussperrinogGAA
Chairperson - Darryl McCullagh (Tel: +447979378732 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Secretary - Martin Haughey (Tel: +447977901103 | Email: email@example.com)