In international rules and shinty you can get to represent Ireland in Gaelic games. Now there is a third way with the advent of International Wheelchair Hurling, or at least an Irish team in the similarly based international sport of Floorball.
As part of the ‘Belong’ sense of values that the GAA more formally adopted earlier this year, there is a greater emphasis on GAA For All and a greater sense of the importance of diversity of opportunity.
The announcement of an Ireland team made up of wheelchair hurlers and representing Ireland in Floorball at the 2019 European Para Games in the Netherlands later this month is the latest manifestation of that.
The 12-man panel is made up of three wheelchair all-star hurlers from each of the four provinces and is a further development on the interprovincial series that is the mainstay of the programme.
Wheelchair hurling was first ‘invented’ in the residential school for children with disabilities attached to St Mary’s Hospital in Baldoyle in Dublin. Teacher Tim Maher saw that the children were playing a game with tennis rackets and footballs and decided to substitute the rackets with 24″ hurls.
Now we have an international team.
The development to this point was led by Ulster GAA who having secured funding from the Stormont Assembly created a short video on YouTube.
This was seen by the organisers of the Para Games and contact was made. Permission was sought and given from the Irish Floorball Association and the team was formed.
It has been backed by Martin Donnelly, a long time supporter of the GAA and his backing has set aside the cost of bringing the equipment needed out to the Netherlands as well as the team.
The team will wear Myclubshop.ie branded shirts.
Ryanair has been very supportive in terms of the logistics and while the team will travel more in hope than confidence the fact that they are travelling at all is a wonderful statement on behalf of the GAA and Irish sport.
Floorball is a game that is being considered for addition to the list of sports in the Paralympic Games though no formal contact has yet been established between the GAA and Paralympics Ireland.
As well as representing Ireland in the Floorball international tournament, the GAA team will also host a wheelchair hurling demonstration during their stay.
“Thanks to the work of the GAA For All committee there is a programme in place to make our games as inclusive as possible,” said GAA President John Horan yesterday.
“Wheelchair hurling is a skillful game that lives up to the motto of the GAA being a place Where We All Belong and is really going from strength to strength.”
“Through this invitation to play in Breda we have a chance to acknowledge some of our very best players with the opportunity to not only compete at a very high level but to represent their country in doing so.”
Learn more about Wheelchair Hurling and the work of the major sporting bodies in developing programmes that have a strong sense of ‘Social Good’ at the 2019 Sport for Business Sport for Social Good Conference at Ulster University on Thursday July 18th as part of celebrations around the 148th Open Championship.