Father Alex Reid Festival of Hurling a resounding success
A weekend of celebration in West Belfast to commemorate the life of Father Alex Reid and showcase hurling at its finest was a resounding success.
2016 All-Ireland hurling champions Tipperary travelled to Belfast for the weekend and really captured the imagination of locals.
Fr. Reid, who played a pivotal process in the peace process, was a Tipperary hurler in his youth and won an All-Ireland minor hurling medal with the Premier County in 1949.
On Saturday the Tipperary players trained at the Woodlands pitches as a curtain-raiser for a special Cumann na mBunscoil Belfast v North Antrim Primary 7s game of hurling at which the perpetual Fr. Alex Reid Trophy was presented.
Then, on Sunday, Michael Ryan's team attended a special mass at Clonard Monastery where a specially commissioned plaque celebrating the life of Fr. Alex Reid was presented to Clonard Redemptorist order.
Afterwards, Tipperary and Antrim faced off in a hotly contested challenge match at a packed Corrigan park that really ended the weekend on a fitting high.
Tipp manager Michael Ryan said everyone in the travelling party had been bowled over by the enthusiastic welcome provided by their hosts.
“We really enjoyed it,” said Ryan.
“We were at the function yesterday (Saturday) evening in Culturlann and it was eye-opening for us.
“We were obviously aware of Fr Alex Reid but the extent to which he impacted society up here was revealing.
“And it was great to be a part of that. We were honoured to come up and participate.
"I think it’s really great for our young fellas to realise a Nenagh native came up here and worked so hard for everyone in society. I just think it’s a great story.”
Tipperary eventually defeated Antrim by 4-19 to 2-15, but they were made to work very hard for the win and the sense of occasion was enhanced by the fact it was a seriously competitive game of hurling.
"We were trailing here by six points at half-time,” said Ryan. “We took it very seriously. If you were listening at our dressing-room door at half-time you would have heard a few expletives about the way we were playing.”
Tipperary were much improved in the second-half but the real winners in the end were the hurling fans in attendance who were treated to a great spectacle.
"It was a fantastic festival weekend for Antrim Gaels who got to experience first-hand the All-Ireland champions in Belfast and in the process celebrated the life and work of Father Alex Reid," said Antrim County Board PRO, Sean Kelly.
"We would like to thank the Tipperary players management and county board for what was truly an unforgettable weekend for Antrim."