10th anniversary All Britain Competition will be the biggest yet
By John Harrington
The impressive growth of Gaelic games in Britain will be showcased by the biggest ever All Britain Competition which will be held in the club grounds of Tir Chonaill Gaels in Greenford, London, from September 8 to 11.
The ABC is a four-day festival of Gaelic games for young players from GAA clubs and schools across Britain aged from U-7 to U-17.
This year is the tenth anniversary of the ABC and year on year the competition has steadily gotten bigger and better.
In 2021, 2,183 children and 216 teams took part. Stephen Lavery, Britain GAA’s Head of Games Development and Operations, expects those numbers to be comfortably surpassed this year.
“We're not going to be far off 3,000 kids taking part over the course of the four days with around 70 volunteers running the event,” he told GAA.ie.
“The schools are back in this year, because of Covid they couldn't take part last year.
“All the club numbers are up as well, we're going to have more than 50 more club teams this year than we did last year. It's unreal, and very encouraging for everyone involved.
“There has been constant growth and the clubs deserve credit for what they're doing.
“The GDAs over here do a lot of good work in the schools and clubs and a lot of the growth now is down to word of mouth and parents chatting to each other. We’re casting the net wider and wider all the time
“Every county in Britain is represented this year. You have teams coming from Scotland, from Glasgow and Edinburgh, you've got Yorkshire, Lancashire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, and Hertfordshire, two cross-community teams from Ulster, so they're coming from everywhere.”
The impact of the considerable coaching and games development work that has gone into growing the base of Gaelic games in Britain is now becoming more and more apparent.
Where senior club teams once relied heavily on Irish migrants, now more and more of them are benefiting from an influx of native-born players who have come through the underage structures.
“An awful lot of players who came through the ABCs are now playing adult,” says Lavery.
“You only need to look at the homegrown London and Warwickshire teams that were over in Ireland a couple of weeks ago playing against Kilkenny and New York. The majority of those players would have played in the ABCs over the years.
“More and more players are coming through every year off the back of events like this and the buzz is amazing.
“Even when the kids are arriving and coming in to register and are kicking balls around, there's just a great buzz around.
“Once the games kick in, there's just a great energy and we're just so proud we can have an event like this for everyone who participates.”