Ballycastle juvenile players use the newly installed automatic hand-sanitiser dispenser at their grounds.
Ballycastle juvenile players use the newly installed automatic hand-sanitiser dispenser at their grounds. 

Ballycastle players are beaming to be back

By John Harrington

The sun is shining in the picturesque village of Ballycastle on the north Antrim coast and all feels well with the world.

McQuillan GAC Ballycastle Club Secretary, Dessie Donnelly, is overseeing the work as a two tractors set about scarifying the pitch to get it in the best nick possible for the senior hurling and camogie players who return to action this evening for the first time since restrictions on team training were lifted in Northern Ireland.

The juveniles already had their first run out yesterday, and for everyone involved in the club it did the heart a lot of good to see them back in action.

“It was great to be back,” Donnelly told “As our groundsman said to me a couple of weeks ago when we were talking about getting back to action in April, he said it'll be like letting newborn calves out into a field.

“And he wasn't wrong either, it turned out to be a fair comment!

“It was just fantastic for the kids to get back and it’s given everyone around the place a lift.

“The weather was so good last night, the sun was shining, it was just perfect conditions for a training session. Everyone in the club has a smile on their face again.

“The kids were delighted to get back out to hit a ball and meet their friends."

Similar scenes were played out in clubs all across the six counties yesterday evening as once again GAA pitches echoed with the sound of children at play for the first time in what felt far too long.

The mood change has been instant as conversations turn from dwelling on a depressing present to a more optimistic future.

Ballycastle have a talented senior camogie team and a senior hurling team that should benefit from an influx of very promising U-20 players, so it’s easy to be optimistic about the season to come.

“It's like everything, you live in hope that you might have a bit of success,"says Donnelly, who starred on the Antrim team that contested the 1989 All-Ireland SHC Final. "But ,whatever may come, everyone is just looking forward to it,”

“The numbers we had tuning in for the various zoom classes that were run for our teams were actually exceptional. To be quite honest though, I think we're all zoomed out at this stage, so hopefully it'll now be a thing of the past.

"The senior hurlers and senior Camógs are in the field tonight so it'll be interesting to see what sort of shape they'll be in, some of them might have wintered well!

“Thought after seeing some of them about about I'm surprised how well they're all looking all things considered. The real test will come though when they get out on that grass!”