KIERAN McCARTHY looks at the growing success story of the popular summer camp
AS Buff Egan might say, hail, hail!
In the last few weeks the social media phenomenon that is Buff Egan has turned up at a few local Cúl Camps across West Cork, St Colum’s being the latest last Friday and before that he was spotted in Newcestown.
Snapchat sensation Buff met kids at the camps, stood in for photos and created even more memories for those youngsters taking part.
At Newcestown, even Cork hurler Michael Cahalane and Rebel footballer Sean Powter stood in for a photo with Egan. Or was it the other way around?
Buff has a growing following on social media – his live Snapchat match reports raising his profile – but even he will struggle to match the popularity of the GAA’s Cúl Camp programme.
It’s easy to bash the GAA at times with some of the decisions that are made but they’ve struck gold with the Cúl Camps (week-long camp, Monday to Friday, 10am-2.30pm, in football or hurling for six to 13 year olds) that continue to grow in size and popularity. The evidence from West Cork this summer backs that up.
The attendance numbers are quite staggering.
Bandon GAA Club’s Cúl Camp was their biggest yet – and the biggest in West Cork – with 269 kids taking part in their week-long event, with camp co-ordinator Mark Sugrue and 22 coaches making it the success it was.
Sam Maguires catered for 250 kids, up a massive 100 on last year, and Castlehaven (240) and St Colum’s (220) weren’t far behind, with Clonakilty (190), O’Donovan Rossa (175), Barryroe (160) and Carbery Rangers (158) all catering for big numbers, too.
Clann na nGael had 40 more participants this year (117) compared to last year, St James’ camp looked after 73 kids in only its second year, Diarmuid Ó Mathunas’ numbers were up (120) and right across Carbery local clubs pulled out all the stops to make this summer’s Cúl Camps the best yet. And that’s why Carbery-Beara GDA James McCarthy feels local clubs will reap the rewards of investing time and energy into Cúl Camps.
Clubs like St Colum’s and Castlehaven, for example, make their Cúl Camp a social event, the week ending with a BBQ where grandparents and all invited – and this goodwill will feed back into the club again.
The kids at these camps are the future – and GAA clubs are making sure that they get the most out of their camp, striking the right balance between training and fun (bouncy castles, ice cream vans, BBQs, water fights with coaches, etc.).
‘Cúl Camps are great value for money, it’s a fun week and people wouldn’t come if they weren’t getting the quality,’ McCarthy explained.
‘This is down to quality coaches and the people in the clubs who are driving this and making sure that they get the most out of the week.
‘It’s been building the last few years and last year it went through the roof. This year was even better.
‘Kids attending the camps also get free gear and a backpack. The gear is good to wear, it’s quality and kids like it – but they wouldn’t be coming back year after year if they didn’t enjoy the camp and enjoy the coaching and what they’re learning.
‘The quality of the coaching has improved, and it had to when you look at the big numbers coming in.
‘Clubs are using it as a week of coaching and fun – and the kids are benefitting from working with good quality coaches.
‘The main thing is to have a good co-ordinator in the club who can run the show for the week.’
The camp co-ordinators are the glue that hold it all together, and local clubs are indebted to their work, from John Collins in Kilmacabea which catered for 70 kids, to Anne O’Leary in Ballinascarthy (90), Marie Dorgan in Kilmeen (100), Caroline O’Riordan Donegan and Monica Murphy in Plunkett’s (98), Ruairi Deane with Bantry Blues (140), Bridget Burke with Tadhg MacCarthaigh (133), Timmy Sheehan in Goleen (120), Tom Farley and David O’Mahony in St Colum’s, countless hours go in to making the camps the success that they are.
And as James McCarthy says, the quality of the coaching has hit new heights, with the kids learning all about football/hurling while having fun.
What also helps is that Cork inter-county players pay regular visits to the Cúl Camps, adding to the excitement, and in West Cork this summer, some of the stars that helped out including Cork senior hurlers Michael Cahalane, Luke Meade, Alan Cadogan, Mark Coleman and Damien Cahalane, and Cork senior footballers Ruairi Deane, Michael Hurley and Sean Powter.
In fact, the day after Cork’s exit from the All-Ireland senior hurling championship, Rebel hero Luke Meade, a Cúl Camp coach, was at Sam Maguire Park for Dohenys’ camp.
It’s one thing to turn up and say a few words but he spent five hours coaching – that’s a big difference.
Another big positive from this year’s Cúl Camps is the increased number of girls taking part, as James McCarthy explains.
‘Great credit must be given to the ladies side of this. Ladies football in West Cork is growing hugely. It’s strengthening clubs with membership and coaches. It’s 50-50, and maybe there are more girls than boys in some camps; it’s great to see,’ said McCarthy who adds that there is something for everyone at a Cúl Camp.
Everyone goes home happy, just like Buff Egan after meeting many Cork GAA stars.