INNISFAILS GAA Club in Balgriffin, one of the oldest clubs in the country, relaunched their juvenile section, the Acorns, with just five children and has grown exponentially, without the assistance of a games promotions officer or school connection, now nurturing three teams and a nursery group.
According to Tony Greenhalgh, vice-chairman of Innisfails, the success of the rejuvenation is down to dedication, passion and the hard work of the adult members of the club.
“We didn’t have a juvenile section for ten years so we were very adult-focused,” says Greenhalgh. “We knew that, with an ageing membership, the club could only go so far.
“The group who started the Acorns grew up with this club and know what a club can be. GAA doesn’t just mean sport.
“It means belonging, it means socialising and support.
“With all the new communities developing in the area, we really wanted to merge old members with new communities, taking a new approach to the continuation of the club.”
Since 2017, the Acorns have grown from just five children to more than 70 and, with many different nationalities involved, the future has never been brighter.
Stefan Pelgen, from Germany, joined the club with his son: “Max was such a quiet, shy little boy when we joined and I was a German dad in Dublin.
“Now, Max is so outgoing and confident. We have both made loads of friends and I have even become a coach!”
Greenhalgh explains that these trainings, matches and accompanying activities are all free.
There is a high coach-to-child ratio and complimentary refreshments provided on Saturdays to try to encourage the social side of the club.
Nicola Foxe, the club PRO, adds: “I didn’t grow up in a GAA community and the thoughts of joining one of the bigger clubs slightly intimidated me.
“But when I heard about Innisfails, its history and rejuvenation, I thought that sounded great: a historical club that my children could grow with.
“My daughter, Nina, loves being part of a team and my three-year-old, Elise, is always welcome and loves being part of the club even if she is too little to train yet. It’s just brilliant to be part of it.”
Innisfails’ Acorns have just celebrated their third year since rejuvenation and new members are always welcome.
Juvenile training takes place every Saturday at 9.45am while the club also has other societies and all-weather facilities available for new members, including a pitch and putt course, pool and darts teams, indoor bowls and karate.
“Innisfails was and is a community club with something for everyone, and more in the pipeline,” finishes Greenhalgh.