Vibrant St. James’ GAA Club is fostering community spirit

IT has been an historic year for St. James’ Gaelic football club, not only in winning the prestigious Galway Féile (U-14) ‘A’ title for the first time ever last Spring but, recently, they were also honoured as the ‘Juvenile Club of the Year’ for 2016.

For the young City based club, which was only founded in 1994, it was quite an achievement but Juvenile Chairperson David Henry outlined that a great deal of work has been done on and off the field in recent years leading to a great sense of community spirit in the area.

That should not be underestimated or, indeed, under-valued, particularly given St. James’ is a club situated within the vast expanse of the east side of Galway City – from Mervue to Renmore to Doughiska – and is catering for a population as diverse ethnically as it is culturally.

It is a challenge but one St. James’ is relishing according to Henry. “I suppose, we have hugely invested in the juvenile section over the last few years and there is a great community spirit there because of that,” he begins.

“We also have a large committee at juvenile level and, as Chairperson, my job is to recruit, plan, organise and delegate the work among the coaches, mainly, but also committee members and volunteers. The volunteers would be helping out in the background, fundraising and organising.”

Listening to Henry, you get the sense that St. James’ is much more than a club – it is a movement – and he later underlines this point when the discussion moves on to sense of identity. In a City club, that can be difficult but St. James’ have found a way to nurture theirs through the medium of music.

“We have a man there, Jim Cotter, and he is Cultural Officer,” explains Henry. “He has the St. James’ Irish Music Club and he has up to 50 (adult) members in that. He has put a lot of work into it and they come from everywhere in the county and they pay their membership into the club.

“Now, what is really interesting is on a Saturday morning after juvenile training, Jim Cotter and his team of musicians host Irish music classics for the kids. So, there are a few kids who are playing Gaelic football and then are doing tin whistle afterwards on a Saturday. That is a really nice thing and it strengthens their association with the club.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.