If you’re aged 40 or over and missed the opportunity to represent Cork in Gaelic football first time out, there may be a second chance.
With the All-Ireland Masters Football Championship – resurrected in 2019, having been dormant for a decade – didn’t take place last year, it’s back for 2021 and Cork are entering a team for the first time.
The side is a positive side-effect of Social GAA Cork, which provided recreational hurling and football for those looking to keep fit in a non-competitive environment. The social GAA is back and its driving force, Colm Crowley – whose day-job is as a games development administrator (GDA) with Cork County Board – is being kept busy.
“It’s back at the moment alright,” he says, “though summer would always be a kind of a downtime.
“It’s the equivalent of five-a-side soccer on astroturf, winter draws more people out. There’s less pressure at home, kids are gone to bed a bit earlier, whereas in the summer there might be more commitments.
“But we’re up and running, tipping away at the moment, and the social football is after branching into the Cork Masters team so they’re entering the national competition for the first year.
“They’re starting in September and they’re on a recruitment drive at the moment, hoping to start training in the first week in July.”
The opportunity to wear the red jersey is likely to be a draw, especially with the chance to go up against the green and gold.
“As soon as Kerry heard that we had entered, they decided to put a team in it,” Crowley says.
“They couldn’t leave us be Munster champions or anything like that! Waterford have a team in it too for the first time.
“It’ll be great to get it up and running for these lads. Clubs might have younger players coming through and older guys are being squeezed out of junior B teams so it’s a good opportunity for them to keep going.”
The success of the social GAA has been underlined by the recent national rollout and Crowley expects the area to continue to grow.
“Two weeks ago, Croke Park officially launched the social GAA,” he says.
“I won’t say we were an underground organisation but we were just tipping away in the background, getting guidance from Croke Park, but they’ve officially launched it and they’re calling it GAA for Dads & Lads, a play on the Gaelic for Mothers & Others.
“There’s proper supports and a supporting officer in Croke Park there to give advice, guidance on rules and structure and things like that.
“There’s a lunch webinar on Wednesday night and the official involvement will help what we have to blossom even further. Every fella can play a bit of five-a-side, no matter what age they are, so there’s no reason why they can’t play a bit of hurling and football, once there are general guidelines behind it.
“Over the next three-to-five years, I think it’ll become one of the major players in the Gaelic games family.”
Ideally, that will continue in Cork too, though, given that GAA is his full-time job too, Crowley is pleased to have official assistance from headquarters.
“A lot of phone calls and emails that I would have got over the last two years about how to get set up, they’ll be directed elsewhere now,” he says.
“Even the group we have in Cork now, there are a couple of lads who’ve taken leadership roles and I don’t have to be there every night. I know that Croke Park would like for it to be individual clubs but a lot of clubs just don’t have the bodies but you could have regional teams in the major towns, based out of a secondary school that would have facilities, it would be brilliant – something in Bandon, something in Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Macroom.
“We get interest from all over the county but I suppose it’s just the convenience of getting into the car and getting to where we are on a given night can prove problematic for people.
“It’s something that we’d love to see branch out further in Cork. Carrigaline are very active in it, they’ve been meeting consistently every Monday night, but we’d love to have ten or 12 centres in Cork and we could have competitions throughout the year and have two or three social nights, maybe the night before or after a big game in Cork.
“It would be good to have fellas out socialising – as much as the physical and health benefits, the social and psychological benefits are huge, too. That’s a really big part of it.”
· Those wishing to express an interest in playing for the Cork Masters team should contact firstname.lastname@example.org