Western Australia’s first junior GAA academy has had an overwhelming response from local families in the region following its launch earlier this year.
Over 100 children have already signed up to be part of the Perth based organisation, which is modeled on the AFL’s Auskick youth program.
The voluntarily run group’s aim is to give children in the area an introduction to hurling and football at a young age, thus ensuring the continuity of GAA in Western Australia for future generations.
To date the majority of the club’s young members come from families who have recently migrated to Australia from Ireland. However, Australian families with Irish roots have also begun taking an interest, according to Chairperson Debbie Cashman.
“It’s all going really well. It’s been growing and growing since we set out at the beginning of the year,” she told the Irish Echo.
“We’ve secured a bit of sponsorship from a company called Skills Shortage Solutions so we’re just working on building on that and getting some more people to back us.
“Because there’s that many people coming out here from Ireland there’s a huge demand. There’s something for them to be involved in now, if they had been playing at home. They can go straight into that.
“We’ve also had a few Australian families show interest.
“There’s a lot of Irish people who might have married an Australian and they want their kids to know their culture and play GAA.
“There’s also a few kids now getting involved who would be trying out the AFL so we’re getting a lot of interest from all sides,” she continued.
The Junior GAA academy currently meets on the Southern suburbs of Perth from 12pm to 3pm every second Sunday. Ms Cashman says there are already plans underway to expand to the north side in the future to meet the high demand.
She went on to explain how some families travel huge distances in order to give their children an opportunity to develop their GAA skills.
Cashman (34), who hails from Kinsale in Cork, says that she and fellow volunteers are now committed to attracting additional sponsors.
The mum-of-two, who is a founding member the group Irish Families in Perth, says she is hoping that other states will take inspiration from their success and set up their own junior GAA groups.
“I was very surprised when I went about trying to get it started that there was nothing else like it in other parts of Australia.
“We’re just trying to spread the word now and get the message out there that it can be done so maybe the other states can start something similar,” she added.
The organisation are hopeful that the successful youth program could pave the way for a future junior league in the state.