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    Midlands-Argentine project launches GAA programme

    By Noreen Bowden | December 17, 2008

    Hundreds of Argentine children will learn Gaelic games this February in a seven-day programme at the Hurling Club in Buenos Aires, thanks to an initiative originating out the Midlands. The move is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at refreshing Ireland’s links with its fifth-largest diaspora community.

    The inaugural GAA hurling and Gaelic football coaching week is a joint effort supported by Capital Securities Corporation, the Midlands Gateway Chamber and the Longford-Westmeath Argentina Society, reports the Westmeath Examiner. The GAA is supplying hurls, helmets and footballs to the 240 children aged six to 16 who will participate.

    The week will take place at Buenos Aires’ Hurling Club, which was established in 1922. GAA games were popular among the Irish community in the early part of the twentieth century, but were eventually replaced by hockey and rugby; this move is partially explained by the fact that during World War II it became impossible to get hurleys in Argentina.

    Organisers of the project have wider ambitions than encouraging children to play the games of their ancestors. The article notes:

    President of AIT and President of the Midlands Gateway Chamber, Prof Ciarán Ó Catháin said the launching of the coaching programme in Argentina was not only a significant sporting event, but had resonance for business, education, cultural and diplomatic relations between Ireland and Latin America.

    “At a time of great economic uncertainty, it is heartening that this initiative encourages us to look beyond our own boundaries to explore global possibilities,? he said.

    “For us, the GAA coaching programme signifies the potential of the Midlands, the creative spirit, the drive to innovate and the desire to succeed that is the bedrock of this region,? said Prof Ó Catháin.

    The project was launched by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Coughlan, who reinforced the project’s wider ambitions when she said:

    Though in its origin independent of it, this project fits in perfectly with the intention behind the joint scheme between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the GAA decided earlier this year to support the promotion of Gaelic games abroad.

    I am delighted to be present at the launch here in Athlone of this exciting initiative and congratulate all involved in seeing it through from the initial concept to actuality. A winning combination between enterprise and culture, which hopefully will lead to many other fruitful connections between Ireland and Argentina and between The Midlands Gateway Chamber area and Buenos Aires, and between individual Irish and Argentines.

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