ON the first Saturday in August the President of the GAA, Larry McCarthy, came to Glengormley for the official opening of the Naomh Éanna sports hall. There was a big turnout for his visit. He became aware of the various facets of club life often taken for granted but missing in many clubs throughout the land. Back in Armagh where I grew up in the GAA, most clubs played just one code. For most of them this was Gaelic football and back then many of the rural clubs fielded just one team in the senior league. I can remember my own club having to amalgamate with two  neighbouring clubs to field an under-18 team in the minor championship.
Larry McCarthy learned that Naomh Éanna field teams from under-6 to senior level in Gaelic football, hurling, ladies’ football and  camogie and, with the sports hall being now fully used, the club now participates in  handball competitions.
He saw that the club has two full-size pitches as well as a juvenile pitch with plans to develop another full-size pitch in the pipeline. The President was also impressed by the flourishing Gaelscoil in the club grounds, with plans in the pipeline for a new building
During the summer the club makes use of two playing fields in the nearby Edmund Rice College as well as a nearby Council pitch. Coming past the college one evening, I noticed that the car park was full and the two pitches were full of players and a host of spectators.
Curiosity got the better of me and I parked my car on the footpath and went in to see what was happening. I assumed there was an inter-club blitz in progress but was told that it was just a routine trading session for under-5s and under-7s in football. There were 59 under-5s and just 50 under-7 boys playing. Back outside on the footpath a mother and her five-year-old son were looking through the fence. I asked if the boy played. “He would love to but it's probably too late in the year to join. We've just moved into a newly-built house further up Hightown Road.”  I brought them with me and introduced them to a club official inside the ground. After the boy’s details were noted he was out in action like a veteran. I was told that three new players had joined earlier.
The club has been attracting players from Glengormley and North Belfast, but now more and more immigrant families are  being represented.
Eddie Brady played hurling as a youth. He was out in the park a few weeks ago with his dog. Using his hurling stick he sent the ball up the park and his dog raced after it and fielded it some thirty metres away before it struck the ground. A young boy approached him and asked if he could hit the ball. Eddie gave him the stick and he struck the ball perfectly. Eddie asked the boy how long he had been playing hurling and the boy said he first hit a ball just five days beforehand. He took Arsha  over to his car and gave him a hurling stick and sliothar.
Eddie put details of his experience on social media and told his story in the Naomh Éanna clubhouse that night. The following day two club officials picked up a full kit from the club shop and went to the  Chimney Corner Hotel where the family are being accommodated. They discovered the boy hitting his ball off the hotel wall. They asked him to bring out his father. It transpired that the family had been forced to leave their native country, Iran, where they were considered to be well-off because of the mother’s reluctance to wear a burka. They initially went to Greece but eventually came to the North of Ireland. Both father and son, who are fluent English speakers,  were guests at a senior hurling championship match at Hightown the following day and young Arsha is now a member of the under-11 hurling team.  He has fitted into the hurling team seamlessly where he has a host of new friends.