ULSTER'S first LGBTQ GAA club has been going from strength to strength since its formation in April this year. 

Making a home for itself in West Belfast, Aeracha Uladh is an LGBTQ inclusive GAA club  and is the second in the world – with the other club located in Dublin. 

Since its first training session at the end of April this year, the club has continued to grow in popularity with over 80 registered members and have had more than 56 people at one of their training sessions.

The Andersonstown News spoke to members of the club during training in the Falls Park this week.

“The GAA in itself has changed dramatically over this last while," said club committee member Cathal McGurk. "We now have a diversity officer in the GAA in Dublin. So, inclusivity is becoming a bigger thing for them, and I think they’re more aware of what it needs to be. 

“The GAA in Dublin marched with the Dublin team during Pride and up here we had Ulster marching with us at Pride.”

Committee members Cathal McGurk and Dan O’Rawe spoke about the positive support the club has received from the GAA community and in particular from clubs in West Belfast.

“Other clubs have been so supportive towards us, Cardinal O’Donnells for instance,” said Cathal.

“O’Donnell’s have been great,” continued Dan. “They let us use their pitch quite a lot and don’t charge us anything. We’ve had the coach from the Wolfe Tones, the captain of the Ladies Gaelic football Association and the coaches from Lámh Dearg have helped us out greatly as well. It really enforces that they’re behind us.”

The club which used to train in the Ormeau Park have now moved to the Falls Park for the training sessions on Tuesdays. Aeracha Uladh welcomes everyone with all abilities, and all genders to play together during the training session. 

Members of the club, Etain McAvoy and Pádraig McKee, spoke about joining Aeracha Uladh and how incredible they have found the experience.

“The friends side of it has been amazing," said Pádraig. "We’ve had coasteering, we’ve had camping, we went to a trip to Galway. We went to Galway, Omagh and Belfast Pride.

"It’s been great because a lot of people have joined our team being in closet with their families and not being able to go to the likes of a gay bars or not knowing any gay people to become friends with and are keen to join our team. Now they have a massive group of friends and it’s not just a team, it is a community, it’s a family."

“I would definitely agree,” said Etain. “I’m only relatively new here and I’m sitting thinking what was I doing before I came here, what was I doing with my evenings. Since I’ve come here, I have been so welcomed and just made all these friends that I can just message and I’ve only been here for a few months. We can have the craic with each other.”

The plans for the club’s future involve being ratified by Antrim GAA and beginning to compete professionally as a team.

“We haven’t been competing yet," said Cathal. "I have had discussions with Antrim GAA about getting the club ratified and setting us up for professional competitions. We have our AGM coming up on Sunday, so that will be our first election for our first official committee. So, once we have everyone in committee roles officially, we will be going back to Antrim to get the club ratified."

The club released their kit during Pride this year and the entire team marched in the Belfast Pride parade wearing those kits.

“That’s how I found out about the club at Pride," said Etain. “I was like, they look mighty craic. Straight after the Belfast Pride, I messaged the page to ask about joining. The cheers of support were unreal to see.”

Added Cathal: “We used Pride week to launch our kits. I had discussions with O’Neill’s and they agreed to put our kits in the window of their shop on Royal Avenue for the week of Pride. The day after Pride we opened the sales for our kits, we had around 182 kit orders within two weeks.

“We had orders from Australia, America and one from New Zealand,” continued Dan.

“It’s about changing the way the GAA is thought of in the wider communities so that people that are from the LGBTQ+ communities within their own GAA team feel comfortable to come out and be who they are," said Cathal. "They don’t need to join a different team, it’s about being comfortable being who you are, where you are. We might be one club, but this can change other clubs.

“We want to see all clubs grow and we want to see all clubs become more inclusive.”

At present Aeracha Uladh are seeking their first permanent coach, more information can be found on the club's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram page. The club is hosting a fundraising event on the 29th of October in the Hatfield Bar, to help fund coaching and equipment. The event is open to anyone who wishes to attend.