Today is a historic weekend for the GAA in Belfast. This evening, the East Belfast GAA men's senior team will play its inaugural fixture against St Michael's Magherlin. Tomorrow, the ladies team will take on Saval in the club's first-ever ladies fixture. A new club has been born in a place where it was thought the GAA was no longer be welcome. This weekend, East Belfast GAA will take flight.
Traditionally, East Belfast has been a staunchly Unionist area in a city historically divided along sectarian lines. There has not been a GAA club in the area since St Colmcille's GAC closed in the 1970s. But earlier this year, the club was launched by a group of people, including former London footballer Downman David McGreevy. Malone RFC offered its grounds to East Belfast GAA on a temporary basis. Irish language activist Linda Ervine was appointed as the club's first president. And tonight, in the Down junior championship, East Belfast will play its first football match. It will also compete in hurling and camogie.
Yesterday, the club unveiled its crest. Designed by Rory Millar, it speaks to the cross-community spirit that has inspired East Belfast into existence. The word 'Together' appears in English, Irish and Ulster Scots and the crest features the shamrock, the thistle and the Red Hand of Ulster.
Millar explained his thinking behind the crest:
"What was required was an authentic tribute to the area's unique character that also clearly communicates the progressive ethos of the club itself.
"Inspired by the GAA tradition of crests becoming vessels for visual storytelling; I created a selection of symbols each adding their own 'chapter' to the story."
McGreevy told the Irish News last month that there'd been huge interest from potential players in the area.
“It's positive and it's great to see there's so many people willing to get involved,” he said.
“The vast majority of people have not been part of a club before but they are fans of (the GAA) and I suppose this is their club now,” he said.
We wish East Belfast GAA the best of luck as they begin their maiden season tonight.