One of the largest sporting events to take place in Northern Ireland this year has been officially launched at Belfast City Hall.
Queen’s GAA Festival, which runs from February 13 to March 22, is set to welcome over 12,000 people to the City, providing a major boost to the local economy, as well as the hospitality and culture sectors.
In addition to the action on the pitch, the festival atmosphere will spread throughout Belfast, with a packed programme of health-related and cross-community events, including music, comedy nights and talks with well-known sports personalities.
The action begins on February 13 -16 with Camogie’s Ashbourne Cup, and will continue on February 20 – 22 with Gaelic Football’s Irish Daily Mail Sigerson Cup, Hurling’s Irish Daily Mail Fitzgibbon Cup on February 27 – March 1, and Ladies Football’s O’Connor Cup on March 21 -22.
Queen’s is setting a precedent with the creation of the Festival, as no other university or college has ever hosted all four of the major higher education Gaelic Games tournaments in the same year.
The massive undertaking will see over 2,250 players battle it out at Queen’s world-class facility at Upper Malone in Belfast. Created as the result of a £13M redevelopment by the University, it allows all matches to be played on the one site.
Speaking at the launch of Queen’s GAA Festival, Belfast’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said, “Queen’s University have taken on a tremendous challenge in staging these four prestigious intervarsity competitions. The facilities at their disposal are world class and I am confident both players and spectators alike will be treated to an amazing experience. This festival proves once again that Belfast is one of the leading cities in hosting major sporting competitions.”
Sports Minister for Northern Ireland, Carál Ní Chulín added, “I am delighted to be able to welcome everyone to the Queen’s GAA Festival. The Festival is a celebration of culture, sport and heritage and offers us the opportunity to showcase Queen’s Belfast and its facilities to the wider GAA family. DCAL is one of the principal sponsors of this festival and I believe GAA in Ulster has never been stronger. I would like to congratulate all those involved in the organisation of the festival and wish all the teams and coaching staff every success in the coming competitions.”
Also speaking at the launch, Queen’s University’s acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor James McElnay said, “Queen’s is delighted that its commitment to delivering world-class sporting facilities for its students has helped bring these four high profile sporting events to the University and to Belfast. Over the coming weeks we can look forward to a celebration of sporting excellence and achievement, alongside a packed programme of cross-community sporting, social and family events.
He continued, “I would like to thank all our partners for their valuable support and congratulate our students and staff on organising this unique Festival. Queen’s is once again leading the way, and a warm Queen’s welcome awaits the thousands of players, mentors and supporters who will be coming to Belfast over the coming weeks for our Festival.”
Speaking on behalf of the Queen’s teams participating in the event, Martin Lilly, Vice President of SU Clubs and Societies, said: “Queen’s students are honoured to be hosting these four prestigious competitions, and to have the support of all our sponsors. Our sporting facilities at Queen’s are the envy of universities across the UK and Ireland, and our Festival volunteers and club members will be proud ambassadors for Belfast as we welcome the many visitors to our City.”
Chair of the Organisation Committee, John Devaney spoke of the preparation for the event, “The challenge of hosting all four GAA intervarsities is an ambitious one, but with the enthusiasm of students, staff and past players, we have risen to the challenge.
“Queen’s has a very strong reputation in Gaelic Games and sport in general, and we boast the very best of facilities. We are certainly looking forward to creating a unique festival atmosphere on campus and in the City over the next few weeks.”
Looking forward to the festival, Eimear Callahan, Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s Campaigns Marketing Offer said, “The Northern Ireland Tourist Board is delighted to support the Queen’s GAA Festival as it makes its debut in Belfast providing a great opportunity to welcome people to Belfast for 4 sporting weekends and to showcase all the attractions, nightlife and shopping that Belfast has to offer”.
For further information on Queen’s GAA Festival please visit www.gaafestival.com or follow Queen’s GAA Festival on Twitter @QUBGAAFestival and Facebook.com/QUBGAAFestival