World event to launch Olympic dream for GAA

The excitement which was displayed in the Citywest Hotel on Sunday and Monday week will surely be repeated this week and next when the World Handball Championships are staged at the hotel’s Events Centre, writes Nickey Brennan.

The excitement which was displayed in the Citywest Hotel on Sunday and Monday week will surely be repeated this week and next when the World Handball Championships are staged at the hotel’s Events Centre, writes Nickey Brennan.

Handball in Ireland has changed dramatically over the past three years with the game now more closely aligned with the GAA.

It is now known as GAA Handball. An ambitious five-year Strategic Vision was launched in 2011 and there has been a 26% increase in the number of clubs.

This has led to a 37% increase in player membership with the numbers expected to reach 15,000 by 2013. Extra clubs and playing members has resulted in a need for more facilities and in excess of 180+ new One Wall Schools Facilities have been registered.

The sport is enjoying an increased media profile which was no doubt helped by the GAA Handball Show on TV which attracted over 100,000 viewers per episode.

Significant change

During the same period handball’s international dimension also experienced significant change. A new International Federation was formed which now covers thirty-three countries.

An International Strategy was launched with GAA Handball Ireland to the forefront. One of the most exciting developments of all is a submission being made this month to the Olympic Committee.

Who knows, maybe the GAA will finally get to be represented at the Olympic Games!

The upcoming World Championships is a mammoth undertaking by GAA Handball. It will involve 1,700 players from thirty-three countries and the venue will have spectator capacity of 4,250 per day.

Two hundred and seventy volunteers will ensure the comfort and safety of players and spectators in the newly constructed venue of multiple playing courts.

The costs

The cost of staging the event, including the construction of the playing courts is close to one million euro. Games income, commercial sponsorship, entry fees and direct support from the GAA will ensure that the event breaks even.

A trip from Kilkenny to Citywest takes around an hour, so readers might consider travelling to see some of the games’ greatest players in action. You will not be disappointed.

IOC representatives are due to visit Citywest to view the competitions and assess its suitability for the Olympic Games. Could anything be more exciting right now for GAA handball?

The hard work of people like Kilkenny’s Con Moore and Liam Mahon (and indeed many more throughout the country) is finally paying off.

I hope their Olympic dreams come true because their efforts deserve nothing less.