Wheelchair Hurling & Camogie
GAA for All
GAA for All is a family of initiatives in the GAA encompassing Wheelchair hurling and Camogie, football for all, Fun and Run, All Star programme, Inclusive clubs and intercultural activities.
Wheelchair Hurling and Camogie is an inclusive activity involving a team 6 a side which is suitable for all ages, genders, and abilities. The game encompasses a range of fundamental skills that exist in Gaelic Hurling and Camogie. The rules have been modified to adapt these skills to suit the individuals involved and their capabilities. It aims to enable individuals to grow and maintain optimum participation across the full diversity of Irish community life.
The concept of wheelchair hurling was devised by Kerry’s Tim Maher, who coined the idea 20 years ago while teaching in a school for children with disabilities in Baldoyle, Dublin. Upon seeing the children playing a game involving striking a football with tennis rackets, he came up with an idea to replace the rackets with hurleys, and a revolutionary new game was born.
Since then, its popularity has soared, and he is delighted with how it is progressing. “Numbers in each province have grown year on year," said Maher. "We have inter-provincial leagues during the year, and we try to host them in a variety of counties to spread the game and help it grow, and then the M. Donnolly All-Ireland Final is the pinnacle. It’s the most eagerly anticipated date of the year for Wheelchair Hurlers from across the four provinces, the competition comprises of a blitz between teams from the four provinces, vying for the coveted title”.
The game itself comprises of some subtle differences to the traditional game – there are 6 players on each side, with each squad usually containing around 12 or 13 members, and the scoring allows for ground hurling and goals only. Squads are made up of a mix of male and female players.
When asked about the physical aspect of the game, and the necessary attributes required to compete effectively, Maher describes how, while the values of the game are built around inclusivity, participation and enjoyment, there is still a match and a title to be won. “There’s quite a bit of physical contact," said Maher. "Charging is not allowed, but chairs will clash. It takes great strength, you have to control your chair with one hand, and the hurley with the other.”As such, the games make for exciting viewing, with no little skill and physical prowess on show. Maher hopes that, in the future, this could be expanded. “It’s possible that there could be a few teams per province, and this would all be positive.”
Martin Donnelly remains the sponsor in chief and has contributed hugely to the development of the game, as has the establishment of a Wheelchair Hurling committee in each province, which have become, as Maher puts it, “a focal point” with regard to the organisation and promotion of the game. .Inclusion is at the heart of the sport, and its willingness to accept players of all abilities. “We can’t spread it out enough”, said Maher. “It’s open to all abilities. I suppose there would be the potential for tiered competitions in the future if the numbers continue to grow”.
The sky is the limit, it would appear, for the future of Wheelchair Hurling. For more information on contact the Wheelchair Hurling Coordinator Tony Watene on firstname.lastname@example.org