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GAA winning the battle over soccer in West Belfast

Gort na Mona have, in the past, watched their players succumb to the lure of playing soccer to the detrimemnt of the club. But this year things are changing.

Soccer is big business in Belfast. It’s an opportunity for athletes to test themselves while also making a few pound if they play in the Irish League. Dermot McVeigh, who plays for Warrenpoint, is one player who is not with the club this year. Warrenpoint want him to focus exclusively on soccer and that has meant that manager Sean McKenna is without one of his go-to scorers this season.

Brendan Corr is also playing soccer this year.

However, the club have found that many more have sidelined soccer in favour of playing divisoin one football in Antrim.

Chris Donnelly, who was on the books with Cliftonville, has decided to stick with Gort na Mona for the summer.

McKenna said: “A lot of lads have decided that Gaelic is their priority.

“Chris Donnelly came on against St Gall’s and had a good game. He’s a second year minor.

“He is one of a number of minors who are coming on.”

Gort na Mona have learnt a few tough lessons this year back up in division one for more than a decade.

Yet with 11 games played they have got a grasp of their game plan and are determined to maintain their division one status.

“Our first year in division one has been a big learning curve,” said McKenna.

“We have played teams like St Gall’s and Cargin where all our mistakes are punished.

“They are not better footballers, but they are quicker to react. While we might stop and complain they (teams like St Gall’s and Creggan) are away.

“It happened against the top six teams.

“The division one teams are sharper. They work out your weakness quickly and then they try to expose it. If they stay in division one it will do them a world of good.”
Players like Tommy McGowan, Patrick McCaffrey and Darren Boyd have been having great seasons, and have put the Gorts where they are today.

The Gorts are learning with every game they play. They have not played in division one in 14 years so this level is completely new to them. But their manager believes that they are making great progress.

A challenge for the club used to be the dual issue, with their players been drawn to both codes. McKenna said that they are handling that issue well.

He and the hurling manager have a system where they will decide each week how often their dual players will train.

And he says that the players have the right attitude.

“They realise that if they want to play they have to put in the work.”

Last year Gort na Mona enjoyed a good season, they won the league final and gained promotion. They reached the intermediate final but lost to St Enda’s. But the run of good results at the end of the season provided them with a spring board for the new season.

And they managed to get revenge over St Enda’s when they met at the end of April.

“It was hard to take (losing to St Enda’s in the championship final). We put that one to bed,” McKenna said.

“Winning the league and getting to the intermediate final last year was great. It gave us a lot of confidence.”

Those two teams are due to go head to head again on Sunday, as they are seeking to avoid the relegation spots it promises to be a competitive affair.

r.scott@gaeliclife.com

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