As we approach the conclusion of 2023, it is important that we reflect on the collective journey we’ve navigated at Wolfe Tones GAC. This year has been a tapestry of accomplishments and challenges, setting the stage for a big 2024.
Firstly, I want to extend a special thanks to all the volunteers who generously contribute their time to the running of the club. Your unwavering dedication forms the backbone of contemporary stability and future success. Let’s continue encouraging more hands to join us, recognising that increased hands mean increased capacity.
On the sporting front, it is worth mentioning that our men’s team etched their own story with a victory in junior championship, a first since their reformation. No doubt results were difficult at other stages of the season, but consistent and measured progress has been the aim since day one and we can comfortably say we are hitting key benchmarks every season. In the upcoming year, I am eager to foster a close partnership with the team, strategically leveraging resources to move them on to the next stage of development.
The senior women’s team showcased exceptional prowess, securing a comfortable position in the league’s top half. This included a lengthy unbeaten run at the early stage of the season. An incredible achievement considering the team had only been together for around 18 months. The season ended with an unfortunate exit from Championship in the first round. The club’s focus for the coming year centres on supporting this team to translate its talent into a formidable Championship side.
Our burgeoning Rounders’ unit had another year of steady but important progress, clinching the Ulster Junior Mixed Bronze Championship. As they embark on a planning process to define their future goals, our aim is to elevate this unique project within the County, ensuring sustained success and the ability for this code to be an outlet for those who have no interest in football, hurling or camogie.
Our G4MO squad continues to provide a non-competitive outlet for women to learn and play football, embodying the spirit of inclusivity. Simultaneously, our social hurling programme’s expansion, with a full hurling team in the pipeline for 2024, exemplifies the broadening reach of Gaelic games within our community.
To jump back two years,in 2021, we strategically invested in our underage activities at GoGames level, laying the foundation for the long-term sustainability of our club. Notable success stories include our U9 boys and U8/U10 girls, with nearly 30 boys actively engaging in football, and girls passionately representing the club in significant numbers. That strategy did what it was designed to do. We now have hundreds of children who first played Gaelic games in Wolfe Tones colours and continue, in great numbers, to represent the club. We further introduced another sustainability mechanism with an investment in an extremely popular Babymentals programme, which will see our membership grow steadily year on year. 2024 will see us move to the next phase of this and begin the introduction of teenage age groups to breach the gap between our children and senior teams over the next five years.
It is also worth celebrating two years of tireless effort in promoting, developing, and nurturing the LGFA section of Wolfe Tones GAC. A purposeful mission laid out in 2021, we now take pride in the fact that females now constitute a majority in our membership numbers. The Executive Committee’s composition, boasting 60% female representation, speaks to our commitment to gender equality within the club. This has significantly enhanced the capacity of Wolfe Tones in the past two years and will continue to drive its off-field leadership in the time ahead.
Furthermore, in an exciting and pivotal development, Wolfe Tones GAC will launch the 1931 Foundation in early 2024. This visionary initiative aims to leverage financial resources strategically, supporting the club’s overarching strategic goals. The foundation is a testament to our commitment to sustained growth and success and ensuring Gaelic games in the Loughshore Parishes receive the resources it needs to become a powerhouse in the future.
Despite encountering challenges in securing adequate playing facilities, both in Newtownabbey and North Belfast, 2024 promises transformative changes. Artificial obstacles preventing our members from accessing suitable facilities will be dismantled, ensuring they have the resources and spaces they rightly deserve. While an obstructive alliance worked to ensure this would never happen, they have failed.
Stepping into the new year, we will depart from our previous strategy 21-24 and embark on a new 5-year strategy, propelling us towards the 10th anniversary of our reformation. This strategic roadmap will aim to build a sporting project that not only matches but surpasses the ambitions of our dynamic and growing club. This is another opportunity for all of our members to get involved in shaping the future. Our strategy so far speaks for itself and the steady, sustainable development of Wolfe Tones will provide a best practice template for others to follow in the future. It is time for phase two.
Here’s to a transformative 2024 and the elevation of Wolfe Tones GAC.