Aer Lingus, in associaton with Etihad Airways and The Gathering, today launched the International Hurling Festival at GAA headquarters, Croke Park, in Dublin.
All-Star players from around the country were on hand to showcase their skill with a sliotar and hurley, much to the delight of assembled children from Scoil Thomáis in Castleknock, who were thrilled to meet their hurling heroes. Each child wore a bespoke jersey that was designed especially to represent each of the territories that will be competing in the International Hurling Tournament this September. Aer Lingus cabin crew and crew from partner airline, Etihad Airways, were also on hand to avail of the hurling masterclass hosted by the All-Stars.
Also in attendance at the launch were GAA President Liam O’Neill, Aer Lingus Chief Human Resources Officer Michael Grealy, Mayor of Galway City Terry O’Flaherty, and Mayor of Galway County Tom Welby.
From Wednesday 18th to Saturday 21st September 2013, Aer Lingus will host the first ever International Hurling Festival, in association with The Gathering, and supported by the GAA and Etihad Airways. The qualifying games will take place in regional towns around Galway with the finals being staged at Pearse Stadium. A number of lively traditional music and dance events are also planned to take place in venues around the ‘City of the Tribes’ throughout the festival, supported by Galway GAA and Galway Hurling Supporters Club.
Aer Lingus is inviting teams from all over the world to compete in this unique International Hurling Festival. Together with partner Etihad Airways, the airline will bring teams from New York, San Francisco, Canada, Asia, the UK, Continental Europe, the Gulf and Australia. Aer Lingus and the GAA are also using the tournament as an opportunity to promote the game of hurling in developing regions by including teams such as Buenos Aires, Milwaukee, Indianapolis and a Europe team made up of non-Irish nationals.
Michael Grealy, Aer Lingus Chief Human Resources Officer, said: “We are very excited to bring this one of its kind hurling festival to Ireland, in the year of The Gathering. We have already seen a huge response to the event and are confident that the Aer Lingus hurling festival will help to foster an interest in one of our most loved national sports.
“The game of hurling is uniquely Irish, like Aer Lingus, and is a source of enormous pride to the Irish all around the world. We look forward to welcoming many friends and visitors home to Ireland for what promises to be an exciting year.”
Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Liam Ó Néill added: “This is a hugely exciting initiative in what is a most exciting year for the country with the staging of The Gathering.
“We showed our support of and enthusiasm for the initiative on All-Ireland hurling final day last year when we helped officially launch the idea and anything that helps us make a connection between hurling and Irish people overseas is something we wholeheartedly endorse.
“I acknowledge Aer Lingus’ support of the project and I have no doubt that we will get a great response to the efforts of everybody involved, not least the organisers on the ground in Galway.”
Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ Chief Commercial Officer, said: “As proud sponsor of the GAA Hurling All Ireland Senior Championship and official airline to the GAA, we are delighted to support the International Hurling Festival. The festival will bring teams from the Arabian Gulf, Asia and Australia to Ireland, the home of Gaelic sports, and we are very proud to play such a key role in making the event a huge success. We wish best of luck to all the teams that take part.”