THE man at the helm of Newport's only Gaelic football club has praised a local charity that helped them bring the sport back to the city for the first time in more than 40 years.

Pride of Erin GAA Newport chairman and coach Steve Sheehy is eternally grateful for the assistance provided by NewportsRocky, the brainchild of Luke Pearce.

Using Newport Saracens RFC's ground as their home for training and matches, Pride of Erin will compete in the Gloucestershire league of the Britain GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association).

The club, originally a force in the 1960s and 70s, took shape again last August but wasn't due to receive its official launch until March 17, however, the St Patrick's Day celebration had to be shelved because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Pearce and NewportsRocky cohort Johan Berendjy, who are now qualified GAA coaches for the team, and train Newport lightweight Craig Woodruff, were among the founder members of the relaunched Pride of Erin.

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They, along with Pat Mulhall, Brian Feeney, Damien Shearer, Rhys Davies and Ben Davies, set about restoring interest in the Irish team game, a cross between football and rugby, in Newport.

"NewportsRocky have been an early and keen supporter in helping re-establish a GAA club once again in Newport and the surrounding area," said Sheehy.

"Luke Pearce's drive and vision to support the founder members showed transformational leadership and gave us the platform we now have to succeed.

"Luke and Johan Berendjy have been integral in not only helping re-establish the club, but they are also active full members involved in fundraising, recruitment and the playing of Gaelic games in order to sustain the club's future.

"We have in NewportsRocky a true partner who want to inspire sportsmen and women and see new sports grow and flourish within our city.

"NewportsRocky are doing great work and long may it continue."

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Pearce, (pictured above at training) the nephew of David 'Bomber' Pearce, Newport's former British heavyweight champion, added: "As a proud Newportonian, it is my aim to support the advancement of amateur sport through #NewportsRocky key aims – inspiration, determination and youth development through sport.

"We are consistently creating positive sporting stories for the city and will endeavour to achieve our goals for the city of Newport."

He continued: "Newport hadn't had a Gaelic football team since the 1970s, so we wanted to help raise the sport's profile.

"When we went down there last August there was just me, Johan and Craig. Playing numbers rose to 10 and then Steve Sheehy came on board.

"He knew we weren't Gaelic footballers but I told him we could promote the club on social media through NewportsRocky.

"People didn't think the sport would come back to Newport, but we helped Pride of Erin go from a few players to playing in an official league."

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(Luke Pearce, right, and Callum Rowland, left, with club honorary president Billy O'Flaherty)

The club's honorary president is Roscommon native Billy O'Flaherty, who moved to Newport in 1964 via Huddersfield, where he won a handful of GAA titles, and London.

While in the capital, O'Flaherty captained the St Vincent's club to the 1961 All-Britain Championship, before skippering London on several occasions.

After moving to south Wales, O'Flaherty represented Pride of Erin between 1965 and 1973, a golden period for the club.

Jimmy Harte, the first manager and chairman, Andy Casey and Tim Allen formed Pride of Erin in the early 1960s.

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