Pub poster opens opportunity for Fergal

  • 22 April 2022

A poster in a pub was the catalyst for Fergal Hanna (Natural Sciences (Chemistry) 2016) to enjoy a new sport and make friends beyond the traditional confines of the University of Cambridge.

With a summer placement ahead of him in 2018, Fergal was looking for a way to utilise his energy and free time and stumbled across Cambridge Parnells, the city’s Gaelic Athletic Association club, at the Six Bells pub on Covent Garden, off Mill Road.

Although he was brought up in Glossop, near Manchester, Fergal’s Irish genes meant he knew plenty about Gaelic football. His dad is from Belfast and his mum is from Dublin, where Fergal would visit growing up, including going to Croke Park, the home of GAA.

A man with a moustache in a fluorescent orange bib and sports clothing on an artificial grass pitch

“Four years later I’m treasurer of the club,” says Fergal, pictured above, now in his sixth year at Caius and is part of the Hunter Research Group in the Department of Chemistry.

“It’s an incredibly fun sport to play. It’s quite demanding physically. And you get the sense of camaraderie from team sports.

“It’s a good sense of community and I get to meet people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. There are some interesting conversations to be had at training of people doing wildly different things in their lives, escaping the University bubble.”

There are links with pubs around the city, as Fergal explains.

“It was actually set up as a University team with the aid of the landlord of the Earl of Derby near the train station, but over time there’s been less University involvement and more town people playing,” he says.

“Membership as a University society lapsed. But we now have a significant proportion of players involved in the University – I’m not the only PhD Chemist. There are a few undergraduates, PhD students and postdocs.

“One of the issues is it’s a summer sport, so you need people who are around. The season runs from April until October.”

A sports team, with 11 men standing in the back row and seven on one knee in front of them

Fergal, pictured back row fourth from right in grey top, with Cambridge Parnells, the city’s Gaelic Athletic Association club

The team play against others from St Albans, London, Luton, Watford and Oxford and Fergal enjoys the break from his PhD in physical organic chemistry, or specifically The effects of polarisation on the hydrogen bonding properties of amides.

Fergal, who plays College sport, including for the second XI and third XI football team, and cricket for the Chemistry department, adds: “Sport is an escape and a release, and I’ve made a lot of good friends from playing sport, people I wouldn’t have crossed paths with if we weren’t in the same team. And it’s different to the social circle of friends in my year.”

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