Nurturing the Future of Gaelic Football
By Paul Schneider
Whether he’s running his thriving landscaping business or playing Gaelic football, Dan Clark knows a thing or two about planting seeds, nurturing them and watching them grow into something special.
Clark, the Player of the Year on the Kevin Barrys team that captured the Intermediate title at the North American Gaelic Athletic Association Championships in Chicago last year, is getting ready for another season of helping things to take root.
In customers’ yards, there are trees that will be planted, lawns that will be revived and paths that will be built. In East Falls, where the Kevin Barrys work out indoors before moving to the Roxborough High field in the spring, things aren’t much different. It’s in East Falls that the Barrys’ side is planting the seeds for their upcoming title defense, and where people like Clark are nurturing the future of Gaelic football in the United States.
“I don’t know where to start,” he said earlier this winter. “I was about 20 or 21 years old when I started watching the game. There was something about it that was special. I loved the way all the Irish guys take the game so seriously. It kind of caught on and I just kept going with it.”
The game has been a perfect addition to Clark’s sports resume, which reads like the menu at an athletic all-you-can-eat buffet. Played soccer until he was 15. Junior high and ninth grade football at Hatboro-Horsham High. Baseball for a year at East Stroudsburg University, after which he focused increasingly on academics.
In retrospect, graduating with a degree in Criminal Justice was the easy part. Finding a job was far tougher. Clark took “hundreds” of test for law enforcement-related positions. “There were hundreds of people taking every test,” he notes. “And they were only hiring one guy.”
With a loan from girlfriend Caroline Heedles’ father, Clark founded Clark’s Precision Landscaping in Horsham. He bought some equipment, and 15 customers from another contractor. Today he has more equipment. And more than 100 customers.
Somewhere along the way, Clark has time to play as a receiver in rough touch American football leagues in the Eastern Montgomery County area, and periodically shows up on the field in soccer matches in Pennypack Park at the request of Barrys goaltender Benny Landers. Gaelic football, he says, is something that keeps him “busy in the summer.” Go figure.
“I like the competitive nature of it,” the 26-year-old Clark says. “Every year I go out just to have a good time and see how things go. I think it’s something I’ll be doing until I stop having fun, or my legs hurt too badly to play anymore.”