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The Hawks in action

St. Joe Squares Off Against B.C. in a Saturday Gaelic Football Match

The gang from Glenside

The gang from Glenside

Gaelic athletics are well-established in the Philadelphia area and, at least among the fans who follow the local hurling and Gaelic football teams, everyone knows who plays these freewheeling, uniquely Irish games.

Brendan Gallagher of the Glenside Gaelic Club thought he knew all the teams.

Turned out he didn’t. The Hawks of St. Joe’s fields a Gaelic football team, and you’ll get to see them in action in a game against a team from Boston College Saturday at 3 p.m. at Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote, Montgomery County.

The team at St. Joe’s, Gallagher said, had already been planning a small exhibition game, “but it was going to be a much smaller event.”

The creative geniuses at the nascent Glenside club had a better idea.

“We saw it as an event of much larger significance,” Gallagher explained. “They saw it as a huge step for their club. I saw it as something bigger. I saw it as a huge step for Gaelic sports in the region.

“Ciaran Porter is the local GAA development officer and a paid employee of the GAA, and his job is to develop Gaelic sports in this region. He was the main force between us getting this event up and running. He has been holding development meetings, and asking people to come from different clubs. It was at one of those meetings at St. Joe’s that I met these young guys. I understood the significance.”

Glenside saw the game as an opportunity to bring out all the GAA fans—plus folks who have never witnessed a Gaelic athletic game of any kind. So the Glenside club is sponsoring the event, and it will now be a much bigger deal.

“At halftime, we’ll have a seven-a-side tiny tots game,” Gallagher said. “Were hoping to line up kids from the Delco Gaels to play against our kids. If not, we will have an intramural game. We see that as a marketing tool for ourselves.”

Afterward, from 6 to 8 at the Knights of Columbus Hall on nearby Limekiln Pike, the Glenside club will serve food and drink. Everyone is invited. It’s five bucks to get in. For newbies and their parents, the Glenside club will explain the basics of the game—and take the opportunity to recruit, of course.

In the meantime, Gallagher is gratified to learn of the Hawks club, and sees it as a positive sign for the growth and development of GAA sports here in Philly, and throughout the United States.

“This is their third year,” Gallagher said. “Ultimately, just like lacrosse and rugby, we’d like the games played at local universities, so students could be enticed to play into their 20s.”


On to the North American Finals!

Up in the air

Up in the air

It might be the first time I’ve heard anyone so excited about a trip to Cleveland.

But there they were, a disorderly pile of screaming, red-shirted Young Irelands stacked up at midfield, celebrating a shocking Division 1 football win on Sunday over the previously dominating Donegal St. Patricks. The Young Irelands earned the win by a razor-thin margin, 1-13 to 2-9. At the half, the St. Patricks enjoyed a 2-4 to 0-5 lead and seemed to be coasting, continuing to rack up points in the second half. But the Young Irelands chipped away at that lead, sealing the deal with a goal and a point in the final minutes, to exultant cheers from fans on the sidelines.

The win earned the Young Irelands a trip to the North American GAA Finals over the labor day weekend.

In an earlier Junior B matchup, the St. Pats notched a win over the Kevin Barrys, 4-13 to 1-6.

And in the first game of the afternoon, Philly’s Na Toraidhe hurling club won handily over a hard-working team from Allentown. The guys from the Lehigh Valley fought all the way, and never gave up. But in the end, Na Toraidhe’s Kieran Donahue said, superior conditioning won the day.

“Our fitness level wasn’t where it needed to be (last year),” Donahue said. But this year, he added, conditioning was a priority, and it showed as the game progressed. “In the second half, that’s where our fitness level really paid off.”

We have tons of photos. You can see the Young Irelands-St. Pats photo essay up top.

Here are the two others:

St. Pats-Kevin Barrys
Na Toraidhe-Allentown


Two Rollicking GAA Games at Dougherty

gaa20130811homeIn a hard-fought game at Cardinal Dougherty High School field on Sunday, the Young Irelands emerged victorious over the Kevin Barrys in the Junior B Semi Final. The final score was Young Irelands 3-10 to the Barrys 1-11.

It was an emotional match, handily illustrated by a dust-up between the two teams, with a clutch of players rolling around on the ground pounding away. It was broken up by the referee after a few minutes. And then it as back to play as the two sides continued to fight the good fight—this time with a football. The Barrys struggled valiantly, but the Young Irelands pulled away for the win.

In a ladies football game earlier in the afternoon, it was the Notre Dames over the team from DC in a rout: 3-19 to 1-3.

We have tons of photos of the day’s action. The Young Irelands/Kevin Barrys set is above.



A Long, Bruising Afternoon of Hurling and Football

One of Sunday's hard-fought games.

One of Sunday’s hard-fought games.

There came a moment toward the end of the matchup between St. Patricks and the Young Irelands when even the most casual bystander has to realize: These guys are deadly serious. That moment came when a St. Pat’s player hit the ground near the opposing goal face down, writhing in agony for what seemed like ages. The diagnosis, once he’d been hauled off the field, was a broken knee.

The St. Pats won 5-23 to 0-6, but at some cost. Gaelic football is no game for the delicate.

There were three other games at Cardinal Dougherty that afternoon, one additional football match, Kevin Barrys v. Tyrone, and two hard-fought games of hurling, Philly’s Na Toraidhe vs. the DC Gaels, won by the local boys, and the Allentown Hibernians against the Baltimore Bohemians, won by Allentown.

We have—would you believe it?—more than a hundred photos.

There’s one at the top of the page, but you can get to all four of them here:



A Championship Weekend for the Delco Gaels

The Delco Gaels had plenty of cause for jubilation as three of their teams notched thrilling championship wins in the Continental Youth Championships this past weekend in Malvern.

In Under-16 Boys A and Under-12 Boys A, Gaels football teams emerged victorious, as did the Under-8 Boys A hurling team. At the end of the day, there were lots of medals dangling around lots of necks.

All of those championships probably took some of the sting out of a hard-fought, emotional finals loss by the Under-18 Boys B team. The Gaels were slightly younger than the winner, St. Raymond’s. Still, coach Louie Bradley expressed nothing but pride in his team.

“We had six under-18s (on the Gaels’ team), but the rest were all under-16s. We were making up the numbers,” Bradley explained. “We were never favored for that game, but they (the Gaels’ team) put up a good effort, they really did. The other team was just stronger. They were a legitimate under-18 team, and they were just stronger than us.”

Matters weren’t helped any by the fact that the team had just come back onto the field from their semi-final match after a rest of 20 minutes or so in a tent that probably did little to relieve the unrelenting heat of the day.

“We were just exhausted,” Bradley said. “We had just come off the field, having played a game, and that doesn’t help. I was glad to get to the final. Obviously, when we had gotten that far, I would love to have won it. But I’m still proud. They gave me a great effort out there.”

St. Raymond’s won it 2-11 to 1-6.

Another Gaels runner-up: The Under-14 A Ladies Camogie team.

All told, a memorable performance for a proud local club.

Another local coach had reason to be proud. Brendan Gallagher, of the brand-new Glenside Gaelic Club, clearly relished the club’s Under-8 Boys Football D fifth-place finish.

“We reached the finals in our very first year,” he said with a smile after posing for pictures with his medal-wearing youngsters. “We lost by just one point to San Diego. Not too bad, huh? It’s our first year as a club, so it’s very special, to say the least.”

We have what my partner Denise has described has “a gabillion photos” from the many weekend games. Yeah, really, that many. You can see them, above.

You can see the finals listings on the Continental Youth Championships website.


Philly’s Ready for the Continental Youth Championships

Kids getting their kicks.

Kids getting their kicks.

Philadelphia will be hosting the Gaelic Athletic Association’s Continental Youth Championships in Malvern from July 25 through 28. For such a massive undertaking—Gaelic football and hurling players from throughout the United States are taking partthere’s a national committee, of course. But when all those kids, their families and supporters start arriving this weekand certainly when play begins at the Greater Chester Valley Soccer Association fieldsthey’ll all be the guests of the Philadelphia GAA. And the Philly folks have had plenty to do to get ready.

To learn more, we checked in with local chairperson Louie Bradley.

How are things coming along?

Everything’s going pretty good. They’re delivering the goals tomorrow. We can’t put them up until Monday because the grass is getting cut again and they’re relining the fields. Tents are getting delivered Tuesday and Wednesday, the parade (down Gay Street in West Chester) is set for Wednesday night. People from the GAA in Ireland are arriving on Monday and Tuesday. All the teams start arriving on Wednesday.

It’ll be all hands on deck locally. We have a great group. The people who are involved are really dedicated.

It sounds like this is a big  job for the local GAA. How big?

It’s a lot of work when you’re trying to do your daytime job. It’s definitely a massive undertaking to get sponsors lined up, get the equipment, getting goals made up, having T-shirts made … all that. Scheduling games has been the hardest. We’re still finalizing the numbers.

What does this mean for the Philadelphia GAA? Seems like it would be a nice feather in your cap.

The first one was done really well. (The championships were last played in Philly in 2008.) That one was big. This one will be bigger. Everyone here is on the same page. There’s 2,000 kids and parents coming. Put it is way: If it goes wrong it’ll reflect on us. Were working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Do you still need help?

Every day we need 84 volunteers on the fields. (There are 12 fields.) At 8 o’clock every morning of the tournament, we need officials, like field marshals, linesmen and umpires. People who want to volunteer should go to our website.

Do you think an event like this raises public awareness of the role of young people in the GAA? It seems like, if you want Gaelic games to survive and thrive in the United States, you have to invest in young people.

It’s tough. In this country you have a lot of competition, with football, baseball, lacrosse, track, soccer and numerous other sports. Gaelic football is more of a cultural sport. It’s a coordination sport that helps you with other sports. I think it help my kids with their soccer, and it helps them with their aggressiveness as well. Obviously I’m biased, but it’s a great sport.

More details here.


GAA Kids From Around the Nation are Headed Here

2008 in West Chester

2008 in West Chester

The biggest Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) competition outside of Ireland is coming to our own back yard.

From July 25 through 28, roughly 2,000 young Gaelic football and hurling players from as far way as the West Coast will converge on the Greater Chester Valley Soccer Association fields in Malvern for the Continental Youth Championships (CYC).

Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the tournament has exceeded its organizers’ wildest expectations, according to Simon Gillespie, CYC recording secretary.

“We started in 2004,” Gillespie says. “They (organizers) didn’t think it was going to survive. It started out just as a trial, with 50 teams. Now we’re at nearly 200 teams. We’re the only competition for kids 3 to 18. It really is a highlight of the year for underage GAA sports. We estimate more than 10,000 spectators will come in over the four days.”

The only GAA youth competition that compares, Gillespie notes, is the Féile Peile na nÓg, Ireland’s national festival of football for boys and girls under 14. The CYC is is unique in that it features both football and hurling.

The CYC rotates through a different host city every year. The Philadelphia Gaelic Athletic Association is hosting this year’s competition. It’s a really big deal.

“Last year, it (the championships) was at Gaelic Park in Chicago,” says Gillespie. “Next year, it’ll be in New York. Each area gets it every so often. It’s as big a commitment for the host committee as it is for the national committee.”

Learn more about the championship. And take a gander at our photo essay from 2008, the last time the locals hosted the CYC.


Irish Heritage Night at the Phillies 2013

Brittany Killion and friend

Brittany Killion and friend

We already know how amazingly talented the local band Runa is. What we didn’t know is that they can put a spin on the National Anthem, the likes of which you probably haven’t heard before. And we mean that in a really good way—not in the Roseanne Barr sense of things. Syncopated yes, with drummer Cheryl Prashker setting the pace on her djembe, a tiny bit Celtic, a tiny bit rock. All in all, probably the best version we’ve heard. Bring them back.

Runa was on the field at Citizens Bank Park last week for Irish Heritage Night at the Phillies. Many of the regions’s Irish organizations joined in the pre-game festivities. It seemed like every local dance school was jigging and reeling along the  first and third base lines and the warning track. 2013 Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshal Harry Marnie threw out the first pitch. (Good arm, possible middle relief. Sign him.) The Philly Phanatic smooched 2013 Rose of Tralee winner  Brittany Killion. You couldn’t get more Irish.

Did the Phillies win? We forget.

We snapped a few dozen photos of the evening’s proceedings.