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A Championship Weekend for the Delco Gaels

http://www.cycgaa.org

http://www.cycgaa.org

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.

Sports

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.

Sports

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.

Sports

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.

News, Sports

Welcome Back, Tyrone!

A valiant effort by Tyrone (in the green, orange, and white.

A valiant effort by Tyrone (in the green, orange, and white.

There’s a new team in town.

For the first time in seven years, the Philadelphia Gaelic Athletic Association football lineup will include Tyrone, a club that was premier in the city since 1949 but, like other Gaelic clubs, struggled with the loss of players—immigrants who returned home—and the pressures of fundraising and time, the two plagues of every volunteer group.

Tyrone’s first match against the Kevin Barrys on Thursday night, under storm-darkened skies at Cardinal Dougherty High School in Olney, wasn’t the best of debuts. The seasoned Barrys controlled the ball the entire game and, at least on the Tyrone sidelines, no one even bothered to keep a score. It was a rout.

But, as coach Aidan Trainor told the crestfallen team at half-time, “You can’t lose heart. “

Trainor didn’t. Nor did his brothers, Sean and Joe, who, with Peter McDermott and Noel Coyle, resurrected the team this year, basically appropriating the National Junior C champions, the Eire Ogs, to form the new team. “It’s all for the love of the red hand of Tyrone,” said McDermott, referring to the red hand that appears on the Tyrone flag. The upright hand honors Eoghain O’Neill, high King of Ulster, who, in a sea race to claim his land, took the rules literally. The first to lay a hand on the land was its king, so O’Neill cut off his hand and threw it to shore. There are those who will tell you that that exemplifies the Tyrone spirit: They’ll do whatever it takes.

That offers some hope for the season which starts now at Cardinal Dougherty and may end at the GAA’s new field in Limerick. “One of the fields is finished,” said Sean Trainor, “but we have some work to do on the parking lot.”

Also in the hope department: The reinforcements have yet to arrive, but the Irish players who spend their summers in Philadelphia just to play football in the heat and humidity are on their way. There are fewer Irish accents on the field before they arrive; many of the players these days are Irish-American (some not even Irish) who made their way through the vibrant local GAA youth clubs. It’s not easy getting even visiting players, says Sean Trainor. “Not when air fares are $1,000. But some of the players are willing to pay their own fare.” They’re that motivated.

Peter McDermott wasn’t concerned that the Tyrone team’s first effort on the field wasn’t the best. That, he said, is yet to come. “They were playing a senior team and it’s good for them,” he pointed out. “That’s how you learn, you know.”

Check out our photos of the action.

On Thursday, May 30, the Young Irelands will meet the St. Patricks on the Dougherty fields, 6301 N. Second Street, in Philadelphia, starting at 6:30 PM.

News, Sports

Irish Heritage Night at PPL Park

Local GAA Youth footballers escorted the players onto the field.

Local GAA Youth footballers escorted the players onto the field.

Last Wednesday, it was Irish Heritage Night at PPL Park in Chester, home of the Philadelphia Union soccer club, and the place was packed to watch the Union square off against  Los Angeles Galaxy (sadly, the Union lost 4-1). There was an Irish connection to the game in more than just the stands too–the Galaxy’s Robbie Keane is the all-time record Irish goalscorer for the Irish national football team. While in the city, Keane met up with members of the Irish Memorial (and has his photo taken there). Proceeds from the ticket sales to the game will go to help maintain the memorial, overlooking Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia.

Check out our photo essay, done by photographer Gwyneth MacArthur.

Sports

This Is Your Brain on Philadelphia Hurling

Hurling on ThingLInk.

Hurling on ThingLInk.

If you’ve never watched the ancient Irish game of hurling, it can be a lot to take in. It’s described as the fastest moving field game in all sports. That might just be the Irish saying so, but still … catch a game, and you’d be hard-pressed to argue.

At its simplest, hurling is about using a flat-bladed bat (the hurley) to slam a small ball called a sliotar (pronounced “slitter”) past a goaltender. But of course, it’s never that simple.

To get to the point where you can actually attempt a goal, you just might need to run at breakneck speed down the field, balancing the ball on the end of the bat, through heavy traffic, and trying not to allow your hurley-slinging opponents to confuse your head with the ball. Think Harry Potter’s quidditch, but without the brooms.

So we could keep on telling you, but we thought it would be better to just break down and show you. Roll your cursor over the interactive photo below, and you’ll see what we’re talking about. And thanks to the Na Tóraidhe Hurling Club for posing.