Yesterday I was able to experience the Gaelic Games with my study abroad team. The Gaelic Games are the traditions of Irish Sport Culture. The day started off by going to the Na Fianna club house. When we got there, we were introduced to Brian and Danny who showed us around and taught us the games. We first watched videos about Hurling and Gaelic Football and then went down into the room where they play handball
I learned that handball is actually the “forgotten” Irish sport. It has been faded out in the last 40 years. We then received helmets and hurling sticks and proceeded outside. We did a lot of practice drills and I found out that hurling is quite hard. It requires a lot of skill. After practicing, we attempted a game where I turned clueless. I had completely forgotten everything I learned and felt I was just running in circles and poking my stick at the sliotar (hurling ball).
After hurling, we moved to my favorite of the sports, Gaelic Football. This sport is a mix of soccer and rugby. It required a lot of skill, but it was much easier to get a hang of. I enjoyed learning and engaging in Gaelic Football because it is what I am going to be studying during my time in Ireland. After playing a 10 minute game, I realized that Gaelic Football is very high paced and exhausting, especially when you’re not in shape.
After practicing the Gaelic Games, we went to Croke Park. This is where the best of the best play the Gaelic Games. We did a tour of the stadium and learned a lot more about the games and the stadium. The stadium actually holds about 82,300 people. When learning about the games, our tour guide said that the Gaelic Games are all amateur athletes playing at a professional level. The athletes do not actually get paid for playing. They have practice five nights a week and on top of that most of them go to school or work full time.
It is incredible to see the dedication that the athletes have for their sport. Our tour guide said that there were more people at the All Ireland Final than the Super Bowl. This shows how much pride Irish people have for their sport and culture.
After experiencing the games and going to Croke Park to see where the professionals play, I was able to observe a Gaelic Football practice. The team I observed and will continue to observe is the Kilmacud Crokes. This experience was amazing. The team more than welcomed me in and made me feel very comfortable. When I got there, the team was running drills. One of the drills they were doing was one that we had learned earlier in the day! They did three drills and then stopped to come together to grab water and stretch. They then continued on with practice doing a couple more drills and then ended with shooting.
After shooting, the practice was over. This was a lot different than I thought it would be. They did not come together at the end and have a talk, they simply ran to the other side of the field to pick up their belongings and then left. Throughout practice the team was hard working, but also laughing a lot. It was great to see how the team interacted with each other and the coaches. It was also interesting to go from experiencing the game, to seeing where the professionals play, to seeing a junior team practice. Where Kilmacud Crokes practice is also where they play their games, which is significantly different than Croke Park.
Overall, yesterday was a great learning experience. I am excited to further explore Gaelic Football and learn all there is to know!