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Gaelic Football Club - est. 1975

Heart and Crown Irish Pubs

Gaelic Football and the GAA is Family

Gaelic Football and the GAA is Family
By Amy Van Brabant

The hot afternoon late July sun is beating down. I join a group of spectators under a tree to watch an Under 14 Boys Gaelic Football match between the Ottawa Gaels from Canada and Trinity Milton from Massachusetts. The score is tied at the end of the second half. The players prepare for overtime, seeking refuge from the heat in the shady patch off to the side. I find myself caught up in the game, my eyes glued to the field. Neither of my children is playing in this division, but I feel I must see the outcome of the match.

Gaelic Football is more than just a game. And the Continental Youth Championships are more than just a tournament. I am not Irish. I have never played Gaelic Football in my life. In fact, until a few years ago, I had no idea what Gaelic Football was. But then we moved. Our neighbour was from Ireland and he invited our children to try the sport. They joined the Ottawa Gaels and learned to solo, pass and drop kick the ball through the goalposts. Soon we were all a part of the Ottawa Gaels family.

Amelia and Luke in Buffalo, NY

The next thing we knew, we were travelling to Buffalo, New York for our second Continental Youth Championships, commonly referred to as the CYC. The CYC is four day long Gaelic Football, Hurling and Camogie tournament that brings together youth teams from Under 6 to Under 18 from Canada, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and elsewhere in the United States. This year’s tournament took place from July 26th to July 30th, 2017 at West Seneca Soccer Complex in Buffalo, New York. The Ottawa Gaels Gaelic Football Club, in conjunction with the Toronto Chieftans Gaelic Football club, pooled their resources and their players and together sent 6 teams to the event: U8 and U10 Co-ed teams, U12 boys, U12 girls, U14 boys and U14 girls.

As we cheered from the sidelines for Ottawa and Toronto, we soon started cheering for Canada. It became clear early on in the games that, not only did our athletes enjoy the sport and demonstrate the skills, they had the passion and the drive to win. Under the exemplary guidance of their coaches, all of the Canadian teams qualified for the semi-finals. Remember the U14 match that went into overtime? Well, the Ottawa Gaels were successful in winning their semi-final match to advance to the finals. The excitement and pride was shared by the entire team, young and old. In the end, our U8 Co-ed team and U12 girls finished in fourth place. The U10 Co-ed team, U12 boys, U14 girls and U14 boys all finished in second place for their respective divisions. Although proud to wear their silver medals, they are even prouder to be a part of the worldwide GAA community.

The games for 2017 may be over but the memories live on. I am starting to wonder if perhaps I do have some Irish roots after all. I can follow the game, call the plays and cheer in true Irish form, noting when a play is unlucky, when a player kicks a good ball or when a wee lad (or a good girl) makes a brilliant play on the pitch. Although the competition is fierce, I witnessed players and spectators from opposing teams high fiving and shaking hands during and after a match. By the end of the tournament, I even found myself adopting the accent. Next year’s CYC will be in Boston. We wouldn’t miss it for the world.

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