All Summer One Sport: Gaelic Football
Banking on the Luck of the Irish
“Am I in Dublin or Calgary?”
That was my first thought when I first arrived at the pitch where the Calgary Chieftains practice. Never have I seen (and heard) so many Irish people before. This pitch in Bowness was a little slice of the emerald isle. Before going to try out Gaelic football, I watched a couple videos of athletes playing, and wow, was I ever excited to give it a go.
Jimmy Doyle, Calgary Chieftains Chairman describes Gaelic football as, “A hybrid of soccer, basketball, rugby, volleyball and Aussie rules football.” This sport was like nothing that I had played before. It allowed me to try different combinations of my favourite moves from each sport.
Through Gaelic football, I could take all my below average skills in those other sports and turn myself into a semi-decent football player. Think of it like baking: I just needed to combine my best sports skills together, which somehow would all come together, making me into a semi-decent Gaelic footballer.
By now you are probably wondering how you can turn your mediocre sports skills into a pro Gaelic footballer like me. It’s simple: come on down to the field behind the Our Lady of the Assumption School every Tuesday at 7 pm and try it out!
One of the many benefits of this sport is that you don’t need to have fancy, expensive equipment. All you need is a pair of running shoes, as the Calgary Chieftains provides everything else (lots of laughs, free of charge).
The pitch that they play on is a modified soccer field that is a bit longer than a regular field. Think of the goals as if a soccer net and an American football goal post had a baby (picture below). With two tall poles sticking up from each side it's not hard to see where the pitch is. You get three points for getting the ball in the net and one point for getting it in between the two posts above the net.
Are you worried about all the pressure (and cameras) being on you during a game? As Gaelic football is traditionally played 15 aside, you can always count on someone else to pick up your slack. It does get a little harder to freeload in Western Canada though, as games are played 11 a side, and nearly impossible for kids, as matches are played seven a side.
When I first went out onto the field, it was during a kids practice (thankfully). This non-threatening environment made it perfect for me to hone my Gaelic football skills. Since you can’t take more than four steps without making a play, I needed to get the basics down before I was going to get destroyed by a herd of six-year-olds.
Here is a list of some of the different plays you can do:
Bounce: like in basketball (you can’t do this twice in a row though) (0:05-0:06 in the video)
Catch: the same as in rugby (0:01-0:02 in the video)
Punt kick: like in American football (0:00-0:01 in the video)
Solo: a quick drop and kick up of the ball (0:06-0:07 in the video)
So, who is plays this iconic Irish sport? Surprise surprise, most players are here on two-year visas from Ireland. However, The Calgary Chieftains are on a mission to bring this sport to as many Canadians as possible. One way they are doing this is by offering a kid’s program (out of the Irish Cultural Centre in the winter) that runs all year round. Realising that many parents don’t have extra money for sport, the price for children is $50 which includes a jersey worth $35 alone!
We all have a little Irish within us, so why not go on down to the field behind the Our Lady of the Assumption School in Bowness and make your ancestors proud?
Click here to get in contact with the club!
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