This week, men and women from Nashville, Atlanta, St. Louis, Greenville, Augusta, Knoxville, and Memphis all got up and went into work, just like normal. What’s not normal are the bandages, bruises, and braces underneath their business casual attire.
These bruised and battered warriors want you to ask about their injuries so they can tell you all about hurling, camogie, and Gaelic football. There’s no rule against it. They’re in the fight club that anyone can—and will—talk about.
How We Fight
Perhaps the first purpose of the GAA in America was simply to give Irish immigrants a place that felt like home. With more non-Irish now playing here than Irish-born, the purpose of the GAA in America has changed. Nowhere is this new mission more evident than right here in Nashville.
Our club, founded by John Watson and Anji Wall, exists to spread awareness of and appreciation for these Irish sports. That means everyone plays (small caveat here: our players have to be over the age of 18, unless they have permission from a parent who’s also willing to go to all the matches), regardless of age, fitness level, experience, nationality, or anything else, really. Our youngest member is 18, and our oldest is somewhere in his 60s. And our oldest member got out on that pitch this weekend to play the toughest team at the tournament; he got out there as often as he wanted to and played as long as he could.
Our ladies combined with St. Louis camogie, because the reason for attending the tournament was to simply play the sport they loved—not to see their names on a trophy. They were thrilled to wear Nashville shirts for their first match and St. Louis shirts for their second. When they missed out on winning the second game by two points, the euphoria was palpable.
Our fledgling Gaelic football team took five members along to join Memphis for a mega-team against Atlanta. Later in the afternoon, in order to get even more playing time, they took off their Tennessee jerseys and donned Atlanta shirts to help out their nemesis. The purpose wasn’t to win—it was to play.
And for the first time since the founding of the Nashville hurling squad, our guys won three rounds to go to the finals at the Peach Cup. It was a tough match, hard fought but eventually lost. And that’s okay, because the sheer joy of making the finals for the first time was enough to carry us to the after party with a spring in our step and a song in our hearts.
How We Keep Growing
Maybe we’ll shock the hell out of everyone in Ireland by saying that winning isn’t the club’s first priority. Of course, competition is important, and a trophy is an exciting possibility. The teams we send to tournaments pour their hearts and souls into playing the very best they can, all with dreams for a win.
Someday we’ll get there. That’s what it’s all about: the pursuit, the journey. Where you find out who you are and what you’re made of through the wins and losses.
And even when Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club reaches the point where we’re able to take home the trophy from a tournament, we’ll never sacrifice our beliefs and values for the sake of winning. We exist to spread awareness of and love for these Irish sports.
When we foster love for hurling, camogie, and Gaelic football, we grow. We become an even bigger family—one that supports every member, regardless of their ability. One that welcomes everyone to play and encourages everyone to be the best they can possibly be.
Nashville challenges every American club to adopt this mission. Teach love of the sport and not love of the trophy. Talk about your sprains, bruises, cuts, and scars around the water cooler at work. Encourage others to come out and join in the fun, regardless of their age, experience, or physical ability. Share your fight club with everyone you know, and then some.
Together, we can spark a true revolution.