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NGAC 2017 Summer Gaelic Football In Review

An extensive history of the Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club will someday point out that while the club was founded around a group of people’s love for the sport of hurling, there was also a Gaelic football at its very first official occasion.

2016 came with a mission to give life to Gaelic in the NGAC. The second half of the year would be marked by the first regularly scheduled trainings for the sport, with established members and fresh new faces all learning how to lift the ball with the foot, fist pass the ball, solo off the toe, and all the other basics. To break the streak of entropy at that level, the club enlisted the help of football obsessive Matt O’Donnell to head the Gaelic Football Development Committee in the spring of 2017. This led to a much more focused brand of the sport, which was designed to make way for the very first league of competitive play for the club in the summer.

The inaugural NGAC Gaelic Football league would held at the field house of Boost FitClub, located just west of downtown Nashville. Due to Nashville’s high summer temperatures, combined with excruciating humidity and piercing midday sun, it was found best that this first league be set indoors. Eight players comprised each of the 3 teams, with an active side of 6 players (5 fielders + 1 goalkeeper, with 2 subs). Team sponsors included East Nashville Beer Works (ENBW), Asgard Brewery, and One Hour Heating and Air (OHHA).

Prior to the season, it looked as if all three of the teams had an even match to them. No one could say for sure how they thought the season would pan out. It would be all up to who was available to each roster to play on match day and what transpired on the pitch.

Week 1 – July 9

ENBW def. OHHC

ENBW def. Asgard

OHHC def. Asgard

The first week of play saw dynamic, yet measured play across the board from each team in each game. As the first organized attempts at Gaelic football go, it certainly passed the “eye test”. In other words, if anyone who was familiar with the sport were to be watching, they’d agree that it looked like Gaelic.

ENBW won the day with an early exposition of strategic play to win easy, critical points, including a brilliant 45 meter free kick from captain Danny Espensen. Asgard would struggle to win kick outs from either end and create enough scoring opportunities from play, keeping their win column empty for the first Sunday out. OHHA would divide their time between the whistles evenly, backed by superb hand passes from Jesse Gentry, fine ground game, and effortless looking kicks over the bar by their head man, Liam Barry.

Interlude: Peach Cup, Atlanta – July 15

Structured into the schedule would be a weekend for members of the NGAC to travel to Atlanta, GA to compete in the Peach Cup. This tournament holds importance alongside our first league as it would also be the first time we’d see dedicated players travel for Gaelic football instead of the hurling members getting a game in during a break in their schedule. Teaming with members of the Memphis club and a few lads coming up from Orlando, the NGAC was represented with as many as 6 players on a side at a time, including Pancho Mackin-Plankey and Matt O’Donnell, who both played in all but one match on the day. Both players made strong impressions throughout the tournament, with O’Donnell scoring 0-3 from play.

Week 2 – July 23

Asgard def. ENBW

Asgard def. OHHA

ENBW def. OHHA

When league play resumed, the competition took back some of the parity that the pre-season predictions had been hinged on. Asgard fought their way back into the standings by winning out their day in back-to-back matches. The Norsemen implemented a strict policy of defensive pressure on every scoring chance for the opposition, and were aided by the out of nowhere ball winning abilities of NGAC rookie Bryan Miller, impressive kicks from distance by Tim Walter, and 2 goals off the left foot by club chairman, Ryan Buckley. ENBW would win the third match with an onslaught of fisted balls over the bar for points, primarily by Chance Butler, that just couldn’t be matched.

Week 3 – July 30

Asgard def. OHHA

ENBW def. OHHA

ENBW def. Asgard

Anything was still up for grabs as the teams entered the second half of the league. Asgard’s strategy of stifling most chances of score from play continued through the first match with OHHA, in large part thanks to late addition Nick O’Rick helping to create a blockade on the defensive line, though the slippery midfielder Patrick Deneen made things incredibly difficult around the middle 1/3 of the pitch.

ENBW would take the mid-card match on the strength of great ball-stripping from Brendan Rauer and movement to and from forward Molly Bombardi, The team in navy blue would again prove what they could manage when they had momentum carry through back to back matches, despite great effort in the backfield from Ben Flynn.

In the Week 3 closer, Asgard’s Chris Davis would help keep points on the board and the team would take a lead into halftime. However, ENBW’s Pancho Mackin-Plankey facilitated the ball forward with a fine athleticism, while the speed and aptly timed passes of NGAC stalwart Corbett Ouellette were just a little too much to be overcome.

Heading into the final week, the standings would read:

ENBW 5-1

Asgard 3-3

OHHA 1-5

With just one week of the league season left, it looked like some of the balance that had looked so good was beginning to break down. ENBW was cruising through their schedule with a roster full of speed and power, while the other teams just couldn’t keep pace. The best hope looked like it would be for an overwhelmingly unlikely tie at the top. This would require Asgard to win out the day, and have OHHC produce just their second win in the remaining contest.

Week 4

OHHA def. ENBW

ENBW def. Asgard

OHHA def. Asgard

Heading into the final trio of matches, there was some anticipation over the possible path to victory for Asgard. Based on the schedule rotation, however, captain Matt O’Donnell and his team would have to wait out the result of the ENBW vs OHHA match to know if they would even be able to take the season into their own hands. OHHA would come out of the gate blazing, taking the lead midway through the first half and being tied twice before they didn’t have to look back. The much needed victory was built on both ends, with midfield beast Ryan Lowe and Joy Grabenstein’s superb ball control returning to the roster, and Liam Barry’s goalkeeping enabling the side outfitted in his native Cork colors to come out on top.

Asgard took the pitch for the second match knowing full well that their play would determine whether or not they could match the top of the heap. Asgard’s lead at the halftime whistle was defined by placing a dedicated defender on Pancho Mackin-Plankey, who had spent the entire league as a bottleneck for ENBW, being fed balls from the back line or moving kick outs won up to the forwards. An early goal and a couple of open space balls over the bar by Matt O’Donnell did well to hopes alive and good spirits. When play resumed, however, ENBW had other ideas. While the final moments of their first match were marked with an unusual amount of erratic wide scoring attempts, Danny Espensen’s side would make up for most all of them with enough to solidify that ENBW would stand alone as champions.

The final match of the NGAC’s first attempt at league play for Gaelic football seemed like it would be a play for pride between Asgard and OHHA. Asgard would enter the match with a 2-1 advantage in head-to-head play between the teams. When it was all said and done, it would finally be OHHC’s turn to win out their entire day slate. The red team started the match with two goals inside the first quarter of the match, but Asgard was able to stay close on the trail, thanks to defender Ryan Culligan pulling opposing passes to the forward line out of the air. Nearly as soon as the referee threw the ball in for the second half, OHHC closed the book on the match. A beleaguered Asgard would be unable to produce quality kick outs. This led to a parade of OHHA players, including Evan Lamberth, Joy Grabenstein (from both legs), Patrick Deneen, and Ryan Lowe floating seemingly effortless points over the bar in blistering succession. So while the buildup had hoped for a return to even keel at the top end of the standings, it was OHHA who mastered the day to balance out Asgard!

NGAC 2017 Gaelic Football Summer League Champions: East Nashville Beer Works

Congratulations are in order for the East Nashville Beer Works team, led by their captain, Danny Espensen! Their high level of tactical play and pure athletic talent kept them as the team to beat all season.

Time will never forget, rightfully, that ENBW are the first winners of the NGAC Gaelic football championship. At the same time, though, there will always be a sparkle in the cup for everyone who made the inaugural league a reality and a rousing success.

Someday, you could be forgiven for looking back at the inaugural season and seeing grueling, oftentimes clumsy matches played by small teams on an unusually small, artificial turf pitch. However, anyone who was there will be happy to tell you otherwise. They’ll tell you how expectations for the league were regularly topped and adjusted on a weekly basis leading up to the opening match. They’ll tell you how dedicated the training was to not simply producing something that looked like the sport. They’ll tell you about points scored from nearly everywhere on the pitch. They’ll tell you about how each player’s position was ultimately only a suggestion, that their work rate had to be higher to keep their team covered. They’ll tell you about feverish short hand passes, points that snuck in through the lowest corner of the narrow uprights, and the unpredictability of where kicks of the highest arc might land. They’ll tell you that on four Sundays in the summer of 2017, Gaelic football staked its first claim in Nashville.

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All the News from the NGAC

NGAC News

The last month has been so busy for the Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club that this poor blogger couldn’t keep up with it all. Instead of several posts, we’ll wrap up all the fun here in one big post.

Intro to Hurling Day

It seems that our planned intro days get rained out more often than not. This time, nature one-upped herself and sent snow. Our March 11 Intro to Hurling Day was quickly postponed to the next day, which was of course beautiful and mild.

We welcomed out a few new people, but we fear we may have missed out on a large crowd due to the last-minute postponement. For that reason, we’ve decided to never tell Mother Nature when our next intro day is. Instead, we’ll choose a week each month for beginners to come out and give Irish sports a try. Keep an eye on our events on the Facebook page to catch the next one.

Of course, you NEVER have to wait for an intro day. Beginners are welcome all the time, any time we have social events or training. Someone will always take time out to teach you the basics if you want to learn.

NGAC on Today in Nashville

If you missed our exultant cries of delight on social media, here’s the scoop: On St. Patrick’s Day, Nashville’s WSMV featured the club on their Today in Nashville show. We filmed the spot on March 10 (a day before the crazy snow) at Centennial Park, with two full hours of hurling and Gaelic football scrimmages that resulted in amazing shots from the production crew.

If you haven’t seen the segment yet, check it out below.

WSMV Channel 4

Music City Invitational

Not publishing a write-up for this one was painful, but time kept marching on with more and more exciting things for Nashville GAC. On March 25, we welcomed clubs from all over America to play in a hurling and camogie tournament that lasted all day.

Opening ceremonies, led by Liam Barry, included remarks from club chairman Ryan Buckley, the American national anthem by Jennifer Barry, and the Irish national anthem by Caleb Harper. We were also very fortunate to enjoy Irish fiddle music from Dr. Ron Bombardi as we set up the fields.

Nashville split into two teams—Green and Gold—with Green winning its first match over Indy B. Gold fell to Knoxville but rallied well in their consolation match. Green played Coastal Virginia in the second round and were defeated. Still, it was an exciting day with enough proof for these players to know they’ve grown enormously in skill over the past four years.

The day ended with Atlanta A taking home the Wall Cup for camogie, and Indy A took home the Watson Cup for hurling. We presented the trophies at our afters celebrations with sponsors Smith & Lentz Brewing in East Nashville. It was an amazing day, and we already look forward to next year.

Spring League 2017

Our spring league registration topped out at 45 players, some pretty exciting growth after eight seasons. Each of the three teams has 15 players, and we bumped up play to 11-a-side, with 25-minute halves.

Our sponsors this season have been announced, but if you missed the posts, take a look at the incredible jerseys below, with sponsors East Nashville Beer Works, Homegrown Taproom & Marketplace, and Quore proudly and gratefully displayed.

The season officially started April 2, but it’s not too late to get in on the action. If you sign up by April 23, our third match of the season, you can be placed on a team. After that, you’ll have to wait until the fall.

Of course, we also travel to tournaments in the summer, so go ahead and join up anyway so you’ll be ready to play for Nashville GAC when we head to our first competition.

spring league 2017 jerseys

The Ben & Morey Show

This all brings us to last night, when Benjy Flynn and Britti Himelfarb represented the club on live, late-night talk show The Ben & Morey Show. If you haven’t heard of Ben and Morey, look them up. If you haven’t been to a show, make a point to head over to the Performing Arts Center at Centennial Park on a Thursday night.

Ben and Britti represented the club with pride and a lot of humor. They both had the crowd in stitches with their quick wit, but they also managed to convey their serious love for Irish sports. The club Instagram has a few images from the evening, and we hope to soon post the full interview.

If you met any of us at the show, please feel free to reach out with questions. You can also join us for intro sessions, trainings, or just to watch a match. Our Facebook page has an event schedule with all the latest information, or you can check the calendar here on the website.

This Sunday is week 2 of the spring league. We’d love to see you out there at 3135 Heartland Drive in Donelson!

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Meet Our 2017 Spring League Sponsors!

spring league 2017 sponsors

We are so excited and grateful to announce our sponsors for 2017 Spring League! We hope you’ll support them as they’re supporting us, by visiting their websites, saying hi on social media, and–if you have a few extra dollars–with a purchase or two.

Corporate Sponsor

Quore Hotel Software

Supporting us for a second season, Quore hotel management software enjoyed sponsoring our Fall League 2016 victors. Quore is changing the way the hospitality industry provides service, and we’re excited to wear their logo every Sunday for our matches.

Pub Sponsor

Homegrown Taproom & Marketplace

Also supporting for a second season is Homegrown Taproom and Marketplace. We enjoy visiting Homegrown in Donelson after every other Sunday match for delicious food and a huge selection of craft beer. Thanks, Homies!

Brewery Sponsor

East Nashville Beer Works

We’re so excited to announce our newest sponsor for 2017: East Nashville Beer Works. We’ve already enjoyed their handmade pizzas and amazing beer at jersey reveals and board meetings, so it’s awesome to make this relationship official.

If all of this isn’t exciting enough, there’s more! Each team will have a new jersey design, with Azzurri providing the goods. We’ve seen them. They’re amazing. If you haven’t signed up for the league yet, you better get on that. You don’t want to miss out on one of these jerseys.

We’re also bringing back team nicknames the Ports, Leesiders, and Blue Notes. We want to always give our sponsors the appreciation and recognition they deserve, but we have to hang onto our roots, too. We’ll let you know which team gets which nickname at the jersey reveal.

Exciting stuff for the NGAC! Baile Ceol Abù!