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Our Weekend Fight Club: The Peach Cup

peach cup rundown

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.

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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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Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club To Host 2nd Annual Music City Invitational Irish Sports Tournament

The Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club (Nashville GAC) will host the 2nd Annual Music City Invitational Irish sports tournament on April 2, 2016. Teams from the Midwest and Southeast will compete in hurling and camogie for a shot at the trophy. The tournament will take place between 9 am and 4 pm at Heartland Fields in Donelson, and the general public is invited to watch.

Hurling, a fast-paced, high-scoring field game, is the national sport of Ireland, where it is predominantly played, but is also found in parts of the world where Irish immigrants settled. Camogie is the game for women, with slightly adapted rules. While many Americans have yet to discover the ancient game, which has been played for over three thousand years, most are familiar with derivatives hockey, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and even golf.

Nashville GAC will welcome players from Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Knoxville, TN; St. Louis, MO; Indianapolis, IN; New Orleans, LA; Akron, OH; Raleigh, NC. The teams will play at least three matches each throughout the day, with winners playing four or more. Food and drink will be available for sale at the fields, as well as commemorative items, including T-shirts and pint glasses with the Nashville team crest.

The day will begin with performances of the American and Irish National Anthems, words from our founder John Watson, and music from bagpipers. A celebration, trophy presentation, and social gathering for teams and fans will take place at 7 pm that evening.

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Music City Invitational Match Report

By Jameson Hurley

The inaugural Music City Invitational, hosted by the Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club, was the first event of its kind in the state of Tennessee. Hurling and camogie teams from St. Louis, MO; Indianapolis, IN; Atlanta, GA; and Knoxville, TN traveled to the host city for an action-packed day of Gaelic games. The event, which was postponed for two weeks due to ice and snow that rendered the pitch unplayable, was played under beautiful sunny skies and mild spring conditions.

The Opening Ceremony

Early arriving players were welcomed to the pitch by a dense layer of fog. As the players warmed up, the fog lifted, and the day was underway. The Nashville Pipe and Drum Corps kicked off the opening ceremonies followed by the singing of the National Anthems of the United States of America and the Republic of Ireland. Reverend John Hammond, of Christ the King Parish, gave a moving benediction, and with that, the matches were off.

6 hurling teams and 3 camogie teams set off into battle to see who would claim the cups. In the group stages of hurling, Indy Green, St. Louis, and Nashville competed in the Green Division, while Atlanta, Knoxville, and Indy Black faced off in the Gold Division. Over on the camogie pitch Atlanta 1, Atlanta 2, and a combined Indy/Nashville squad were set to compete in a round robin tournament.

On to the Matches

The first two matches of the day featured Indy Green v. host club Nashville and Atlanta v. a newly formed club form Knoxville, a team of U.S. Army Reserve soldiers. Both matches were spirited and competitive, but the experience of the long established clubs of Indy and Atlanta proved too much for the newer kids on the block. Final score: Indy Green 7-12 (33) to Nashville 1-3 (6) and Atlanta 7-16 (37) to Knoxville 1-0 (3).

Next up on pitch 1 were the Sons of Liberty from St. Louis v. Indy Green. The long-established friendly rivalry between Indy and St. Louis proved to be one of the highlights of the day, with an excellent display of long-range pointing and strong defensive stands from both teams. In the end, it was the crisp passing and efficient teamwork of the men from the Hoosier state that gave them the full-time edge. St. Louis 0-7 to Indy 0-11. Over on pitch 2, Indy Black put up a valiant effort, but their friends from the South proved too experienced and too strong a side. Atlanta took the victory, and with it advanced to the next stage of the tournament along with Indianapolis Green.

Over to the Camogie Pitch

Who would face Indy Green and Atlanta in those next matches? That was to be decided shortly thereafter when Nashville faced off against St. Louis, and Knoxville tested their improving skills against Indy Black. But first, all in attendance would be treated excellent match on the camogie pitch. Atlanta, last year’s North American camogie champions split their squad for the round robin stages. The first camogie match featured Atlanta 1 v. Indy/Nashville, and what a thrilling match it was. Excellent ball movement, precise scores, and amazing defensive plays kept the assembled fans on their toes. In the end the Indy/Nashville Squad found the space between the posts more often, scoring 7-8 (29) to Atlanta’s 5-3 (18). Indy would go on to face the second Atlanta squad, ending that match with a similar result, and thus claimed the championship. What would happen in the “friendly” scheduled for later in the day, when Atlanta would play at full strength against their northern rivals?

Back to Hurling

Back on the hurling pitch, it was Chairman of the Nashville GAC Johnny Watson’s former club mates from St. Louis who were set to do battle the host city. Pride was on the line for the Nashville forward, as a victory against the men he led to a National Championship just 4 years prior would mark quite an accomplishment for the club he founded just 2 years ago. The winner of the match would go on to face Atlanta in the next round, while the loser would be relegated to a shield match against the Gold Division’s 3rd place team. The competition was fair but fierce, with both sides exchanging blows. With minutes to go, Nashville took a 2-point lead, when Watson snuck a ball past the goalie. St. Louis, not done with their effort responded with a quick point followed closely by another. With time nearly expired and the match level, Nashville was awarded a free. Tension filled the air as the sliotar was lifted and struck. Wide. The game ended in a draw, with both teams earning a point, and St. Louis advanced on point differential.

On the adjacent pitch, the men from Indy Black faced off against Knoxville. The newcomers, strengthened by the addition of two experienced subs, dug in and played hard. While the skill was not quite there, the passion and courage was. Indy Black, with their experience, led the charge, putting up 7 brilliant points from play. But those points, combined with 3 goals would, in the end, not be enough to offset the new found goal scoring prowess of the Knoxville side. At the final whistle, the scorecard read: Knoxville 6-3 (21) to Indy Black 3-7 (16). Knoxville was set to face the other Indy side in the next round.

The top two hurling teams from each division took to the pitch to decide who would face off in the championship match. On field 1, it was Indy Green who would put Knoxville’s recent winning ways to the test. The boys from Indy wasted no time in putting up the first score, as Knoxville struggled to win the ball. Once they started scoring, Indy did not stop, and while Knoxville turned to the subs that led them to victory in the earlier match against their opponent’s fellow clubmen, their scores came too rarely to slow Indy down. At full time, the scoreboard told the tale: Indy Green 5-18 (33) to Knoxville 1-4 (7). Indy Green advanced to the final.

On field 2, St. Louis, hoping to show that the draw against Nashville was unlike their usual winning ways, faced off against a tough Atlanta side. The match was physical from the start with each team’s strongmen attacking the ball with ferocious intensity. The battles at midfield gave way to attacks on goal, which were shut down time and time again by each side’s defense. While the both sides gave their all in hopes of reaching the championship, it was Atlanta who won the chance to challenge Indy Green for the cup. St. Louis would have to settle for a consolation match against Knoxville.

Over to the Camogie Pitch

Back over at the camogie pitch, a full strength Atlanta side greeted the combined Indy/Nashville squad for a “friendly” battle for pride. A high standard of play was on full display, as neither side wanted to leave the pitch the loser. There were scores to be had, and scores were indeed found, with the ladies from Atlanta showing their supporters why they were the deserving winners of last year’s National title. In the end, it was Atlanta who prevailed with a score of 7-37 (58) to 1-11 (14).

With 3 matches left for the day, the men of Nashville and Indy Black faced off in the shield match. The green and gold side, still suffering for the disappointment of finishing 3rd in their division after the tie against St. Louis, took to the pitch with heads held high, while Indy Black, having suffered two defeats, were determined to get a win. Nashville, however, proved the stronger side, defeating their opponents 3-9 (18) to 1-2 (5).

In the consolation match, Knoxville, having lost their two star substitutes, picked up a number of reserves from Nashville. This new support led to a competitive match at times, but the St. Louis Sons of Liberty, with their seasoned veterans, proved to strong for the tired minds and legs of the men from Tennessee. Final score: St. Louis 8-12 (36) to Knoxville 2-3 (9).

And the Final Match

The final match of the day would give the Music City Invitational its inaugural hurling champions. Indy Green took to the pitch to face Atlanta, two teams that proved all day that they deserved to vie for the cup. The competition was intense from the opening throw in as both teams clashed and fought for every open ball. Indy approached the game with practiced, precision passing, and set themselves up to launch points over Atlanta’s bar. Atlanta countered with attacks from seasoned veterans, many who’ve played for decades, as they worked their way through Indy’s defense. The ash continued to clash, the scores continued to mount, and the players continued to offer a display of elegant, workmanlike hurling. The assembled crowd roared at every hard fought battle, every decisive defensive stand, and every superb score. The sides held each other tight to a narrow score line, but when time expired, it was Atlanta who held the slight edge and claimed the cup: Atlanta 4-13 (25) to Indy Green 4-10 (22).

The day, which had started on such a high note, ended on and even higher one with top class, quality displays of hurling and camogie from all teams involved. From players who have played for a lifetime to those who’ve only been playing for 2 weeks, the standard of play was impressive, the courage and passion were evident, and the love of the games on full display.

Off to Afters and The Trophy Presentation

The teams gathered later in the evening for afters at Dan McGuinness Irish Pub to share in the success of the day, to lick their wounds, and to tell tall tales of sporting heroics. Trophy presentations were made to the ladies of Indianapolis, victors in the camogie tournament, and the men of Atlanta, the winning side in the hurling tournament. The inaugural Music City Invitational was declared a great success, and the future looks bright for this event to become a successful annual event. Proof once again that Gaelic sports are alive and well in the South of the USA.

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Nashville GAC Hosts First Gaelic Games Tournament in Music City

tournament banner

On March 21, Nashville will welcome hurling and camogie teams from Knoxville, St. Louis, Charleston, Indianapolis, and Atlanta, as well as individuals from other clubs across the Midwest and Southeast.

Opening ceremonies will take place at 9:30 am at 3135 Heartland Drive in Donelson. The ceremonies will feature the Nashville Pipes and Drums and other special guests. Play is scheduled to begin at 9:45 am. Each team is guaranteed at least three matches, with one final match to determine the winner of the first Music City Cup.

A few quick facts about the tournament can be found below.

  • Games take place at 3135 Heartland Drive, Nashville, 37214
  • Opening ceremonies begin at 9:30 am
  • Games begin at 9:45 am
  • Food and drink will be available for sale on-site
  • Games will end by 5:30 pm
  • After party will take place at Dan McGuinness on Demonbreun St.
  • Trophy ceremony will take place at after party
  • Uber and Lyft codes will be provided for discounted rides

If you have further questions, feel free to reach out to nashvillegac@gmail.com or pr@nashvillegac.com.