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Just Games? Gaelic Sunday 100 Years On

Gaelic sunday

Written by Matt O’Donnell

Whether you come to the GAA or Gaelic games through Irish or American heritage (which we are lucky to have both of in our Nashville club), it’s easy to feel connected in self-determination, defiance, and revolution. That connection is easy to embody by remembering that when our oppressors came to keep us in line, they came for our leisure.

For Americans, they will think back to when the British government came to profit from our tea. For the Irish, memory may be best served by considering when they came for our games.

This year, August 4th will continue the glacial, yet powerful drive of Ireland’s “decade of centenaries” with commemorations of what we know as Gaelic Sunday. That day, which represents a vibrant balance of bold, systematic defiance and thankfully peaceful protest, is underrepresented as one of the tentpole acts of defiance against the rule of London in Ireland.

Scholarship on the GAA and the Irish Revolution has done much in recent years leading up to the centenary of these events to pull together the dual narratives of the organization as a driving revolutionary force and of its failure to adopt any official stance into one much more realistic view.

August 1918 was not the first time that we could have seen action taken against GAA fixtures. As early as 1914, during debates for the Day of Rest bill (regarding the legalities of work and activities on Sundays), an argument was made that Ireland deserved special dispensation for the principles that led Gaelic games to thrive and entertain. It was worried by many MP’s that holding the GAA in contempt of the bill for fixing matches on Sundays would cause great harm to Irish society, particularly to the working classes.

While it can never truly be said that all members of the British government were unsympathetic to the self-determination of Ireland, attitudes would change at its higher levels as the tide of revolution moved in. It’s important to remember that Gaelic games returned to prominence and organized in 1884 as part of a greater move to increase Gaelic identity in a time when a great number of the population could close their eyes and remember the Great Famine, its subsequent widespread emigration, and the holding down of any calls for Ireland being ruled locally from Dublin. It would only make sense that members of the GAA would be incredibly likely to join organizations such as the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the Irish Volunteers, and others who lit the tinder box of Ireland.

It was easier to see the ties out in the open during the aftermath of the Easter Rising in April 1916. As many members of the GAA participated, Dublin Castle began to keep more of an eye on meetings held in Dublin, which were dubbed the “Central Council of the GAA.” Matches were a routine part of the day for prisoners held in Frongoch, Wales. Tournaments were held in November 1916 and March 1917 to benefit the Irish National Aid and Volunteer Dependents’ Fund, which overwhelmingly supported all political prisoners interred for Nationalist activity. In fact, the GAA rapidly because the highest source of finance for the fund, both through these tournaments and from collections taken at matches.

As the situation in Ireland began to be too much of a surge for the British government to hold back, it was decided in July 1918 to prohibit the holding of any public meetings in Ireland except under official permit. The GAA fell under this order, having been dubbed a “dangerous organization.” Shortly after, soldiers caused confrontations over matches in Offaly, Down, Kildare, and Cork. And so, on July 20th a unanimous decision was taken by those present at a GAA meeting that “no permits would be asked for under any conditions; and provisional councils, county committees, leagues and clubs were to be notified accordingly; and also, that no member was to participate in any competition if any permit had already been obtained.” Furthermore, they arranged that a mass fixture of matches would be set for 3pm on Sunday, August 4th.

When August 4th came, practically every hurling and football club affiliated with the GAA took part. Thanks to the size of the participation, exact metrics are hard to pin down for certain. The general accepted number of matches of either sport that occurred is placed at 1,500 (though numbers as high as 1,800 have been commonly used as the high end, as well). The August 5th edition of the Freeman’s Journal reported that 54,000 players took part, while speculation of any number between 45,000 and 100,000 was claimed by the newspaper Sport. The number of spectators that came to support the matches was titanic, and no attempt at putting a number on the crowds is readily available.

Dublin alone would see 24 matches played (22 football, 2 hurling). Seventeen matches were played in Kildare, where the county board decreed that any club that did not participate would face certain suspension. Cork would fix around 40 matches, though heavy rains would force most of them to be abandoned. Matches were also played between nationalist prisoners in a Belfast jail. In one minor victory for the authorities, Camogie players were barred from entering Croke Park. Instead, they played a match in the middle of Jones’ Road to a large crowd.

At this level of widespread civil disobedience, the British authorities were utterly powerless. One match report notes that there were a large crowd of police at a match, but only as ticketed spectators.

Gaelic Sunday is a true triumph in many ways. We can see it as a victory for the GAA in multiple ways. Not only did this mark an overt look towards a true statement by a previously a political facing organization, but as a beautiful expression of the way the sport is organized given that it was left to each county board to fix its own matches. The level of participation by every county is a mindblowing statement of the dedication to Gaelic games, whether you were standing up because the GAA represented something greater to your national identity or whether it was the fruition of the (likely long forgotten) debate on the Day of Rest bill in 1914. August 4th, 1918 is arguably the “largest, most widespread and successful act of public defiance against British rule in Ireland in the period between 1916 and 1922”. As previously stated, the fact that an act this size can be looked back on with clear certainty as a day of peaceful protest should gain it a greater place in the Irish Revolution.

How glad we are that the centenary of Gaelic Sunday again falls on a weekend so that every club, no matter where, can remember this as we watch the late stages of All Ireland Championships in both football and hurling. Or perhaps even better, especially at home in the NGAC, take the field to play Gaelic games ourselves.

 

 

 

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Everything You Need to Know When Joining the NGAC

We know; joining a club is hard. We’ve all been there. There are the usual questions, like “Will everyone like me?” and “How much commitment is required?” Then, you realize you’re going to play a rare sport that’s only starting to grow in the US.

Wow. So many questions.

Have no fear. We’re here with all the answers, and then some. Let’s start with the easy ones.

Who can play?

Right now, we accept people of all genders, ages 18 and over. Our sincere wish is to start a youth league soon, but for now, we’re all grownups. Kind of.

Will everyone like me?

Pretty much guaranteed. We’re an eclectic group of people, from various geographic locations and cultures. If there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s accept everyone. Seriously, we’re so overjoyed that you want to play this rare sport that you’ll be on everyone’s Christmas card list immediately. Or Hanukkah. Or Kwanzaa. Or whatever you might celebrate.

What should I bring for my first time to training?

Good athletic shoes—cleats if you have them, clothes you can move in, and lots of water. We provide the rest of the equipment, until such time as you decide you’re hooked and want to buy your own.

How much commitment is required?

As much as you would like to give. We have spring and fall hurling leagues, with matches every Sunday for six (or more) weeks, and a summer Gaelic football league for five weeks. We travel during the summer and fall for tournaments in other cities. We participate in several festivals, recruiting events, and fundraisers throughout the year. If you can make it to any, we’ll be so glad to see you.

How much are annual dues?

Our dues structure offers a few different options. For general members, the annual fee is $20. If you’d like to play in the any of the leagues, add $40 for each. If you’re a student, the league fees are each $20. For any financial hardship cases, simply speak privately with a board member.

This structure provides everyone the chance to vote, even if they don’t play in the leagues. Paid members can also travel to play in tournaments, even if they choose not to join league play.

For a quick visual, just to keep things clear, a member who will not play in any league matches pays only $20 per year. A member who wishes to play in both the spring and fall hurling leagues will pay the $20 general fee, plus two $40 fees, for a total of $100 for the year. If you add Gaelic football, it’s $140 for the year. If that’s still not clear, blame the writer of this blog, who always preferred English over Math in school.

Where can I get equipment when I’m ready to commit?

This is a tricky one. See, because we play an Irish sport, the best equipment comes from Ireland, but we do have one American supplier.

On occasion, one of our members will be lucky enough to go to Ireland. You may be able to convince them to pick up a hurley or other items for you.

Where can I find all the latest info?

The best bet is always the website. We update the calendar on a regular basis, complete with times and addresses. Sometimes things change at the last minute, especially if inclement weather is involved. To keep up with those announcements, you can do one of two things:

  • Send a text message to 81010 with the message: @hurling for text notifications.
  • Join the Facebook group.

We also have a Google group, but the information found there might not be the most up to date.

Are there frosty beverages involved?

For the love of all things Irish, yes. We do visit some local establishments for refreshments and fellowship after most training sessions and matches. Please don’t feel uncomfy if you don’t drink. Many of our members are there for a frosty sweet tea, soda, or water. Just…some are there for beer, too.

Who makes all the decisions around here?

We try to open up the biggest and most impactful decisions to the whole club. Everyone who has paid dues gets a vote. Some of the smaller decisions—mostly of the organizational type—are handled by the board. The board members for 2018 are as follows:

  • Chairman: Liam Barry
  • Vice Chair: Danny Espensen
  • Treasurer: Jesse Gentry
  • Registrar: Ryan Culligan
  • Secretary: Molly Buckley
  • PR: Jen Barry

Each board position has a term of two years. Elections are held during the Annual General Meeting in December. Should a position vacate for any reason, the board appoints a new member until elections can be held.

How can I get involved?

If you’d like to offer more than just your skills on the pitch, we’re always excited to provide opportunities through our committees. Take a look at some of the potential groups and just let a board member know if your specific passions or talents might be of service.

  • Social
  • Fundraising
  • Events
  • Recruitment

Those are the biggest questions, but maybe you have more. If so, email us at nashvillegac@gmail.com.

 

This article was previously posted on June 15, 2016. It has been updated with current information.

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4 Types of Athletes Who Need Gaelic Football in Their Lives

Hey, maybe we’re a little biased, but we think Gaelic football is one of the greatest sports in the world. Sure, some of the NGAC might prefer a little bit of hurling or camogie instead, but in all, we think these Irish sports are pretty much the best. We’re so sure of it, that we’d like to challenge other athletes to take a look and see if we’re right. You might be on the edge of discovering your new life love. Read on to see if you’re the type of athlete that might like Gaelic football.

1. It’s for basketball players who want their game to get a little more physical.

2. It’s for volleyball players who think a tackle once in a while is the only way to make the game more interesting.

3. It’s for American football players who think pads are for the weak.

4. It’s for soccer players who think getting to use their hands could only elevate the game to a new level.

More importantly than all of these things, Gaelic football is for anyone who wants to give it a shot. Here in Nashville, we welcome anyone and everyone (over the age of 18 for now) who wants to play, regardless of how old or how in shape you are. Even if you’ve never played any of these sports (or any other sports for that matter), you’re welcome to give it a shot.

We’re just a few weeks away from our Gaelic football league, and it’s not too late to sign up. If you’re up for something new, click here to get registered. Just like that, you’ll be a part of a growing community that exists to play the sports we love, spread that love to as many people as possible, and make new friends. All you need to bring are good indoor athletic shoes, a mouth guard, and lots of water.

If you’re intrigued but don’t live in Nashville, Google Gaelic football in your city. You might be surprised to learn there’s a club there with players who can’t wait to meet you.

 

This post previously appeared on July 29, 2017. It has been updated with current links.

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The Stages of Falling in Love with Irish Sports

Hey, you. Yeah, you over there, hiding behind the tree. We see you watching. Don’t worry, everyone looks like that the first time they see hurling or Gaelic football.

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Once you get past the initial shock and really start to pay attention to what’s going on, an even deeper amazement will set in. You probably won’t be able to believe your eyes.

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But that’s okay. It’s normal, I promise. Someone will probably approach you at this point to ask if you want to give it a shot. You might run away. A lot of people do.

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And that’s okay, too. But we know you’ll be back, watching from behind the trees.

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You won’t be able to help yourself.

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Because the bug has already bitten you. You’re going to learn Irish sports.

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So, you come out to give it a shot, even though you say you’ve never really been good at sports.

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And even though you have absolutely no idea what’s going on.

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But after one training, you know you’ve found your people.

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So you go home and start training like crazy.

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And you bring out all your friends, too. Who can learn about Irish sports and not want to share?!

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And then you score your first point. There’s no turning back now.

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You’re in love, and you don’t care who knows it!

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Does this sound like you? Sign up for our hurling league now, and come out to one of our training sessions. On August 29, we’ll hold our final park tour date at Centennial Park, so you should have plenty of other new players to join. If you can’t make that, we’ll have training again on August 31. Just watch the Facebook page to keep track of any future dates. We can’t wait to meet you!

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Music City Invitational Tournament

The 2017 Music City Invitational will take place on March 25. This year, the Nashville GAC has invited teams from as far away as Colorado to the West and Charleston to the East, Chicago to the North and Orlando to the South. We hope everyone can come out for a great day of hurling and camogie.

The games start at 9 am at 1200 County Hospital Rd in Nashville. We’ll have food on-site, so bring out the whole family to enjoy the day!

Check out more information on our Facebook event page.

 

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Contest: Win Tickets to See Christmas with the Celts at City Winery Nashville!

NGAC Giveaway Christmas with The Celts
City Winery Nashville is offering four pair of tickets to Christmas With The Celts through the NGAC, and you could win one! Four lucky winners will be chosen to receive two tickets to the show Thursday, December 22 at 8 pm. First, you have to do something for us… Each requirement comes with multiple entries, for a total of 17 chances to win if you complete them all. The contest is LIVE now until Monday at midnight!
 
The Celts mix lively traditional Irish music and instrumentation with American pop music and their own originals. Don’t miss these top-flight musicians play traditional holiday songs uilleann pipes, Irish whistles, fiddle, bodhran, banjo, five-string bass, drums and of course, the crowd pleasing Irish dancers. Celebrate the holidays at City Winery Nashville with the Celts on Thursday 12/22!
 
If you don’t win (or don’t want to play), you can visit the City Winery Nashville website to buy tickets. We hope to see you all there!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Annual General Meeting and Holiday Party Wrap-Up

AGM Inception We held our Annual General Meeting on December 10, 2016, and followed immediately after with our holiday party. During the meeting, we elected some new board members, re-elected others to their same position, and sadly said goodbye to a few who stepped down to pursue other activities within the club. Now we look forward to an exciting 2017!

2017 Board Members

Chairperson: Ryan Buckley

Vice Chairperson: Liam Barry

Secretary: Danny Espensen

Treasurer: Rayne Leonard

Registrar: Ryan Culligan

Games Development Officer: Brendan Rauer

Member at Large: Chris Davis

PR and Marketing Officer: Jen Barry

We thank our outgoing 2016 board members for their service: Molly Buckley, Registrar; Molly Bombardi-Mount, Secretary; Aaron Joley, Member at Large.

Awards and Special Recognition

Club Member of the Year: Brendan Rauer

The Club Member of the Year is traditionally a player that goes above and beyond with their commitment to the club. Brendan Rauer was consistently 2 hours early for every match, lining fields, flying flags, and creating a festive sporting atmosphere. Outside of matches, he welcomed all new faces at training and puck arounds, volunteering his time to teach the basics. We can’t say “thank you” enough.

Spirit of the NGAC Award: Ben Flynn

Our Spirit of the NGAC Award was added this year to honor a member who embodies what the NGAC is all about. Anyone who has met Ben knows he has a real passion for this club, and it shows through his garrulous personality, his encouragement, his teasing, his endless nicknames for everyone he meets, and his absolute zeal for all things Gaelic sports. We’re lucky he found us!

Rising Star Female: Emily Rodriguez

Rising Star Male: Danny Espensen

Most Improved Female: Virginia Poole

Most Improved Male: Ryan Culligan

Player of the Year Female: Britti Himmelfarb

Player of the Year Male: Chris “Chris Davis” Davis

Superlatives

Most Original Curse Words: Ben Flynn

Most Likely to Be Late: Caleb Harper

Most Likely to Wear a Dirty Jersey: Corbett Ouellette

Most Likely to Ask a Girl to Prom: Chase Quirk

Loudest Spectator: Amy “Chase’s Mom” Quirk

Most Dedicated Spectator: Lee Ann Lambdin

Most Dedicated Rookie: Danny Espensen

Least Likely to Pass a Breathalyzer at the Pitch: Doug Shaughnessy

Most Likely to Retire After This Season: Aaron Joley

Most Likely to Be Spotted at the Pub: David Smith

Most Likely to Go to the Hospital: Brendan “Oak” Reynolds

Best Referee: Renee Anzivino

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Where Have I Seen Hurling Before?

hurling in pop culture

When we tell people about hurling, we generally get the same three or four responses from those unfamiliar with the game.

  • Curling? Like with the broom and the ice?
  • Hurling? Like when you drink too much and throw up?
  • I think I’ve seen it before, but I don’t know where.

If you’re someone giving that third response, maybe we can help. Believe it or not, you probably have seen hurling before. Maybe you just didn’t know what you were looking at. We’ve tracked down some of the most popular hurling appearances in American pop culture to help you out.

President Obama Gives Hurling a Try

There is no greater American reference to hurling than our president wielding a hurl.

Making a Murderer Lawyer Loves Hurling

making a murderer hurling

Attorney Dean Strang was surprised to learn how many people were interested in that hurling statue. As popular as the sport is growing in America, he shouldn’t have been.

Jason Statham Gives Us the Perfect Description

Ahh, the phrase that launched a thousand T-shirts.

ER Started It All

It’s possible this reference is so old that you’re more familiar with hurling than you are with ER. If that’s the case, don’t even tell me about it.

CSI:NY Joins In

Well, they tried.

 

Did any of these introduce you to hurling? These are decidedly American references, so they don’t cover all the bases. You may have also seen the opening scene in The Wind That Shakes the Barley. You might have caught the reference in The Quiet Man. It’s possible you heard Shane McGowan and The Pogues sing about it in The Broad Majestic Shannon. These are all even more possible if you’re in touch with your Irish roots.

If you’re intrigued and want to know more than ER or CSI:NY could ever tell you, drop us a line. We’ll let you know the next time we’re playing so you can see it for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Get Involved with the NGAC When You Don’t Play

We’re so excited to have new members and new fans on the sidelines! The Nashville GAC needs the support from wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, moms, dads, and friends just as much as we need the players. If you’re brand new to the world of Irish sports, you may be wondering just how you can get involved to help the club keep growing. Here are a few things that would definitely support the NGAC as we spread love for Irish sports and culture.

Become a Member

You don’t have to play—ever—to be a member of the club. The dues structure allows for non-playing members to join at $20 per year. What do you get with that $20? You get a voice in all major votes, which are usually held at the Annual General Meeting each December.

You also get some pretty neat swag every time we come out with something new. So far, we have bumper stickers, T-shirts, koozies, and key chains. More cool stuff is always in the works.

Ready to join now? Send your $20 through PayPal to banker.ngac@gmail.com.

Come Prepared

If you’ve been out to watch a match, you know things can get a little intense. Players are usually concerned with having their hurley, helmet, and jersey. Everything else might get left behind. That means extra ice, water, bandages, pain meds, wraps, and even hurleys could help a great deal.

Join a Committee

Want to give even more? We have committees planning, moving, and shaking all year long. Our most important ones focus on recruitment and events. If you’d like to know more about these, contact Emily Rodriguez and Brendan Rauer, respectively. We also would love to revisit fundraising and sponsorship possibilities and could use a little leadership in that area.

If you have other talents that might be of use, let us know! If we don’t have a committee for it already, we’ll put one together.

Become a Board Member

Believe it or not, you don’t have to play hurling, camogie, or Gaelic football to serve on the board. Any member is eligible to serve. This year, we’ll have several openings available, so think about offering your time, organizational skills, and leadership abilities by serving on the board.

Spread the Word

We’re a grassroots organization, which means we see our biggest growth through word of mouth. If you know someone who might like our sports, tell them about us! If they’re okay with you sharing their contact information, just let us know and we can take it from there.

Just Keep Cheering

Nothing is more exciting than hearing those cheers from the sidelines. We started small, with one person on the sidelines every Sunday. Now, we see upwards of twenty on really great days. The cheering section inspires players to keep giving their all, which means they have to learn as much as they can about the sport, come to trainings and events, and push hard to carry their team to victory. In other words, just cheering the players on helps us grow as a club. You do that!

We can’t tell you how happy we are that you’re here. There really are no words to express our gratitude for your support thus far. Whether you decide to do one or all of the things listed above, you’re driving us forward. Welcome to the club.