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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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Gaelic Football Is Here!


The Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club has announced the 2018 Summer League for Gaelic Football. If that interests you, here’s what you need to know:

Training

If you don’t already know how to play for feel you need a skills refresher, that’s okay! We’ll have a few weeks of training before the league starts, and training will continue throughout until the championship match. Training will take place Thursdays at 6 pm at Centennial Park, starting this Thursday, June 21.

Matches

Last year, matches were held indoors but we were constrained by the size of the pitch. This year, we’re moving outdoors to a larger field. We’ll play in the evenings to beat the heat. Starting July 22, we’ll play every Sunday evening at 7 pm at 3135 Heartland Drive. The last match will be August 19.

Fees

We work hard to keep our prices down so everyone who wants to learn Irish sports can. To play in the summer league, you’ll need to join the NGAC. Membership is $20. This earns you an invitation to and a vote at our Annual General Meeting and Holiday Party. The fee for the league is $40, which covers the cost of your jersey and the use of the fields. The total is $60.

Participation

We can’t grow the Gaelic if you don’t come out and join in the fun. We hold social and business events throughout the year and hope you’ll join us as often as you can. The more involved you are, the easier it will be to continue growing Gaelic so that we can offer more Gaelic.

This doesn’t work without YOU. Also, we’re pretty cool people who make good friends outside of the club, too.

If you’d like to get more involved, please consider joining our NGAC members Facebook group. We make announcements on the regular there, and you’ll be more likely to stay in the loop on impromptu scrimmages, hangouts, and other fun stuff. You can find us here.

GAELIC FOOTBALL SUMMER LEAGUE SIGN-UP

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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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Upcoming Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club Events

It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter—except for those rare, sunny days when we got to scrimmage at Centennial Park. Spring is on the way, and everyone in the club is itching to pick up a hurl or Gaelic football and get back on the pitch.

Fortunately, March will offer several opportunities to play (or watch!), so grab your calendar and start making some notes.

Intro to Hurling – Feb 3

Let’s get back in shape for the coming Music City Invitational and Spring League! Training starts at 9:00 am at Centennial Park.

Beginners are always welcome. We’ll make sure you have all the right equipment and show you the basics before you join in on a scrimmage. Don’t be afraid! Every member will take the time to walk you through the rules and help you learn technique as you go. There is absolutely no experience necessary. Of any kind.

Future training sessions will be announced via Facebook until it’s warm enough to set recurring dates.

County Sumner Irish Festival – March 10

On March 10, the NGAC will travel to Castalian Springs to take part in the County Sumner Irish Festival. The fest takes place between 10 am and 2 pm, with exhibition matches of hurling and Gaelic football on at noon.

If you come out to watch, stay to learn about the history of Irish sports and even learn how to play. If you love it, we’ll sign you up on the spot!

Music City Irish Fest – March 17 & 18

It’s two days of glorious shamrockery! The NGAC will man a tent where you can learn all about the sports of hurling and Gaelic football. We’ll show some classic matches and walk you through the rules. Or we’ll just clink beer mugs together with a “Sláinte!”* and sing along to Irish tunes with you.

You’ll also find us slinging beers at the beer tents. We’re always recognizable in our gold and green. Say hi when you find one of us!

Music City Invitational – March 24

We’re still ironing out the details, but you’ll definitely want to save this date. Hurling clubs from all over the United States will travel to Nashville for our 4th Annual Music City Invitational—probably our biggest yet.

The event lasts all day, with food and drink available for purchase on site. After the winners have been decided through fierce battles for the Watson and Wall Cups, we’ll party the night away with our sponsors, East Nashville Beer Works. You don’t want to miss this!

*Sláinte (slahn-cha) To your health, or “Cheers!”

 

 

 

 

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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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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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Inaugural Gaelic Football League Starts NEXT WEEK

And we’ll be playing INSIDE.

Don’t let the heat of the summer sun discourage you from picking up a new sport. Our first ever Gaelic football league starts on July 9, and we’re playing every match indoors.

The four-week season will take a break on July 15 so that those who want to go to Atlanta for the Peach Cup tournament can attend. That means the dates for the league are:

  • July 9
  • July 23
  • July 30
  • August 6

We have enough signed up to form three teams, so we’ll do a round robin each week. Winners will receive 2 points, ties will receive 1 point, and a loss results in 0. The team with the most points at the end of the season will be the champions.

Sign up now!

Training Sessions

If you’ve never played before, that’s okay. There’s still one more training session before the league starts, so you can get the basic rules down. Then join us every week throughout the league and beyond to continue honing your new skills.

Training sessions Thursday evenings at 6 pm until sundown. If you can’t be there right at 6, that’s ok! We’re all doing this for fun. We’d rather see you late than to not see you at all.

Sign up now!

Team and Jersey Reveal

To play in the league, you have to pay membership dues to the NGAC, plus the league fees. Membership is $20 for the year and gives you the privilege to vote at any club meetings, as well as the ability to travel with the club to tournaments. League fees are $40 and help cover the cost of our indoor facility and your snazzy new jersey.

You’ll learn who your team is and see your new jersey after training on July 6. We’ll all gather at our sponsor pub, East Nashville Beer Works for the big reveal. It’s a celebration, so you don’t want to miss it!

Support Our Sponsors

We welcome back East Nashville Beer Works as the first of our Gaelic football league sponsors. They’ve been incredibly supportive of the club, serving as one of our spring league sponsors for hurling.

We’re also grateful to One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating, who have signed on as our corporate sponsor. Owner Mick is from the Mother Land, and he’s thrilled to support Irish culture as we spread it throughout Middle Tennessee.

Our brewery sponsor, Asgard Brewing Company, has joined on for the summer season, too. Though located in Columbia, TN, they’ve been excited about lending support to the club for months. We’re so honored and grateful for the support, and the delicious beer.

The Wrap-Up

When:

  • July 9
  • July 23
  • July 30
  • August 6

Matches start at 1 pm sharp, so be early enough to warm up on your own.

Where:

Boost Fitness Club

11 Vaughns Gap Rd, Nashville, TN 37205

Who:

Anyone over the age of 18 who wants to play Gaelic football, regardless of age, gender, experience, or fitness level. We’re home to everyone from age 18-64+, and everyone gets to play if they want to.

Why:

Because we’ve been playing hurling for four years now, and it was about damn time Gaelic football got its moment in Music City.

We’ll see you there!

Sign up now!

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Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club To Introduce Gaelic Football to Music City

nashville gaelic football

The Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club is pleased to announce that, along with hurling and camogie, a new Irish sport will now be played in Music City. Through the efforts of the board members and Gaelic football organizer Marilee Murray, this ancient sport of Gaelic football has found a new home.

Marilee Murray comes to the Nashville GAC from the Detroit St. Anne’s Gaelic Football Club, one of the oldest and most respected ladies’ football clubs in the United States. She brings with her passion and expertise, which she has eagerly agreed to share with Nashville residents who want to learn the sport. The introductory session will be held at 4:00 pm on July 9, 2016, at 3135 Heartland Drive in Nashville.

Gaelic football, a fast-paced, high-scoring field game, is one of the national sports of Ireland, where it is predominantly played, but is also found in parts of the world where Irish immigrants settled. While many Americans have yet to discover the ancient game, which has been played for thousands of years, most are familiar with derivatives soccer and American football. The Nashville club was founded in 2013 and has grown to include more than fifty members in a short time. It is the hope of all that anyone interested in Irish culture and usual sports will discover the club and become a member.

Club membership is open to anyone over the age of eighteen (18), though plans for a youth organization are forthcoming. Any skill and fitness level are welcome; no experience with sports of any kind is required. The club furnishes all equipment for beginners, so interested parties should bring only athletic clothes and shoes, plenty of water, and excitement for a new sport. Express your interest on our Facebook event page.

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Gaelic Games Infographic

Created by Jurys Inn in Dublin, this infographic compares Gaelic games to some with which you might be more familiar:

Gaelic Games Infographic
Infographic by Jurys Inn Hotels

Want to see hurling in action? Join us Sunday at noon at McFerrin Park at the corner of Meridian and Grace Streets. We’ll have equipment. Just wear comfy athletic clothes and shoes!