Peil Ghaelach

On Saturday, February 1st, almost all of the Champlain Abroad Dublin student group gathered in hushed excitement for a walk over to Croke Park, to watch a Gaelic Football (‘Peil Ghaelach’, in Irish) match between our adopted home county of Dublin, and the south west county of Kerry.

Dublin vs Kerry at Croke Park

As our large group pushed and shoved our way through the narrow and winding streets of Dublin, one thing became abundantly clear; no one had any idea how to play Gaelic football. Some expected it to be like our American football, others hoped it would be more like a game of rugby, and yet others still not so secretly hoped it would be a mix between the previously mentioned sports, with some gladiatorial combat thrown in for good measure. We had a fair amount of time to argue the likelihood of each possibility, as the walk to the stadium felt like half an eternity. Thankfully, the collective groans of the less hardy in the group were immediately silenced when we saw the Croke Park stadium off in the distance, shining like an artificial sunrise. We joined a massive throng of people en route to the stadium, helplessly caught up in their exhilaration.

Pushed onwards through the gate, we fought our way to our seats. We were closer than I could’ve hoped, practically sitting on the shimmering field. The stadium was alive, and the pouring rain could do nothing to drench the enthusiasm of the crowd. The game was ushered in by a rousing rendition of the Irish national anthem, which we hummed along to sympathetically, unsure of the lyrics. The match itself began without too much ceremony. We watched the ball kicked high into the air, turning the field itself into organized chaos.

 
 
 

I’m not normally a sports fan, but there was something so enthralling about being part of the crowd, yelling until our ears rang and our throats stung. And when Dublin scored the first goal it was like they had just won the World Series. I watched the game from the edge of my seat, shivering from both the cold and the adrenaline, eyes darting back and forth as the ball switched from being kicked to being carried, flipping possession from Dublin to Kerry, and right back again. Dublin triumphed over Kerry that night, narrowly beating them by only one point. We left the stadium much as we had entered it, cresting on a wave of smiling sports fans. Go Dublin!

Will Saxe
Champlain Abroad Dublin, Spring 2014
Champlain College, Broadcasting Streaming Media’15