The Story of How the American Students Revolutionized Gaelic Games

Last Saturday, March 29th, Adam Clark, the activities coordinator here at Champlain Abroad Dublin, set up a day for students to revel in the wonder of the Gaelic Games. A group of about 20 of us all met up in the lobby of the apartments around 11:45 and headed down to O’Connell Street to catch the bus to Drumcondra, about 15 minutes outside of Dublin Center. After riding the bus out to the park and witnessing the massiveness of the complex upon entering we were all corralled into the main building where we were given and introduction to the Gaelic Games.

Champlain Abroad Dublin students ready to
experience some Gaelic Games. Photo Credit: Hannah Cormier

After a brief overview of what games we would be playing and the rules that would follow, we were lead outside into the cloudy, drizzling day. First up was Gaelic Football. Gaelic Football is a mixture of football, the American type, and ironically enough, football, the European type this time. Taking some aspects form other various sports the result is Gaelic Football. Outside we were put through a battery of drills to learn the basics. From learning how to pick the ball up without using our hands to the correct way to dribble up and down field correctly, we all looked like real players. Not really. 

Champlain Abroad Dublin students
learning how to master Gaelic Football. Photo Credit: Hannah Cormier

We actually must have been real entertaining to watch, but what really mattered was that we were all having fun. After learning how to pass with both our hands and our feet, the instructors felt we were prepared enough to take part in a game. Now here is where the fun really started for us. One of the great attributes to Gaelic Football is the physicality. During the game shoulder-to-shoulder checking and contact is allowed, but better less encouraged. The game was sloppy, we didn’t really know what we were doing and some rules were most definitely being ignored. Adam, our activities coordinator and Gaelic extraordinaire, who was on my team, was single handedly showing everyone how it was done. After a few minutes we collectively began to get the hang of the game and we started to show some very, very thin slivers of promise. We, excuse me, I mean I, began to throw my body around and have more fun with it. The game ended on a good note for myself as my team won as we headed back inside.

Champlain Abroad Dublin students
in the midst of a game of Gaelic Football. Photo Credit: Hannah Cormier

To give us all a bit of a break our next game was handball. Handball is a game similar to racket ball, except the racket is your hand. The game, once you get somewhat of a handle of it has the prospects to be a fast paced and exciting game. But, the game is by no means graceful in the sense of looking good, cause lets be serious here, who can look graceful when trying to hit a ball about the size of a kiwi. But nonetheless, the game is incredibly fun. We began by just learning how to hit the ball and the basic rules before playing one-on-one matches. After a few one-on-ones, we partnered up, boy-girl, and played two-on-two matches. During 2v2 match, one player serves the ball and covers the front part, while the other player covers the back of the court. One of the difficult parts of this rule ends up being the fact that same team cannot hit the ball twice. This makes awareness incredibly important because if you are unaware of who struck the ball last you could cost your team a point. Handball, while not the same type of game, was exciting and served as a nice relaxing time between hurling and Gaelic Football.

Champlain Abroad Dublin students
learning the ins and outs of the Gaelic Sport Hurling. Photo Credit: Hannah Cormier

To cap off the day we took part in the tradition that is hurling. All of us grabbed a stick, threw on a helmet and prepared to play the field hockey, lacrosse, and baseball hybrid. One of the big rules of hurling that sets itself apart is the fact that you can use you hand to carry the ball for small amount of time while running. To continue holding it you must bounce or balance the ball on your stick for a time before grasping the ball once again. Also, passing the ball can come by either striking it with your mallet or under-handing it to your closest teammate. To score a goal you may either hit the ball off of the ground or strike it like you are swinging at a baseball. The game is incredibly fast paced and has numerous risks such as being struck by the mallet or the ball. Personally I found this game easier to pick up because of my past experience with baseball and I found it enjoyable to play. Also, much like lacrosse, contact is allowed which also adds another element to pay attention to as you play the game. We were given an insight on this with a chance to play the game. Adam, who had swore that he did not know how to play the game and had only played once before, once again ran circles around us. Collectively, from my view, it seemed as though everyone was able to pick this game up a bit quicker. As a whole we all looked like a proper team. I think that we could very easily take on a few teams and win, granted the teams we would play would be about 8 years old, and even then it would be challenging. Hurling ended up being a great conclusion to day full of physical activity.

Champlain Abroad Dublin students
Michaela Hermann and Sam Sprague
enjoying the day at Experience Gaelic Games.
Photo Credit: Hannah Cormier

If anyone ever has a chance to play any of the Gaelic games it is something that should be taken advantage of. They are fun, fast, and challenging, but not enough as too turn people away from the perspective of looking bad doing it. This was by far one of the most fun-filled days that has taken place in Dublin this semester and would be highly recommended for any students who plan to study abroad in the coming years.  Don’t pass up the chance to play the games because it is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.  

Nick Veazey
Champlain Abroad Dublin, Spring ‘14

Champlain College, Secondary Education ‘15