Notre Dame Gaelic Athletic Association aims to bring Irish culture to campus // The Observer
This year, a group of Notre Dame students got together and founded a club team that plays Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) sports. The GAA participates in two Irish sports: hurling and Gaelic football.
By founding this on-campus sports club, members hope to bring central elements of Irish culture to Notre Dame, said club president Fintan Birch, a senior.
“In Ireland, the hub of culture and community are Gaelic football and hurling clubs,” he said. “We felt that in order to bring our culture to Notre Dame and show them what the real Irish are like, we had to bring the sport here.”
Hurling is a grass-court sport with 15 players on each team. Freshman Jeff Howard, the club’s treasurer, said the pitch uses an ash stick about 2 to 3 feet long and a ball called a sliotar. The object of the game is to score points by hitting the sliotar with the ash stick into or over the goal. The hurling goal looks like a football goal with two posts on the sides, extending the height. Howard explained that a team scores three points when the sliotar enters the goal and one point when it goes over the bar, between the two posts.
Gaelic football is played on the same pitch as hurling, with the same goals, but uses a bigger ball instead of ash and sliotar, Birch said. In Gaelic football, players cannot throw the ball, so they run with it, pick it up, kick it or kick it to pass it to their team mates to score.
Notre Dame’s GAA played an unofficial hurling match during fall recess against the University of Colorado at Boulder and earned their first victory as a club. They are looking to be approved by the University during this week.
Graduate student John Prendergast, GAA secretary, said the group hopes to compete with other schools in the Midwest.
“There’s the Central Region Invitational, which includes teams like Purdue, [Indiana]”Bloomington and Pitt,” he said. “Location is TBD but either Gaelic Park in Chicago or Purdue.”
At the Central Region Invitational, Prendergast said they would compete in hurling only, with soccer tournaments coming later. The GAA club competes within the National Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association (NCGAA), so the nationals arrive for the team in January at the University of North Carolina.
“The competition will be fierce, but if we pull ourselves together over the next two weeks, put in a solid effort, we have great potential,” Prendergast said.
Birch said he hoped the Notre Dame GAA could achieve longevity, unlike previous Irish sports clubs at Notre Dame.
“There have been hurling clubs in Notre Dame before, but only for a year or two. … Our plan is to have him here for as long as possible,” Birch said.
Currently, the team has around 30 members and practices on the South Quad outside South Dining Hall at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays.
“We have players from all over,” Birch said. “We accept everyone, whether you have never played sports before. We love everyone.