Savannah Gaelic Athletic Association to visit Ireland in 2022 | Community | Savannah News, Events, Restaurants, Music
Savannah’s ties to Ireland are long and deep, highlighted each year by the massive parade and related events that consume the city for St. Patrick’s Day. However, appreciation for all things Gaelic took on another form at the Savannah Irish Fest just before the pandemic hit the country last year. A group of eight people enjoying Irish music started talking about Irish culture, and in particular sports. A few days later, the Savannah Gaelic Athletic Association came to life. Unsurprisingly, the byte has grown to over 30 men and women ages 13-50 who practice and play two of the five “native” Gaelic sports: soccer and hurling. And after a little over a year of play, the mixed group plan to visit all of them: Ireland. The group plans to travel to Dublin on June 4, 2022 and then travel to Wexford, a coastal town on the country’s southeast coast – and the sister city of Savannah. The 10-day trip will see the group not only visiting parts of this region and Dublin, but also spending time playing against local teams, giving the Savannah team a chance to prove their mettle. “I am very confident,” said Caleb Harkleroad, president of Savannah GAA. “I will be very confident to pit our footballers against anyone. They play well with each other. They can read what the other is going to do. They learned each other’s playing style. Harkleroad’s confidence is inspiring, especially as the squad have played less than a dozen matches against clubs from North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, losing just once. “I’m always impressed with the way we’re doing for the short time we’ve spent doing it,” he added. “I would say 95% of our players had never played Gaelic football or hurley before. So, I am confident in their ability to beat even our native born friends. In addition to training with and playing against Wexford and other local clubs, the group will visit several towns, a castle, a brewery and potentially even visit the remote Georgia Southern University campus in Wexford. The trip will end in Dublin with additional training, a tour of the Irish Parliament given by GSU alumni as well as a match at Croke Park, GAA’s flagship stadium and headquarters. Traveling to Ireland is not cheap, the cost is $ 2,000 per person, which does not include the plane ticket. To this end, the Savannah GAA is seeking sponsors to help defray the costs of the trip. So far, they’ve gotten a few small ones, but they’re looking for help from local businesses who might see the trip as a way to strengthen ties with sister city Savannah as well. In addition, the club are also trying to fundraise by selling broken hurleys from previously played matches, dedicating them and having local bars display them, said Tara Reese, the group’s public relations guru. A 50/50 raffle is also in preparation. The teams are mixed, but the action is always hectic. Harkleroad suggested the toughest player on the Savannah squad could be a former ballerina, who showed it by going for a high ball during a game, falling bloodied and beaten. Still, she always arrived in time for the team’s post-game celebration. Gaelic football is not football and neither is it what Americans would consider football; it really is a rugby hybrid. The most notable difference is the round ball used in Gaelic football and the oblong ball for rugby. Hurling is closest to lacrosse, although the rules are different and the sticks – called hurley hurling – used to advance the ball are drastically different. The Savannah GAA does not participate in the other original sports: camogie, handball and rounders. For those wishing to join the Savannah GAA, which is as much a social organization as it is a sports association, the annual membership fee is $ 95. They practice twice a week at the Benedictine Military School and meet regularly at the O’Connell Irish Pub to enjoy all forms of Irish culture. Visit the group’s website at savannahgaa.com or email them at [email protected] for team information or to find out how to sponsor their trip.