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Notre Dame Gaelic Athletic Association aims to bring Irish culture to campus

| Tuesday, October 30, 2018

This year, a group of Notre Dame students came together and founded an club team which plays Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) sports. The GAA participates in two Irish sports: hurling and Gaelic Football.

In founding this club sports on campus, members hope to bring central elements of Irish culture to Notre Dame, club president Fintan Birch, a senior, said.

“In Ireland, the core of the culture and community are the 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, was to bring the sport here.”

Hurling is a grass sport consisting of 15 players on each team. Freshman Jeff Howard, the club’s treasurer, said hurling uses an ash stick, about 2-3 feet long, and a ball called the sliotar. The objective of the game is to score points by hitting the sliotar with the ash stick into or above the goal. The goal in hurling resembles a soccer goal with two poles on sides, extending the height. Howard explained that a team scores three points when the sliotar goes into the goal and one point when it goes over the top of the bar, between the two poles.

Gaelic Football is played on the same pitch as hurling, same goals, but uses a larger ball instead of the ash and sliotar, Birch said. In Gaelic Football, players cannot throw the ball, so they run with it, pick the ball up, kick or punch it to pass to teammates in order to score.

Notre Dame’s GAA had an unofficial hurling match over fall break against University of Colorado-Boulder, and notched their first victory as a club. They are looking to be approved by the University within this week.

Graduate student John Prendergast, the GAA’s secretary, said the group hopes to to compete against other Midwestern schools.

“There is the Central Region Invitational including teams such as Purdue, [Indiana]-Bloomington and Pitt,” he said. “The location is to be determined but either at Gaelic Park in Chicago or Purdue.”

At the Central Region Invitational, Prendergast said they would participate in just hurling, with upcoming Football tournaments later. The GAA club participates within the National Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association, (NCGAA), so nationals are coming up for the team in January at University of North Carolina.

“The competition will be fierce but if we pull it together over the next couple weeks, put in a solid effort, we have great potential,” Prendergast said.

Birch said he hopes Notre Dame’s GAA can achieve longevity, unlike previous Irish sports clubs at Notre Dame.

“There actually have been hurling clubs before at Notre Dame before, but only for a year or two. … Our plan is to have it here for as long as possible,” Birch said.

Currently, the team has around 30 members and practices on South Quad outside South Dining Hall at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

“We have players from all over,” Birch said. “We accept anyone, whether you’ve never played a sport before. We love everyone.”

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