Welcoming both seasoned players and complete newcomers, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) brings a piece of Irish culture to campus through the sports of hurling and Irish football.
The club started with a small group of Irish students in 2018 and has since grown to around 30 regular members who are mostly Americans.
The GAA of Notre Dame organized its first tournament on Saturday. The mixed team left the field victorious, beating Purdue University, the University of Pittsburgh and other rivals. GAA Senior President Maureen Kenny said she was proud of the team for competing at a high level and winning the tournament.
“It’s a full-contact sport. Everyone comes out of this Saturday completely beaten,” Kenny said, pointing to a bruise near his elbow. “It was a great day for us though. We have won all of our matches. »
Notre Dame’s Irish roots run deeper than the university’s mascot, and Kenny, who grew up in Ireland, said these sports are an integral part of Irish culture.
“It’s not just any sport we play. It’s a cultural gem,” she said. “He’s something special, and he has a special place in ND, especially as a Fighting Irish.”
Followed by hurling, Kenny said Irish football is Ireland’s most popular sport, one that retains the flavor of the local community.
“The beauty of GAA is that it’s not played at a professional level,” Kenny said. “People really play for the love of the sport. You play for your county. You play for your city. It’s a real hometown feel.
Kenny remembers playing at the national stadium in Croke Park during his primary school championships and watching his grandfather represent his hometown playing at the same stadium.
“That’s probably when I peaked playing honestly, I’ve never improved since,” Kenny said of his school’s Irish football team championship appearance. primary.
She said these aspects of Irish sports complement Notre Dame’s focus on community and provide a relaxed introduction to Irish culture.
Members of the club, including second year Grace Kane who had never played hurling or Irish football before joining GAA, testified to the community.
“GAA is an escape from all my other classes,” Kane said. “It’s a way for me to have fun and meet new people who want to do something so unique.”
The club also brings together a unique mix of Irish football and hurling fanatics and curious opportunists.
“Some of our players are from Ireland,” Kane said. “There are also people who have nothing to do with it, who just saw it at the club fair and thought ‘Does that look cool? Where else can I do this? which seems to be a common theme.
Kenny said she strives to accommodate members of all skill levels and sports familiarity.
“Some people have been doing these sports since they were young,” Kenney said. “The hurl is a bit like their third member; they are fabulous in this area. There are also some less experienced in the team. “Everyone feels really encouraged. We obviously love winning and taking the sport seriously, but we also love its community. »
In order to welcome new players at any time during the semester, Kenny strives to review the basics of hurling and Irish football twice a week during GAA training.
She calls hurling “the fastest sport on grass”, describing it as a combination of lacrosse, field hockey and rugby. Each player has a “scream” which they use to hit the “sliotar”, a hard ball shaped like a baseball.
Irish football is more like a hybrid of basketball, rugby and soccer, Kenny said. Every four steps, players must pass the volleyball to another team or bounce it solo.
In both sports, players can score a point by hitting the sliotar or throwing the ball over and through the opposing team’s H-shaped goal, or they can score three points by scoring a goal under the cross-bar.
“My big goal for the end of the year before I leave is to get shirts, proper gear for our team,” Kenny said. “How we look like a team isn’t the most important thing, but I think it would really hold us up and position us as a force to be reckoned with.”
Kane, the GAA’s clothing commissioner, feels the same and is working to get these uniforms, or “kits”, from Ireland.
“I was really intrigued when we played Purdue,” Kane said. “They came with these very intense uniforms. They were all decked out. We don’t even have shirts or anything, but we’re the Irish school, we’re Notre Dame.