A DIFFERENT SPORT

The Houston Gaels want you for the 2018 season

Gaelic football provides a fun workout. Brien O'Donal

In the fourth largest city we have come to appreciate the vast number of cultures and the great diversity it has brought us in our restaurants, artwork, and celebrations; but how about our sports? The Houston Gaelic Athletic Association, founded in 2011, is a gateway to another culture in the sporting world. They have brought the sport of Gaelic Football to Houston in the form of the Houston Gaels. Their connection to a national network of other GAA’s and with the Irish community at large has opened its’ participants to the universal language of sport. Now, during the fall offseason in Gaelic Football the Houston Gaels are looking for you to join their ranks for the 2018 season.

Gaelic Football is one of the most interesting and intense games I’ve seen played. It has elements of rugby, soccer, volleyball, basketball and American Football. Anyone who likes to play any of these should make their way out to Memorial Park Soccer Field #8 from 10 a.m. to 12:00  on Saturday Oct. 28; Nov. 4 and 11; or their last day Dec. 2. These are the Fall Ball practices where they teach basic skills and scrimmage in small groups in preparation for next season. They are co-ed so all are welcome, but in the regular season the teams are split.

Multi-sport athlete and new player Patrick Moore described it as, “One of the most awesome sports. It connects all different games that are out there and combines them into one.” It’s well worth the effort, as he followed up by saying, “It’s fun because you have to try to remember all the different rules of all the different games and put them into one.”

Everyone I spoke to had the same words of advice, come out and try. There may be a lot of different skill sets, but if you have basics and knowledge of any of the sports that are combined into Gaelic Football, it won’t be too difficult to play. Passing the ball to other players is like hitting a volleyball. There are self passes like kicking a soccer ball to yourself (called keepie uppie), and even bouncing the ball like a basketball. The battle for position and spacing is like soccer and football. Scoring is done by putting the ball into the goal with your hand like hitting a volleyball or kicking it through the uprights like punting a football. But the play in the field is like rugby and Aussie Rules Football, very physical.

The Fall Ball practices are designed to teach you the rules and help you develop the skills to play the game. There is still time before the 2018 season starts, so learning now will allow all the players to develop chemistry.

The season consists of games against the other GAA’s in Texas; San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. Games are played about a month apart between January and May followed by the finals in May/June. This year the Texas finals will be held in Houston. There are also National GAA Finals and other tournaments across the country. The Houston Gaels chose to miss National Finals in 2017 in favor of a tournament in Denver.

If competing in the regular season doesn’t work for you, there is still reason to join the GAA for their fall practices. According to Adam Robertson, the 2018 Chairman of the GAA, “This sport is almost like a cross-fit sport. There’s constant play, it’s very physical, and it makes you run faster and jump higher.” If you’re into getting an intense workout then this is your sport

If all you want is to have a good time there are gatherings afterward for lunch and drinks. The practices are over around noon and many of the players migrate to a local spot to enjoy themselves after a hard day’s effort.

If that still doesn’t get you, maybe the community service will. The long-term goals of the GAA are to spread the game of Gaelic Football to Houston and surrounding areas but also community service. I spoke to Elaine O’Connor, one of the few Irish players there, about this and she said, “With the recent events of Harvey, we had a lot of folks in the club band together. We had tear down crews going around to different homes and help people move furniture and rip out sheet rock. Now we’re actually going through to help with the re-build.” She described the Houston GAA as an adult social network. “We do a lot of happy hours and social events and have an annual awards dinner where everyone gets all cleaned up.”

With so much to get out of joining the Houston Gaels and the Gaelic Athletic Association, will you be there for practice Saturday? You should be. Find out more information at houstongaels.com

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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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