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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