As a huge sports fan, I was always curious about what sports Irish fans follow and what their sports culture is like. It turned out I landed on the perfect day. This past Saturday, Dublin and Kerry faced off in the Gaelic Football All-Ireland Championship match. I got into Dublin that morning for the start of my semester in Dublin, and I could see the excitement everywhere I turned.
Driving through the city I could not help but notice the blue flags and banners hanging from almost every building. That’s when a Dublin student ambassador started telling all the international students about the All-Ireland Championship match coming up that day between Dublin and Kerry. The Dublin men’s team was going for five championships in a row in Gaelic football. Dublin’s women’s team also faced off that Sunday against Galway in the finals for their third straight All-Ireland finals with a record setting 56,114 people in attendance.
Dublin men’s defeated Kerry 1-18 to 0-15 and on Sunday, Dublin ladies defeated Galway 2-03 to 0-04.
The number on the left of the scorecard is the number of goals a team kicks or punches in the soccer net for three points. The number on the right is the number of goals that are kicked through the uprights for one point. So the men’s All-Ireland final score was 21-15 Dublin. The women’s All-Ireland final was 9-4 Dublin.
The unusual scoring format threw me off the whole time, but a friendly Dublin fan was happy to explain the basics of the sport. The game is a combination of soccer and football played between two teams of 15 players. The ball is similar to a soccer ball that can be kicked and passed to teammates. Points are scored by either kicking or punching the ball into a soccer-sized net for three points. One point is scored when a player kicks the ball between the uprights, similar to American football uprights.
The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is the traditional Irish sports that include hurling, camogie, Gaelic football, Gaelic handball and rounders. The GAA is unique in that all 32 counties in Ireland have clubs that compete for the All-Ireland title. Outside of Ireland these sports are not very popular, so it was definitely a different experience watching these games as an outsider.
To put the enormity of the All-Ireland match in perspective, Ireland has a population of about 4.9 million and Pennsylvania has a population of 12.8 million. The men’s Gaelic football finals had an attendance of 82,300 people. If Pennsylvania were to hold an All-PA match that drew a crowd that size relative to its population, that would mean the All-PA match would draw 224,136 people in attendance. That number would fill up three Lincoln Financial Fields!
Now that the All-Ireland games are over, fans will now be turning to their other national pastime, rugby. Ireland is kicking off the World Cup tournament in Japan with a match on Sunday versus Scotland at 3:45 a.m. EST. The United States will also be playing in the tournament with a match versus England on Thursday at 6:45 a.m. EST.
Although I have not been in this country for very long, I could really see the passion the Irish have for their traditional sports. I always knew soccer and rugby were big in Ireland and all over Europe, but it is really awesome to see a whole country come together and support their traditional sports.
Alex Fisher is a third-year student majoring in media and culture with a minor in information and technology. AF804286@wcupa.edu