Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Gaelic Football - run kick pass and pass out

 UNTIL LAST SATURDAY, I'd never seen a Gaelic Football game.Geesh. What rock have I been hiding under for nearly six decades?

Emily and Amy play for the Roc City Gaelic, part of the Midwest Division of the USGAA. Saturday was a glorious early summer day in Rochester, N.Y. Roc City played rival Buffalo and lost 13-12. They could've won, but that hardly matters.

Gaelic Football is played basically on a soccer field. It has a soccer goal with American football goalposts above it. The ball is about the size of a soccer ball and really hard. The idea is to kick or knock the ball into the goal (three points) or kick it through the uprights (one point). Players can pick up the ball or catch it, and can advance around four or five steps before either dribbling it off off the ground or kicking it straight up to themselves.

There are 13 players per team, including a goalie. They pass by holding the ball in one hand and punting it with the other. Technically there is no contact allowed, but there is a lot of reaching and grabbing and running into other players. It's physical. Emily and Amy could hardly move the next day.

 You can only dribble once and then you can kick it to yourself. If it sounds hard, it is - running and dropping the ball and kicking it back to your hands takes skill and practice. Much like ice hockey, Gaelic is a game of turnovers - you are moving up the field until the ball squirts loose, and the other team picks it up and quickly swings momentum.

Like soccer, it's about possession and spacing. And being fit. You run and run and run, catch your breath, and run again. I pulled a hammy just watching Roc City warm up. Emily says she's not in very good shape (she's 33, one of the older players). So you pick your spots and bust your butt when you can, and recover when the ball goes the other way. At the beginning Emily was in the midfield and set up some nice scoring chances. Later she was moved to the back, probably because she was gassed. Amy whizzed up and down the field with abandon and also picked her spots.

The Roc City team was formed last year. Amy was playing on it and brought Emily to a game - "Oh, it will be cool, you'll like the other girls and it's really chill." Oops. Emily was thrown into the game without a practice or the foggiest idea of what to do, but she was a natural. She used her 6-foot-1 frame to post up and catch passes, and she has good field vision and a strong leg.

Roc City plays teams from New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. They have yet to win a game in their young history, but they came close Saturday. Roc City led 6-1 early and almost went ahead late in the game with a some good chances, but Buffalo held on.

Buffalo had a lethal one-two punch, and small and shifty midfielder who could run and create offense, and a big girl with a massive leg who was deadly accurate from about 30 yards on in. They seemed a bit more organized and eventually wore Roc City down with good passing and aggressive defense.

While this is a pro league, none of the Roc City players get paid - you actually have to pay to join the association. So there is a real sense of camaraderie, even with the other players. The action would be focused on one end of the field, so the players on the other end would take to each other and end up laughing most of the time.

After the game there was a team picture being taken, and the Rochester players insisted Buffalo come over and join in. There was a gathering Saturday night at an Irish bar called Johnny's, a team sponsor, and some of the Buffalo players came by. There were some hilarious discussions about recruiting and trying to find new players - Sunday night, Emily talked to her upstairs neighbors about getting their college-aged daughter on the team.

The Buffalo men are really good and easily won the men's game. There was also a Hurling game after that, which is basically field hockey with a wooden paddle and smaller ball. Rochester's men are pretty good and went to the national tournament last year.

At Johnny's that night, Emily and Amy had a great time with their teammates and friends. I think that's the best part - they are part of a team and sense of belonging. Joining the Gaelic Football team is one of the best things Dr. Hart has done in her Rochester years.

I'm ready to see them play again next year!

More on the trip and Rochester observations later this week.



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