Year Round Gaelic Football
for Men and Women in Vancouver
"No one in their right mind is going to be out practicing Gaelic football
in this weather. How wrong we were!"
By CATHOLINE BUTLER VANCOUVER - Just a few years ago, the Vancouver Irish Sporting and Social Club (ISSC) was struggling to field a full team. This past winter they had six teams made up of men and women and in order to keep everyone playing, they had to come-up with a new set of rules.
ISSC TEAM Burnaby Eagles - Australia.
What changed? Keith and Kate Clark (both members of the ISSC), decided at the end of August that winter on the wet coast was just too long without Gaelic football, so they decided to organize a practice every Friday night at Andy Livingston Park.
They put out a few posters and for the first few Fridays nobody turned up. Then it started as a trickle, then it became a rush, and before they knew it there were 30 people at each practice, and it just grew from there.
Recently on one cold and wet Friday night, Colleen and I decided to go down to the park to take in the practice. As we were driving over the viaduct to downtown, we said "no one in their right mind is going to be out practicing Gaelic football in this weather." How wrong we were! When we got to the park there they were, four teams all togged out and ready to play.
I spoke with Ronan Deane of the ISSC about the mixed teams of men and women and what they had to do to change the rules to keep everyone playing. "The thing is that there were mixed teams, so we had to invent a new game of Gaelic football.
"When the guys play with the girls, what tends to happen is that the girls stand off to the side and the guys play their football and never pass and get all the points. We said that we'd put in a few rules to make it in everybody's interest.
ISSC TEAM "The Freckles" with captain Kate Clark (first left, front row) and captain Keith Clark (Back row, fourth from left).
"So the first rule was that for every three scores that a team get, one of them has to be by a girl. That meant that the guys could go and get their two quick scores, but then no guy could score again until a girl had scored. It worked great actually.
"What you would also see is that the guy would stand next to a girl and beat her to every ball. The rule that we put in was that if we put in a 50/50 ball, a guy couldn't get it. If you were a guy you had to give the ball to the girl. It was hard to referee, but it made people play with the spirit of the game.
"Also, you are not allowed to tackle a girl in possession of the ball, which in the ladies' game is non-contact. So you touch the ball to get it away, instead of touching the girl."
Ronan said another change happened when Keith Clark invited the Australians to come down to the park. He said, "before you knew it there were six Australians out there, and they contributed to the growing numbers. This made it international with the Canadian, Irish and Australians. The Vancouver Australians played five games of Gaelic football this winter and they beat us at our St. Patrick's Day exhibition of Gaelic Football.
"We have one of our busiest seasons coming up for tournaments and there is a lot of enthusiasm already. This all goes back to people like Kate and Keith Clark. It's fantastic!"
The names of the six Gaelic Football teams in Vancouver are: Kevin's Dream - captain: Kevin Murray; The Freckles - captain: Keith Clark; Team Munster - captain: Erin McGinley; Vancouver Cougars - captain: Stu Grills; Burnaby Eagles - captain: Chris Freeman; and UBC Students - captain: Nick Chow.
ISSC TEAM Munster with captain Erin McGinley (fifth from right, back row).
I asked Ronan Deane what kind of interest there was in hurling in Vancouver and he said, "actually we haven't done any hurling but we do have a set of hurleys and a group of guys that want to play.
"Rob Mullin in Seattle is one of the most amazing stories that I have ever heard. Here's a guy that doesn't have much of an Irish heritage, he finds out about hurling four years ago, and then he coaches a team to win the championship in North America. Rob Mullin is an inspiration."
Listed below are the tournament dates for this summer:
Calgary Gaelic Football Tournament - May 26-27
Kelowna Australian Rules Football Tournament - June 2
Edmonton Gaelic Football Tournament - June 30-July 1
Seattle Gaelic Football & Hurling Tournament - July 21-22
Vancouver Gaelic Football Tournament - August 5-6
Calgary Gaelic Football Tournament - August 18-19
Websites for Gaelic football:
Western Canada Division - www.westerncanadagaa.co.nr
Calgary Chieftains - www.calgarygaelicfootball.com
Edmonton Wolfe Tones - www.edmontongaa.com
Red Deer - email@example.com
Vancouver Harps - www.isscvancouver.com
Seattle Gaels - www.seattlegaels.com
Websites for Aussie Rules:
Vancouver Aussie Rules - www.bcfooty.com
Calgary Aussie Rules - www.calgarykangaroos.ca
ISSC UBC students with captain Nick Chow and some of the Vancouver Cougars Australian team (captain Stu Grills not shown).