GAA Takes Off in Texas
By Molly Ferns, Editorial Assistant
June / July 2012
In Dallas, Texas, it’s all about community and camaraderie over competition. Spurred by the success of the Celtic Cowboys, a Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) league formed in Austin in 2004, Fionn Mac Cumhaill GAA was founded in Dallas in 2010. Emmett Long, Brian Geraghty, Kevin McCann, Paddy Walsh and Davey Devlin were among the founding members – all from Ireland. They sent e-mails around to every person that they could remember who was from Ireland, of Irish decent, or just had a love for things Irish. Shortly after, the six founding members grew to a club of sixteen. To date, the league has grown to field three men’s teams and two women’s teams.
“The football club is the backbone of any community in Ireland. With so many Irish coming and going from Dallas all of the time, we thought it was a good way for people to find a home away from home and have a bit of craic,” said Kevin McCann, Chairman, on the motivation behind starting the club.
The Dallas GAA was named Fionn Mac Cumhaill for a team that had been started 15 years prior by a group of expatriates, but eventually dissolved. According to legend, Fionn Mac Cumhaill (pronounced Finn McCool) was the leader of the ancient Fianna warriors who lived on the north Antrim coast.
Since the club’s formation, the Dallas GAA has grown to include over 100 active members, ranging from the ages of 21 to 60. With the help of sponsors, like local Irish publicans, and events including booths at Irish festivals, publicity plugs on local radio stations, and a joint party with The American Ireland Fund, Fionn Mac Cumhaill has gained much support.Their Facebook and Twitter pages have over 1,000 likes and followers.
Their competitive success has also helped in gaining recruits.
“Last September we competed in the National Championships in San Francisco and caused a major upset by beating more established teams from Seattle and Indianapolis. Based on that success, we have started recruiting new members from all over Texas as the word spreads,” said Barry Brennan, from County Donegal, of the combined Dallas and Austin hurling team, which took home the national title.
The Dallas GAA football team also competed in Nationals. Altogether, the league consists of a hurling team, two traveling football teams, a ladies football team and three pub-league teams.
The men’s football and hurling teams will compete again at the 2012 Nationals, held in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend. In addition, the ladies football team, which was established just this year, will compete in the Nationals for the first time.
The league trains hard and has built on their training schedule for the upcoming 2012 Nationals. There is a bootcamp and training held every Tuesday night, along with additional hurling practice on Thursday evenings and additional football practice on Saturday mornings.
“Bootcamp is tough but it’s essential to build up your confidence and ability in the game,” said member Noreen Grant Cabrera.
It may seem odd that Texas has such a thriving GAA community. Besides Fionn Mac Cumhaill, there are three other GAA leagues in existence. The others include Austin’s Celtic Cowboys, the Houston Fenians and the San Antonio Defenders. All four teams spend their summer playing one another in tournaments for the Texas Champion-ship and the Adrienne Hussey Memorial cup.
“Although Dallas does not have the Irish population that you would expect from cities like Boston, New York or Chicago, we do have many Irish in Dallas that have come for work or family.” In addition to the GAA, Dallas has several other Irish groups including the Irish American Society of Dallas, the Texas Rose of Tralee and the American Ireland Fund – Dallas chapter. “The groups are individual of each other, but very supportive,” said Erin McCann of the Irish population in Dallas.
It is clear that in Dallas Gaelic sports is not about catering to a large Irish population, but rather about bringing a small community together “with sports as the cornerstone.”
“Many people who join the club don’t play sports, but they do enjoy the community and camaraderie of our group. Our social activities are always well attended. It draws together those with a common love of the Irish and the Irish culture,” said McCann.