Gaelic Games Kick Off in Cleveland
This past Labor Day weekend, one-hundred Gaelic sports teams and thousands more fans of Irish football, hurling and camogie came together for the North American County Board (NACB) Finals in Cleveland, Ohio. The annual GAA finals keep growing: this year teams traveled from 36 cities and 17 states across the U.S. to compete.
Mark Owens, the event chairman and a member of Cleveland’s Gaelic football team, estimated that there were 8,000 players and spectators in attendance. The local team in Cleveland had been campaigning for the chance to host the finals for six years. The Irish community of Cleveland rallied around the games, so much so that Owens said there was a surplus of volunteers.
President of the GAA Liam O’Neill told IrishCentral.com’s Kate Hickey “It’s been a fantastic weekend, at a fantastic venue. I haven’t seen anything as well organized before. Cleveland has done a fantastic job, every credit to them.”
Fans from San Francisco had a lot to cheer for. The senior football final went to San Francisco’s Ulster team, who came away with a three-point lead over Boston’s Connemara Gaels. Na Fianna San Fran took home the senior hurling final and Fog City San Fran claimed the ladies senior football final. Teams from Toronto, Boston, Chicago and more all went home Cleveland champions.
“The standard of game here is great, to see so many people born in America playing our games so well, particularly hurling and camogie,” O’Neill went on to say. “The level of skill has been amazing. I saw a catch today by a young fella called Teddy, from Milwaukee, and it’s the best catch I’ve ever seen in a hurling match. Because they’re so athletic they do different things with the ball we wouldn’t even dream of.”
Aileen Lawlor, the Camogie President has attended three NACB Finals and gave IrishCentral.com an example just how exponentially the Gaelic games have grown each year. “I did a coaching workshop last year and I just watched a game [this weekend] where there were three of the girls who had attended playing. The best thing is they’re doing what they were shown.
“Their team came here last year with not enough numbers so they actually amalgamated with their twin city. This year they both came back with their own teams. That just shows you the growth.”