As the midsummer classic that is the All-Star Game comes to an end and the second half of the baseball season begins, excitement and hope begin to soar in the hearts of playoff hopefuls. Unfortunately, in Philadelphia we are struck with another emotion – a polar opposite emotion. A feeling of dread takes root in our hearts as we realize that we still have two more months of Phillies baseball to watch.
Luckily for me however, I was able to take a week away from Phillies baseball as I hopped on a plane to cross the Atlantic to the northern fields of Ireland for a family wedding.
I arrived in Dublin, and I drove up north to the small town of Greencastle in Northern Ireland where my family, the Myles clan, lives. I immediately made the rounds from house to house visiting different family members, and that is where the talk of Gaelic Football began as I was told that they had to cancel their local match as a result of the wedding which would take place the next day.
I woke up early the next morning to get ready for the wedding; at this point the events that would take place later in the day were still unbeknownst to me. The wedding ceremony took place at the local church and all was normal. But then began the marathon of crazy. From around the time of 2:00 PM to 5:00 AM, the wedding party raged on.
It was evident that the Irish take partying to another level.
At around noon the next day I woke up and went to meet up with the rest of the family. Again, the talk of Gaelic Football returned. We were to all leave right away to get back in time to watch the Gaelic Football match which was to take place at 3 o’clock. It is safe to say I was thoroughly impressed, after an overwhelmingly long night all they could think about was this Gaelic Football game.
We returned to Greencastle to watch the game at a local pub. Upon entering, we were greeted with yells and cheers from what seemed to be the entire town for the upcoming game. There was no doubting the importance that was being placed upon this game.
The match was between the local county of Tyrone and the opposing county of Tipperary. Whoever won would advance to the fourth round of the playoffs.
The match began. At first it seemed just a wild mess of running and kicking, but I quickly became aware of the rules of the game amid the yelling and the shouting at the pub.
The players would advance a ball, similar to a rugby ball, up the field. Upon doing so, players are allowed only a few steps before they must either bounce the ball, kick the ball to themselves, or pass the ball. To prevent the other team from advancing the opposing team inflicts brutal hits on the other protectionless and equipmentless players.
At the opposite ends of the field there are goals with goal posts, similar to those in football, mounted to the top of them. A player can either kick the ball through the upper posts to score one point, which is the easier and more often used means of scoring, or a player can try to kick the ball past the goalie to score three points.
Whoever has more points at the end of 70 minutes wins the game.
County Tyrone took a slight lead going into halftime with a score of 8-7. It was obvious that the fans in the pub were not happy or content, they were expecting more out of their team as they were the big favorite going into the match.
However, after halftime the game quickly changed as did the mood of the team’s supporters. County Tyrone started drilling the ball through the upright minute after minute. The crowd was erupting in the tight quarters we were lodged in. Quickly Tyrone had a large lead which they took to the final minute of the game. The final score ended up being 19-7, no goals were scored, only kicks through the uprights.
At the end of the game, the pub went wild and the celebrations continued – celebrations for the wedding and celebrations for the victory of the home team. I must say it felt good to see such life in a crowd of sports fans because for me, it sure has been a while.
The trip was a great time. I was able to visit family who I had not seen in a while, I was able to experience the craziness of an Irish wedding, and I was able to be a part of another country’s sporting culture.
It is evident that while in America baseball is our pastime, Gaelic Football is just as much so the pastime of the Irish, and I am thankful that I was able to be a part of something so special to the Irish people.