The European Odyssey: Gaelic Football

Posted by on July 7th, 2008

Cork, Ireland — Today is a good day.  This may be the first blog I am writing that will be semi comprehensible, because I’m not writing at one in the morning. The original plan was to head to Blarney Castle today but things changed. After talking to Fidel this morning (Fidel is the older Irishman in the reception with an affinity for all things Castro) we found out that the city of Cork was playing the city of Kerry in a final round of Gaelic Football.

Gaelic Football can only be explained as American football, meets soccer, meets basketball, meets rugby. It is one of the most brutal sports you can imagine.  Two teams play on a soccer field with what appears to be a volley ball.  You may dribble, carry, kick, or head butt the ball. You get 1 point for getting the ball between a pair of goal post and three points for getting it in a soccer goal that is set in the middle of the goal post.

While you can’t use hands you may batter your opponents with almost every other part of your body as long as they have the ball. The ball stays in play through almost the entire game, even when a player is receiving medical treatment on the field. Oh… and did I mention that the only padding they wear is gloves?

We decided that we would root for Cork’s team (Corcaigh) for two reasons; first because they were the underdogs, and second because we were in Cork and didn’t want to get beat up. We walked almost two miles in the pouring rain, all the way debating whether or not this was a good idea.  When we got to Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Corks main stadium we found out the tickets were €15 instead of the €10 euro Fidel had told us. 

We still pressed ahead. Halfway through the game things were not looking good. Cork was down 3 to 9 and the crowd had become a grumbling, swearing, mass of put off Irish. I had a Kerry fan standing behind me and I was looking for an exit should a brawl break out. The halftime show was a young girls Gaelic Football match and a sheet of raindrops so big that they actually hurt when they hit you.

After the halftime Cork reentered the field and as almost a sign from above the rain stopped and the sun burst through the clouds. Corcaigh could not be stopped. Brutal play after brutal play, the crowd was wild with excitement and cheers. Final Cork tied Kerry at 11 to 11.  A few more moments and Cork had taken the lead, the crowd burst into an uproar and we did too. By the time the game ended half of the crowd was already at the gates or climbing the fence, ready to rush the field and congratulate their team. This has to be one of the early highlights of the trip.

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