Saturday, October 26, 2013

Northeast Colleges Fall Tournament

College Football and Hurling is coming to the North East!  College teams from across the northeast region will be converging on the Irish American Home Society in Glastonbury CT in just over 2 weeks for the inaugural fall tournament of Gaelic Football and Hurling.  The IAHS and Hartford GAA have graciously agreed to host the tournament.  Teams from Boston College, St. Joseph’s (Philadelphia), Fordham (New York), Iona (New York), and UConn (Connecticut), along with club teams from Hartford and Worcester, will compete for the fall trophy.

UCONN Hurlers

Gaelic Football and Hurling Clubs have formed in recent years in third level institutions from Southern California to New England. The National Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association was established in 2009 to assist in the development of new hurling and Gaelic football teams on college campuses throughout the United States, and to provide a structure in which competitive games can be played.  With GAA clubs springing up on college campuses in the northeast region a need was seen to put some organization and structure around the games.  This year a committee was formed to help with the efforts, and the Northeast Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association was formed.  The board covers the an area including New England, New York, New Jersey Pennsylvania, Maryland, with the goal of spreading awareness and advancing gaelic sports in colleges in the region.

The tournament is the first of it’s kind in the area and the inaugural trophy will be awarded to the winners.  It is a huge first step towards the development of games in colleges in the northeastern region.  “We are really looking forward to hosting our first ever tournament,” says Simon Gillespie, Chairman of the Northeast Collegiate Board.  The tournament is a block to build upon, and the goal being that eventually the clubs themselves will be in a position to administer the games and competitions.  Many of the players involved have come through the youth ranks in their respective areas.  Over the years a gap to be bridged was that from minor to adult level.  It is a gap made all the more difficult because most of the players who come through underage ranks do not have the opportunity to continue to play when in college.  Growing gaelic games in third level educational institutions will go a long way to bridging that gap, though there is a learning curve involved as Simon points out.  “The success of the day will be based on whether the Colleges teams themselves are a success.  Most of these teams have players who have grown up with clubs and a community but now these players must not only play the game, but also learn to set up, administer, and coordinate their teams without influence from parents or coaches.  That is also an important learning curve for the players. The work put in by these kids will hopefully pay off and we can use this day as a starting point for Colleges GAA in the North East” pointed out Simon.

There will be local television present to cover the events of the day, a big boost for the fledgling teams and organizational setup. According to Simon, “The news today from Hartford is that Fox News may also be present on the day to find out more about Gaelic Games in the Colleges.  This will expose our organization, a relatively small Irish American Community, to a possible audience of thousands of people in the local area.  It really bodes well.  Thanks to the Hartford GAA for seeing the possibility of involving National Media sources.”

November 9th in Glastonbury, CT will hopefully mark the start of a transformation of Gaelic Games in the Northeast and the United States as a whole.  The Northeast also will have the opportunity for further exposure since the 2014 National Collegiate GAA Finals will be hosted in the Northeast, with college teams from all over the country traveling to take part.  As Simon emphasized, “We really need this day to be a success if Collegiate GAA is going to be a success on the East Coast of the US and we are going to make a success of the NCGAA Finals Memorial Day next year.”  Simon thanked the people in Hartford for their willingness to open their doors, “I would really like to thank the Irish American Home Society for the use of their facilities as well as the Hartford GAA club who have always shown they to be willing to host any tournament that promotes Gaelic Games.”  

Maybe one day we will look back at November 9, 2013 as the day it all began.

By Rory O’Donnell