“Dublin or Mayo?”
When I walked into into a local school at Maynooth, that was one of the first questions that the 13 year old students asked me. To be completely honest, I had no idea what the question even entailed. They quickly explained to me that Dublin and Mayo were two teams that were competing in the upcoming All-Ireland Gaelic Football Final. To be completely honest, I had no idea what Gaelic football was or how to play. I was still relatively new to Ireland and I was unaware of the significance of one of the most popular sports in the country.
Gaelic football is an Irish team sport, and the best way I can describe it is a combination of American football, soccer, rugby, and basketball (please look it up; it is a beautiful sport and I am not doing it justice). Jim Walsh, my contact at the Maynooth Basketball Academy, taped the All-Ireland Men’s Gaelic Football Final, the game that the students were talking about, so I was able to watch it and start to understand how the sport works. I was blown away with not only the skill of the players, but also the sheer physicality of the sport. The players were hitting each other extremely hard and they did not even wear any pads or form of protection. I was fascinated with the sport and I was hoping that I could see Gaelic football played live.
Fortunately, Jim Walsh got me a few tickets to the All-Ireland Women’s Gaelic Football Final this past week. I went with Tiffany and Alex, two Victory Scholars who attend DCU in Dublin. We were joined by almost 47,000 other fans. Many people equated the Gaelic Finals to the American Football Super Bowl, but what truly blew me away was the incredible support for women’s athletics. I heard that the men typically sell out, but to see a full arena of fans supporting a women’s game really impressed me. Often in the US, sporting events for men are more greatly attended than sporting events for women; for example, the NBA and WNBA. I was so happy to see that people in Ireland appreciated how great female athletes are.
The fans were passionate and enthusiastic, and it was such a great atmosphere to be in. I did not really have a preference of who I wanted to win, but every other fan in the arena did. The Dublin Men’s team had won the previous week, so the Mayo fans were hoping to break their losing streak and get a win for the women; however, Dublin won and the supposed ‘curse’ on the Mayo team continued. We followed a group out of the Croke Park arena as they changed “Mayo for your sandwiches; Dublin for the win.” The entire game was competitive and the players on both sides were tremendous athletes. Watching the All-Ireland Women’s Gaelic Football Final was a truly incredible experience and I am so appreciative that Jim Walsh provided us tickets!