To say that it was dope to go to the Women’s Gaelic final match is an understatement. It was beyond anything I have ever experienced both as a cultural and athletic event. The match was set between Dublin and Mayo. Fans from all over the island swarmed to Croke Park Stadium in spirit wear, chanting songs and waving their team flag in the air with enthusiasm and excitement. When we finally reached our seats (shout out to Jim from Maynooth for getting us tickets), you could literally feel the rivalry between the two teams as both Dublin and Mayo walked onto the field. The seats vibrated as people erupted in cheers shouting “Mayo” or “Dublin” at the top of their lungs. With 46,000 people in attendance, this women’s finals match was recorded to be the most in women’s Gaelic football history. The atmosphere was intense and electric and I felt self conscious cheering for Dublin while sitting in a section with Mayo fans. However, as the game went on I cared less and less about the Mayo fans I sat next to and cheered ruthlessly with pride for a county that I have only called home for a month.
Aside from the cheering, I sat in my seat trying to understand how the rules of the game were played. Gaelic is nothing like I have ever seen before. It is such a dynamic sport that incorporates rules from so many different sports. From what I could see, it seemed like a cross between rugby and soccer with players being able to score by kicking or throwing it into a soccer goal or field goal. If a player managed to get it between the field goal, that counted as 1 point but if they were able to score a soccer goal, that counted as 3 points. Additionally, players have to either bounce or kick the ball in between every few strides, which looked extremely difficult to do because the movement seemed unnatural. As if the task for players to run and dribble the ball simultaneously wasn’t tough enough, they also had to avoid getting hit by defenders running full speed at them and nobody wears protection pads! I almost felt like I was watching a brawl match because players were tackling each other left and right, falling hard to the ground and not getting back up for minutes at a time. There were times that trainers ran onto the field to aid wounded players and correct me if I’m wrong but typically, if a player is hurt, the game will stop… not in Gaelic football! Every man for themselves! Wounded or unwounded the game continues! It was the weirdest thing to watch. At one point during the game, the trainer was on the ground with a player and Mayo strategically used them as a blocker for her defender. It was seriously wild. I could not believe my eyes. In the end, both teams played amazingly aggressive and after two intense halves, Dublin was deemed 2017’s All-Ireland Women’s Gaelic Football champions. The final score was 4-11 Dublin and 0-10 Mayo (aka 23-10 in favor of Dublin).
So far, Ireland has offered me a whirlwind of new experiences and memories that, as corny as this may seem, will last me a lifetime. From beautiful fishing villages to fiddle music to traditional Irish sports, Ireland has been an absolute blast. One month down, nine more to go! Stay tuned folks, the future holds some good craic!