All posts, International students, Students

Student experience: learning to play Gaelic Football at UL


Photo: Go Gaelic

Joy Siegel is from Richmond, Virginia, and currently studying on the MA in Technical Communication & E-Learning at the University of Limerick. 

Joy Siegel_UL Student AmbassadorStudying abroad allows the unique chance to learn more about the world. Whether you are looking for culture, sports, language, volunteerism, or social opportunities, the University of Limerick (UL) can certainly deliver a rich experience. It may take a bit of bravery when you’ve never tried something before or are certain you won’t know anyone, but I can confidently say it is worth the risk. One such example is the Annual Gaelic Football Tournament sponsored by the UL International Office and Go Gaelic. It is a day of fun, sportsmanship, and camaraderie.

To provide a bit of background, Gaelic football is unique, but it uses movements found in other sports. Kicking and scoring maneuvers are similar to soccer, hand passing is like a serve in volleyball, and traveling with the ball through a single dribble or kick off the foot resembles basketball or soccer. Running for four steps at a time with the ball in hand is also seen in the Irish sports of hurling or camogie. Three points are awarded for getting the ball into the goal, and one is awarded for getting the ball over the bar.

“Whether you are looking for culture, sports, language, volunteerism, or social opportunities, the University of Limerick (UL) can certainly deliver a rich experience.”

I had absolutely no knowledge of the sport before I showed up to the first training session, but I was not alone as many others had not played before either. I enjoyed the first practice and decided to stick with it. For the next month, about 20-30 UL international students and I participated in weekly training sessions to improve our skills. Before long, it was 6 October and international teams from other Irish universities arrived on UL’s campus in the hopes of earning the Go Gaelic Perpetual Cup.


How did the tournament work?

The eight teams were split into two groups of four (an A group and B group). Each team played each of the other three teams in their respective group to determine their overall ranking within that cluster of four. Once the rankings were established for groups A and B, the next round of single matches determined the teams that would go on to play for the Cup or continue for the secondary shield. Because the two UL teams started in different groups, and our records were in the middle of our groupings, it led to an interesting situation. We had to play each other. Team A won and moved on to play for the top award.

Knockout Rounds

Both UL teams won our next round matches to eliminate our opposing teams.  To say that we were excited at the prospect of capturing both the Cup and shield is an understatement.

The Championship!

With five matches behind each team, it came down to this moment. Needless to say, it was quite exciting, and I can only speak for my own team as I was either playing or cheering. We were behind, ahead, behind, and then scored a goal to bring it within one point with just a minute to go! It was heartbreaking moment when the whistle blew and finalised the score. We were in good company as the other UL team met the exact same ending. It was so close for both teams, yet both prizes just out of reach.

Even though the ending was not what we were hoping for, it was an amazing experience! So even if you decide Gaelic football is not for you, there are many other opportunities available at UL. You have nothing to lose by giving them a try. At the very least, it’ll either be a good story or a good time. Sometimes you’re lucky and get both!

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