Irish Gaelic football

(VOVworld) - Most countries have their own sport displaying their national spirit. Irish Gaelic football stands out as a ball sport where people play with both their hands and feet. Today VOV talks to Jim Kiernan, secretary of VietCelts Gaelic Football Club, who has played Gaelic football for more than 30 years, about the sport.

Q: Can you briefly explain Gaelic football?
A: It’s a team sport. It’s like a mixture of soccer and rugby and basketball. But it’s a very safe game. The ball itself is like a soccer ball, but the stitching and finishing is like a volleyball. So you can use your hands to punch the ball or use your feet to kick the ball. The goals are H shape like a rugby goal.

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The players may kick punt or punch the ball or they may hop or solo it.
(Photo: clannagaelsandiego.com)

Q: What makes it different from other ball sports such as soccer or rugby?
A: So just to contrast it with soccer, in Gaelic football you can use your hands and of course in soccer you can’t. Gaelic football is a faster game, it’s more dynamic. In contrast with rugby, in rugby you can use your hands but you can’t pass forward, whereas in Gaelic you can pass forward. You can kick, or punch, the ball. You travel by bouncing the ball, which you can only do once. To continue traveling, you have to do a thing called a “solo”, which is kicking the ball back to yourself as you run. And you pass by using a closed-fist and punching it.
Q: How popular is Gaelic football in Ireland?
A: It’s the number one sport in Ireland. It’s more popular than soccer and rugby. In Ireland itself, it’s a focus for different generations. It brings different generations together for playing, spectating, debating and analyzing the games. It’s the center point for new arrivals, that could be Irish or non-Irish, when they come to a new city.
Gaelic football is one of the three main Irish games. another game played with sticks called hurling – like air hockey. It's a very fast and skillful game. And there's a game called handball – like squash without a racket. Those are three main games. In 1880s a group of sport enthusiasts got together because they worried that people would stop playing these games so they codified them and organized Championships and so the games came back strongly and now those games are most important in Ireland and gradually they are spreading around the world. 

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It has goals, it has fights, it has dubious decisions,it has end-to-end football and even has blanket defences at times. (Photo: sportsjoe.ie)

Q: What is the most important Gaelic football tournament in Ireland?
A: The most important tournament is the All-Ireland Championship run by the Gaelic Athletic Association. At the top level, there are 32 teams. And then they’re joined by New York and London who play to a reasonable level. The main tournament starts in May and finishes in September. The secondary competition starts in February and finishes in May.The national broadcaster broadcasts lots of the game and, recently, Sky Sports has been broadcasting the games in Britain and different parts of the world. For the game, at the weekends you have 3 hours on Sunday afternoon and 2 hours in the evening where all of the games are analyzed and discussed.

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Cork v Donegal - GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final. (Photo: img.rasset.ie)

Q: Do you have professional players as in soccer or other sports?
A: The sport is actually not professional in the sense that players don’t get paid. Players at the elite levels train as much as professionals, but they hold down jobs. So it’s like the Olympics in the past, where the standards are high but the players are not paid. It’s not professional by payment but professional by training and attitude. All of the money that is raised from attendance or from television goes back into the sport, goes back into help getting young people to play the sport.
Q: You’ve been running Viet Celts for years, what do you think about promoting the sport in Vietnam?
A: Vietnamese people are quite good at picking up the sport. I had a lot of good players in my school. And, for example, with the Blue Dragon, the children’s foundation training, you can see a lot of excellent players. We’ve got a number of coaches training these kids and they’re very impressed with the standard. We also got a lot of Vietnamese coaches. And we have a lot of Vietnamese ladies coaches: Thanh, Thu, etc. So the results are very good and the sport itself is based on speed and Vietnamese people are very fast. So this sport is made for Vietnam.

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The high catch has become less common in Gaelic football. (Photo: rte.ie)

Q: If someone wants to practice, what does he have to prepare?
A: You don’t really need to prepare anything because we’ll take you through the different skills. After two or three training sessions, you’ll have the basics. And you’ll pick up the game very easily.
That sounds interesting! I’m thinking about showing up at the training session next Thursday. Thank you for joining us today. And that has been Jim Kiernan on Cultural Rendezvous. Goodbye until next time!

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