Fields of Glory: Around the Midwest GAA November’s Summary

Originally in the November Issue of the Ohio Irish American News

by Vincent Beach

The autumn GAA season is the time players get to recharge their batteries, take care of injuries, and get back into the strength conditioning that is often foregone for the endurance and skills training of the regular season.  Likewise, for the clubs and divisions, it is a time to recover from the busy weeks of play, plan for the future, and strengthen the organization.

Yearly goals are re-evaluated, budgets are re-examined, and development programs re-strategized.   At every level of the organization (GAA) the annual general meetings are occurring to facilitate many of these efforts.

This year, Cleveland will host Midwest Division of the US Gaelic Athletic Association (US GAA) for their annual general meeting (AGM) on October 27that PJ McIntyre’s.  The AGM attendees represent every city, code, and grade team in the Division.  During this meeting officer recaps are read out, the divisional bylaws discussed or voted on, and a new executive board elected.

Over the recent years, important new programs have been debated and implemented, including: Divisional Playoff Weekend, division-wide Trip to Ireland Raffle (club fundraiser), referee training and retention for each club, and division-wide development programs (grants). Following the MWGAA AGM, the USGAA will have their meeting running from November 9 through 11 at Chicago’s Gaelic Park. Much the same as the divisional AGM, the USGAA’s is on a larger scale and, in recent times, with a larger impact to our local clubs.

Recent introductions have included player health insurance and methods for clubs to pay, and the ever-revolving debate on the number of sanction players (players over from Ireland) allowed on a field at a time for every grade level.  In addition to the congressional activities, several workshops are held for club cadre to take back in implement in their home towns, namely centered around recruitment, social media, and club health.

From Chicago, it will be back to Cleveland and back to PJ McIntyre’s for the club AGM held the first weekend in December each year.  Although the meetings can seem mundane to players and supporters who would rather be running up a pitch or cheering on the action in a match, they do offer a set-time to evaluate and question the goals and actions of the current board, the direction of the club, the fiscal actions, and health of the organization. The organization belongs to the volunteer members who comprise her, and the GAA embraces these democratic processes that continue to grow and evolve the game we love.

One evolution we saw was introduction of the “mark.”  It brought into play on the defensive side of the field, and better said, during kick-outs a ball cleanly caught in the air beyond the defensive forty-five meter line was awarded a free kick (four second limit to play).  The thought and result was to encourage the aerial skills of fetching and catching that were being eroded to the short, possession-retained kick-outs being displayed by many teams.  This year there are five new proposals on the floor to further encourage offensive play kicking – catching skills, and to revisit the penalties. They will be before “Congress” this year for experimental implementation into the League competition.

  1. Handpass – To introduce a restriction of three consecutive passes of the ball with the fist or open hand by players of the team in possession.
  2. Sideline Kick – That the ball shall be played in a forward direction from the kick. (Exception: In the case of a side-line kick being taken by an attacking player on or inside the opponents’ 13m line, the ball may be kicked in any direction).
  3. The Mark – To extend the application of the Mark to the clean catching of the ball on or inside the 20m line from a kick delivered on or beyond the 45m line without it touching the ground.
  4. Sin-Bin – The Penalty on the day for a Black Card Infraction or two Yellow Card Infractions – an ordering off for ten minutes in a Sin Bin.
  5. Kick-Out/Zoning
    1. For a kick-out, two players only from each team shall be positioned between the two 45m lines.
    2. The goalkeeper and a maximum of six players from each team shall be behind the respective 45m lines, until the ball is kicked.
    3. The ball from the kick-out shall travel beyond the 45m line before being played by a player of the defending team.
    4. Other Rules relating to the kick-out to remain unchanged.
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Club Person of the Year Simon O’Doherty (left) with Coach Jim Coyne
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Rookie of the Year Dan Kampman (Center) w Kevin DeFranco (L) and Vincent Beach (R)

These rules, again, are experimental and will only be implemented in the League play if approved by the GAA Congress.  Changes involving playing rules of Gaelic Games are only possible in years divisible by 5, making 2020 the year the above proposals could be implemented into the Championship play.

Cleveland GAA Update. The inaugural Golf Outing & Banquet was a huge success. Go raibh míle maith agaibhto all of our sponsors and volunteers who made the day fantastic:  Skylight Financial, OhioIANews, Ecoverse, Guinness, Great Lakes Brewery, Gormley’s Irish Pub and Barbershop, Beach Contracting LLC, Turner Construction, Five Points Coffee & Tea, Cobos Insurance, Bayer Healthcare, Circle 17 Custom Furniture, A. Steven Dever Co., LPA, Alexis Exhibits, Diversified Fall Protection, and Mr. Rory O’Neil.

Special Congratulations to our 2018 award winners: Club Person of the Year Simon O’Doherty, Most Improved Player Rob Frank, and Rookie of the Year Danial Kampman.

Cleveland GAA would also like to announce the arrival of Ladies Gaelic Football Coach Danial Murray from Knocknacarra, Galway (just east of Craggy Island, as they say).  Daniel will be head coach for upcoming training sessions and the 2019 season. Those interested in playing or learning more should email: info@clevelandgaa.com.

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Women’s Coach Daniel Murray

Follow @ClevelandGaelic on Facebook and Twitter for fall and winter activities for Men, Women, and Youth.  Planning is in the works for friendlies, open games, fitness training, and indoor.  Contact us at info@clevelandgaa.comfor more information.

Cleveland GAA Featured in Bush League Podcast

Some of the club members were recently featured on the Bush League podcast to tell the story of the Pat’s/Jarlath’s.

From Bush League:
“In this episode we examine what happens when having one team isn’t enough for Cleveland’s Gaelic football community. You’ll hear what the players say about the moment when this rivalry spanning 30 years, culminated on the sport’s biggest stage, and the surprising story of what happens after.”

Click here to listen

Lakewood Looms Large In Plans For Championship Gaelic Football Team

via The Lakewood Observer

By: Brian Royer

Gaelic football is a centuries old Irish ball game played by teams of 15—or 13 in the United States—on a field very similar to a soccer field. The objective is to pass the ball into the other team’s goal for three points, or through a set of two uprights for one point. It’s been played in the greater Cleveland area for nearly a century, and during that time teams from the Forest City have been good. Very good.

Today, Cleveland St. Pat’s-St. Jarlath’s Gaelic Football Club, a team formed after Cleveland St. Pat’s and Cleveland St. Jarlath’s merged, is the country’s defending national champion, but this year the pressure is on and the stakes are high. They are under the microscope, and they know it. Every club in their division, which includes teams from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, and more than forty other teams from throughout the United States are watching every move they make. As they prepare to kick off the 2016 season, Head Coach Martin Wall knows that Lakewood is going to be a big part of their title defense.

“This year is certainly going to be different,” said Wall. “We can see how other clubs are filling out their roster and the moves they are making. Make no mistake about it, they’re coming for us. It’s not a time to get fancy, we’re keeping it simple. We’re going to work on our fitness and be bigger, faster, and stronger than we were last year, and we’re going to recruit athletes who want to compete. Lakewood is going to be a big part of that.”

The first stop for the men of Cleveland St. Pat’s-St. Jarlath’s will be Birdtown Crossfit, a local gym that focuses on strength and conditioning. As Wall tells it, the team’s competitiveness began to turn the corner at the end of the 2013 season. The team’s skill level was improving to be sure, but the biggest difference was their overall endurance, strength, and durability. He asked around and found that a number of his players had been participating in regular workouts at Birdtown. Always quick to take advantage of a good opportunity, Wall and the club’s board of directors worked with Birdtown Crossfit’s owners Tricia Tortoreti and Jillian Neimeister to develop a customized six-week pre-season strength and conditioning program for his players that will begin in March.

“As far as the results of Birdtown workouts,” said Wall. “I’ve seen them myself, so there’s no question there. I can say from firsthand experience that their programming has improved some of our players, even extended some of their playing careers. They know what they are doing.”

Next up, according to Wall, the team needs to recruit new athletes who are interested in learning a new, fast-paced, competitive game. Gaelic football is like any other sport — if you aren’t moving forward, if you aren’t building for the future, you’re moving backward. In many ways, new player recruitment is always the hardest part of the plan. Most athletes simply don’t know or understand the game of Gaelic football, so it can be a bit daunting. Fortunately for the team, that is an easy bridge to cross in Lakewood. Considering the number of players who call the city home, most folks have probably run into more than a few around town, or at least shared a pint with one of them.

Mid-fielder Chris Weimar, half-forwards Kyle McIntyre and Nick Cobos, and full-forward Rory O’Neil all call Lakewood home, and long-time player and starting center half-forward, Kevin Pap, is the owner and operator of Plank Road Tavern.

“Yeah, if you’re in Lakewood, St. Pat’s-St. Jarlath’s guys are not hard to find,” said Cobos. “We’re kind of all over. If you can’t find one of us, just head up to Plank. Get yourself something to eat, have a pint. One of us will be there soon enough. Best joint in town.”

This type of neighborhood retail recruiting—where new players are brought in by old players they know from the neighborhood—is a bit untraditional.  For St. Pat’s-St. Jarlath’ though, it’s key to their success.

“In a lot of ways we’re a small-market team,” said Cobos. “When you look at cities like Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, you’re talking about clubs with hundreds of players backed by hundreds of thousands of dollars. In that regard, it’s impossible for us to keep up with them. They can afford to do whatever they want. But look at the past ten years. Cleveland has four national championships. Can they keep up with us on the field?”

The results are hard to dispute, but the club knows how intimidating a new game can be to potential players. According to Cobos, that shouldn’t stop them from trying. “Here’s what I tell guys, everybody has a first day. All of us. But when you boil it down, it’s a simple game. Run. Catch. Kick. If you’re an athlete of any sort, you’ll pick it up quickly,” he said. “If anything you’re going to have a great time, and you get to hang out with great guys. It’s not the worst way to spend a summer.”

If you are interested in learning more about Gaelic football or Cleveland St. Pat’s-St. Jarlath’s GFC, you can find them on Facebook at /stpatsgfc, follow them on Twitter @clevelandgaelic, or head up to Plank Road Tavern at 16719 Detroit—somebody will be there soon enough.