The headline of this blog post is an odd one to be written by an Irish man, but let me explain. This Saturday 28th of May is the opening weekend of the Central/East European Gaelic Football Championship. This fantastic tournament is actually taking place here in Bratislava! I have been playing this sport for over 25 years in Ireland where it is our national sport. Let me explain what it is below.
What is Gaelic football? Gaelic football is an Irish team sport. It is a form of football derived from traditional Irish ball games.
It is typically played between two teams of 15 players on a rectangular grass pitch, however here in Europe we play on smaller pitches as we have two teams of 11 players.
The Slovak Shamrocks are currently the Danube Indoor League Men’s Gaelic Football Champions from this past March when we competed against our local rivals Vienna Gaels.
How to Play
- Unlike in soccer, where players from each team line up in their own half, Gaelic Football players start a game positioned on either side of the half, and pair themselves with an opposing team’s player. For example, the midfielders from each team will line up together at the centre-line of the field. The forwards will position themselves in front of the opposing team’s goal, and the fullbacks will line up beside the opposing team’s forwards. Defensively speaking, you are now paired with a player from the opposing team, and you will be “covering” that person for the duration of the game
- The game begins with a jump ball between all four midfielders in the centre.
- The ball may be held in the hands, however if the ball is on the ground, player must scooped the ball up into the hands by the foot
- Players are given only four seconds or four steps to advance the ball.
- Players can pass the ball by kicking it, or by striking it with one hand while holding the ball in the other (a hand-pass). The ball may not be thrown.
- After four steps, the player may bounce the ball (this bounce is called a “hop”) and take four more steps, kick-pass the ball or hand-pass the ball.
If the player chooses to take four steps after bouncing, they must kick the ball back to themselves (called a solo) after the 8 steps, creating a sequence of four steps-bounce-four steps-solo-four steps-bounce-four steps-solo. etc.
- Players may jostle, or shoulder-to-shoulder charge, an opponent when racing to win a loose ball, or when trying to knock an opponent off the ball
- A player may try to knock the ball out of an opponents grasp by hitting it with one of their hands. It is important to play the ball in this case, as striking the opponent is a foul
How to score
In the game, two types of scores are possible: points and goals.
- A point is awarded for kicking or hand-passing the ball over the crossbar, signalled by the umpire raising a white flag.
- A goal is awarded for kicking the ball under the crossbar into the net, signalled by the umpire raising a green flag.
After a long break due to the pandemic, the Slovak Shamrocks are delighted to welcome teams from Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Switzerland. I am proud to say I will be one of these players playing at some stage this weekend.
Over 200 players representing male & female teams from across the region will converge on Bratislava to contest the largest ever Gaelic Football competition to take place in Slovakia.
Come along and enjoy the top European players battle it out to be crowned champions. Entry is free and everyone is welcome!
If you would like to come to support me the address is Novomestský športový klub 1922 Bratislava, Tomášikova 12444, 831 04 Bratislava.