Last month the Shanghai Gaelic Football Club hosted the All China Gaelic Games. Over the course of the tournament more than 40 games were played by 16 teams and 200 players from Beijing, Suzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Dailian right here in Shanghai. The tournament took place April 30 at the newly renovated Shanghai Rugby Club in Waigaoqiao in which both the men and women Shanghai teams were crowned Gaelic Champions. In an interview with Shanghai Gaelic Football Club’s Chairperson Rob Kellaghan and Catriona Scanlon, the Shanghaiist’s Bo Hershey found out what Gaelic Football really is.
What is Gaelic football? Is it a hybrid of football (soccer in the States) and Rugby or something entirely different?
Some describe Gaelic Football as an all-round game of hand and foot skills with a round ball, similar to a cross between soccer and rugby. Gaelic Football in fact predates both of these sports. The first record of the sport appeared in the Statutes of Galway, Ireland in 1527, and the earliest reported match took place at Slane, County Meath, Ireland in 1712. The game in its full form is played by two teams of fifteen on a pitch about 137 meters long and 87 meters wide, and the goal posts are the same as for rugby but with a slightly lower crossbar. In Asia we play nine-a-side games. The aim of the game is to maneuver the ball (round and slightly smaller than a soccer ball) by hand, fist or foot over the crossbar for one point or under the crossbar and into the net for three points.
Gaelic football has a long tradition in Ireland that goes back centuries. How did this sport start in Shanghai?Shanghai Gaelic Football Club was founded in 2002 by two China Veterans who had a great passion for the sport – Noelie The Legend Lennon and Ronan Inflammable Ron McGuinness. The club has grown in stature over the years to become a well established, formalized club of expats and locals who train regularly, and play competitive games around Asia.
Both men and women can play Gaelic football. Are the rules and style of play different?
The style of play is the same for both the men’s and ladies competitions.There is however one major difference between the rules and that is in the tackle. Men are allowed to forcibly use their upper body weight to unbalance and dispossess an opponent whereas women must only use their hands to try and retrieve the ball.
Is Gaelic football an expensive sport? How much does it cost to play?
Membership for the year is cheaper than a year’s gym membership. At 2000RMB it includes Tuesday & Saturday training sessions, extra summer training sessions, a 2011 jersey, free Saturday bus to training, access to our many tournaments, trips away, social events, as well as the discounts provided by our sponsors. Student rates are also available. The first Tuesday night training session is free, so come out and give it a try!
Who plays Gaelic football in Shanghai? Do most players know who play the sport before coming to Shanghai?
Most of our players come from very different sporting backgrounds such as soccer, netball or basketball, or as is sometimes the case no sporting background at all. With two men’s and two women’s teams, there is room for all levels of skill and experience. Whether you are male or female, single or married, young or old, the Shanghai Saints and Sirens are a great way to meet new people, keep fit and learn a new sport. This year Shanghai Gaelic Football Club is celebrating their 10yr anniversary and each year has continued to make great strides in the Shanghai community not only in Irish circles but in American, Chinese, Australian, Swedish, Russian, etc.
Gaelic Football is a sport with mostly foreign players in Shanghai. How do local Chinese feel about it?
As Gaelic football differs greatly from soccer and other forms of football, the local Chinese who have seen our games and training sessions have been surprised by the skills involved and the speed of play. This season we have several Chinese men and women playing with the club. In fact one of the original club members, Chen Yao from Shanghai, was last years Ladies Captain and this years Ladies Captain, and star player, is Fang Yi also from Shanghai.
What’s next for Gaelic Football in Shanghai?
This year our aim is to focus on building talent within the club, as well as promoting our love of Gaelic sport among the Shanghai community. As we also have the Asia Gaelic Games in Seoul in October and various other trips to teams like Suzhou and Dalian, we have lot to look forward to.