Glasgow University Woman’s Gaelic Football Club
On Friday 18 March, hours after the end of term, 18 members of the GUWGFC left Glasgow to fly to Cork. The aim of this trip was to gain experience at a level unattainable within the novice realms of GAA in Scotland. The Glasgow University team is a mixture of Canadian, Welsh, English, Scottish, Northern and Southern Irish, some who have experience at club and county level and others who have never played a competitive game. Because of the varied level of experience there is often confusion about rules and game formation and we hoped a trip to Ireland would clarify the rules and game participation for all.
The trip structure was designed as an instructional and informative training weekend with match participation in order to put what we learned into practice. We contacted Marie Falvey of Munster Ladies Gaelic Football who offered her services on an instructional and training level. Marie and one of her young players Katie came from Limerick to Cork on Saturday morning armed with footballs and enthusiasm enough to whip our girls into shape. Marie went through everything from the warm up to the goalkeepers rules. We did drills and skills and played amongst ourselves as Marie pointed out and showed us the dos and don’ts of playing the game. Suffice to say most, if not all the girls were astounded with how much they did not know. We had a great morning and with our new found enthusiasm, we would happily have stayed training for the day, in the glorious sunshine in Cork.
From there we moved to the Nemo Rangers ground on South Douglas road to put what we learned into the practice. Buoyed by the success of the morning the girls put their nerves aside and went with enthusiasm and excitement to prepare to play the Nemo Rangers Ladies team. Soon we were lined out, newly confident in our positions and in our knowledge of the game. Having been in Cork less than 24 hours, the girls had already heard from various locals about the quality of the Nemo team and needless to say these observations were well founded.
From the start, we played the game with style and enthusiasm, defending, attacking and putting our newly learnt skills into practice. Gradually the strength of the opposition began to weaken our defences and the Nemo girls started clocking up the points. By half time they had a substantial lead over us visitors, we had yet to score. We knew what we had to do and girls were using their skills, new and old, to put up a good fight. The main difference between the teams was confidence and experience; the Nemo girls would fly forward, grasp the ball and confidently take it where they needed it to go. We were slower of the mark, hesitating and thinking before each move but when we got the ball we took it and performed. I can honestly say it was the best, most professional and most enjoyable game ever played by the GUWGFC. At full time our solitary point did little to threaten the expansive score of the Nemo Rangers team but in the end it mattered little to us. We had done what we came to do and would leave Cork proud of our team and each other.
The training provided by Marie Falvey really opened our eyes to the potential of the ream and our confidence was restored after a mediocre season in Scotland.
Plagued with troublesome away fixtures, one after another and teams not turning up, the girls enthusiasm was waning and numbers were fluctuating. There was a number of given factors taken for granted here in the Irish GAA that are not available across the water. Many of the girls were delighted that they now were confident they knew the rules and regulations but all made the observation that these are not upheld in the games we play. So it is up to us to take what we have learned on this trip and start making changes at home in Glasgow. From our return we will implement the changes and up our standard of game. We will continue to play by the rules and if we lose games as a cause of this, then so be it. We will make an application to send a member of the team to take part in a referee coaching course in Ireland and set the standard for GAA in Scotland.
This is the first project of this nature undertaken by the GUWGFC. The Club is in its third year and following a successful year last year, our numbers now stand close to 30 for the first time. This has encouraged us to raise our game to increase our standing within the British Universities League, this trip to the home of Gaelic football to compete against local teams was of huge benefit and we would like to make this event a part of our annual competitive calendar.
We would like to organise a return trip for Nemo Rangers and for Marie Falvey and her team in the coming year. It is safe to say that the whole team benefited greatly from this project, with 18 of our regular panel of 28 attending. In terms of the future of the team, this project will promote a huge positive response within the team and also when recruitment takes place in within the University. We have considered the cost involved and believe that it would be possible to raise money each year in order to return to Cork.
Details of preparation for the project
In preparation for this project, we did a number of things aside from trying to raise funds. We increased the level of our training from one pitch session a week to include a second night of fitness and aerobic training. We played 2-3 challenge matches before we came to Ireland. We are a team in high spirits and our turnout at training was near 100% each evening. We will continue with this new level of training next year and along with our new club changes, try to set Glasgow University Women’s Gaelic Football Club, at the head of Scottish GAA.