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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

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National champion winning Notre Dame Gaelic Athletic Association seeks to promote Irish culture

After their third consecutive championship, sophomore Jane Palmer praised her team's leaders and success.

The most successful football team in recent years at Notre Dame may not be the American football or even the soccer team, but rather the Gaelic football team. The club team recently won its third consecutive National Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association (NCGAA) championship against Navy on March 17 at Zions Bank Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. Notre Dame triumphed with two goals and 10 scores to Navy’s one goal and three scores. A goal is worth three points in Gaelic football.

The Gaelic football team is part of the broader Notre Dame Gaelic Athletic Association, which also includes the hurling team. The club was founded in 2019 and has around 40 members, 27 of whom traveled to Utah for the championship. The club is co-ed, with both men and women playing in the same games.

Jane Palmer, a sophomore from County Cork, Ireland, speaking on behalf of the club, said their match against Navy was a challenge for the team.

“It was an intense match as the Navy are quite physical,” Palmer said. “However, our skill and teamwork proved to be the winning formula, securing our place as champions once again.”

Teams from the University of Connecticut, the University of California, Berkeley, Colorado University, the University of Pittsburgh, Purdue University and the University of Montana were also present at the tournament.

When it came to hurling, the team fell short of claiming the championship and lost to the University of Colorado in the semi-finals. Although Palmer expressed disappointment at this loss, she said it helped the team rest for the Gaelic football final because players were competing in both sports in the same weekend. 

Palmer explained while some teams only focus on one sport, Notre Dame competes in both. According to its website, the NCGAA was founded in 2009. However 2024 was the first year in which the NCGAA finals were broadcast on ESPN, and Palmer described this as a “major milestone for the sport and the club.”

The University’s GAA club practices twice a week and is advised by Mary O’Callaghan, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Letters. Palmer praised O’Callaghan as well as club leaders sophomore Jimmy McHugh, senior Krista Handler and Maggie O’Connell ’20 for their commitment to the club. In particular, Palmer pointed to club president, captain and coach senior Owen Sheehan, for his leadership on the team. Sheehan was recently selected for the United States Gaelic Athletic Association (USGAA) Junior All-Ireland Team. 

The club will play its qualifying games for nationals in the fall, traveling for their games this year to Purdue University, the University of Connecticut and the Naval Academy.

Palmer explained that in addition to competing, the club also exists to “promote Irish culture and heritage.”

Palmer also emphasized the sense of camaraderie that exists on the team.

“Everyone is very close on the team, and we gel well, which is essential for matches,” she said.

Although many members of the team will be graduating, Palmer expressed optimism in the future of the club.

“This year we are saying goodbye to a remarkable group of seniors and other graduating students,” she said. “Although the team is sad about the loss of such amazing people, we are excited for the future. The future of the club is bright and promising.”