Nicola Waterworth of SportWatch talks to Rachael Power about setting up a new venture in a very traditional Irish sport, ahead of an appropriately timed first 7-a-side fixture on 8th March, International Women’s Day.
Q: Tell us about why you are starting a Ladies Gaelic Football Team?
Gaelic football is obviously more popular in Ireland, more popular than ‘soccer’ – national finals regularly attract attendances of over 80,000 spectators. It’s fairly common for girls and women to play at club level and most girls learn to play at school. When I moved to Bristol from Ireland I was looking for ways to meet people, the Western Gaels has a very social side and lots of Irish ex-pats come together through the club. But I did also want to play competitively, as well as a way to focus my training and this year we have enough enthusiastic women to set-up a team.
Q: Tell us a bit about the game?
Gaelic football has been played in Ireland for a long time, variations for hundreds of years before it was formally codified in the late nineteenth century. It is a very physical game – you need lots of energy and endurance as well as good ball handling skills. There are 15 players on each side with the aim being to pass a spherical ball up the field to score goals and points – the ball can be advanced by carrying, bouncing, kicking, hand-passing, and soloing. The positions that we play are generally quite similar to those in other forms of football – i.e. goalkeeper, midfielders, forwards etc. Games are 60 minutes in length, divided into two halves. The women’s game has some variations from the men’s but is basically the same premise.
Q: What has been the reaction of the men at Western Gaels to setting up a team?
The men have been really supportive of the endeavour, what we are doing helps grow the club and gets more people involved. It’s not uncommon in Ireland for clubs to have both men’s and women’s teams. I think it’s also fair to say that we have brought some new ideas with us – I think they were pretty impressed with our ‘insanity’ warm-ups in particular!
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in this 2014 season?
We are really looking forward to our first 7-a-side match, we are hosting a tournament for both women’s and men’s teams in Bristol. It is going to be exciting, and slightly nerve wracking to see how we actually play together as a team. After that we want to build the foundations for a robust team – 15 is quite a high number of regular players to secure and we are still looking for women who want to get involved, whether they have played before or not. Then we want to find a league to play in and see what happens!
Western Gaels Ladies will be playing their first 7-a-side match on the 8th March at Avonmouth RFC – times and matches for the tournament tbc – keep an eye on the fixture calendar – we look forward to posting a match report!
Western Gaels ladies are looking for more players – if you have good ball handling skills from any other sport, are massively enthusiastic and able to train on Thursday evenings then contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BristolGAA.
For more info on Western Gaels visit their website.