Canadians honoured and eager to retain World Title
The Canadian Ladies Football international team heading to Ireland in August for the 2nd GAA World Games are honoured to be part of the occasion and are intent on retaining the crown they garnered last year in Abu Dhabi.
While last year’s squad hailed from the Toronto Division, this year’s Canada team is from new division Eastern Canada GAA created in 2014 to cater for existing and new clubs. This year’s Ladies Football team represents Canada in the native/international segment at the games in a panel of fifteen.
Four team trials have taken place throughout Eastern Canada since January and the recently selected squad comprises of 13 Ottawa Gaels players and two from the Montreal Shamrocks. Of the panel 12 are Canadian while the other three are French, German and an Australian born.
Some have only been in action one year like German born and former soccer player Anke Patzelt, while Canadian Daphne Ballard has been playing for 19 years. Ottawa Gaels PRO, Kerry Mortimer, who arrived at a young age from Australia with her County Antrim parents, has been a feature for over 16 years and at 46 may well be the oldest player at this year’s world games.
“I am the elder state-person on the team at 46 and I am curious to know what is the age of the oldest player at the games this year?” she mused. Five on the team are mothers with 12 children between them. Indeed back in 2003, Mortimer and two other since retired Ottawa players, shared the unique occurrence of giving birth to babies in the same week. This must surely be a record for any GAA team and today the three children are playing in a thriving Gaelic football schools and youth program. This continuation of player from generation to generation is very gratifying.
“It is just fantastic [to have them involved with the youth],” said Mortimer.
“I personally wish that if I had an opportunity for a youth program when I was growing up, I definitely would have been part of it. I mean I started playing Gaelic when I was 30 and if I had started playing when I was 8-9, I can’t imagine how much better a player I would have been.
“I am very involved with the youth program because I want to make sure that there is something for my kids because I love the club so much, I love the game so much and I love the community so much. I want to make sure that there is a foundation there for kids and to be able to learn it.”
The world games is just the thing that Mortimer feels will help see her children stay involved.
“I have already said to my kids that ‘do you know what guys, I am going to the World Games and I want that to be your goal that when you get old enough that you will be old enough to be going to the games as well’ and they are into that.”
Tying in with the next generations’ involvement, the Canadian team features a player that has come up through the youth ranks. The GAA schools program started in 2000 in Ottawa catholic schools, meaning that Gaelic football was offered as part of the student curriculum, grades 7-8. The player that has made Team Canada is 24 year old, Lisa Wright and Mortimer feels this is a testament to the schools initiative.
“When Lisa first began playing Gaelic Football she was in Grade 7 and she got hooked right away. So that’s been 10 years that she has been playing. I think this is a great testament and shows the importance of the youth program in getting young people involved,”she enthused.
The Ottawa Gaels, who make up the majority of the Canadian panel, celebrated their 40th year in 2015, and though founded by Irish people with early influence from expats, the club since the late 90s through to the mid 2000s, has had great success winning titles in the Toronto division with an almost all-Canadian makeup.
While one Team Canada member, Tressa McMaster (now in Ottawa), played on the Toronto team that went to Abu Dhabi last year, the Ottawa clubs’ representation is a source of pride.
“I am absolutely proud and it does speak to the high quality of players [in the club]. Ottawa has always had primarily Canadian players, so very proud of being a part of a non-Irish born team.”
Honour and success
Mortimer feels that many of the Canadian players who have never been to Ireland and never experienced Croke Park on game-day, won’t understand the significance of the venue until they are actually there.
“Some of the players don’t realize what an honour and what an opportunity it is to be actually at Croke Park. We’re going to be down on the field for the opening ceremonies before semi-final matches.
“The finals are going to be played in Croke Park on the Friday and for me that’s our team’s objective and we want to win. I know from having Irish relatives of what an honour it is just to get a chance to play there.”