Gaeil na Gaillimhe making progress in the west
By Cian O’Connell
The emergence of Gaeil na Gaillimhe has made a significant impact out west.
Inspired by the dramatic rise of Na Gaeil Óga in the capital, a group of Irish language enthusiasts subsequently came together in 2016 to launch their own teams in Galway.
Stiofán Seoighe was one of the founders and alongside his brothers continues to occupy a central role in the development of the game and Gaeilge Corribside.
“We looked at what Na Gaeil Óga were doing in Dublin, and to be fair they gave us a lot of support and a lot of advice as well,” Seoighe explains.
“We decided it would be great to have a similar club, a club that functions through the medium of Irish in Galway city. We were looking at the amount of gaeilscoileanna, second level Irish schools, people studying Irish in college, people from the Gaeltacht, and people with an interest in the language.
“We thought it would be a great thing to get going in the city. A group of us came together in 2016, we got in touch with the County Board here in Galway, who were really helpful from the start.
“That is how it started. It went from there, but our initial aim was to have a club in Galway city to recognise the fact that Galway is a bi-lingual city and that we would function through Irish.”
Challenges most certainly exist, but the manner in which Gaeil na Gaillimhe have shown a willingness to work augurs well for the future.
“Numbers wise we do well,” Seoighe replies. “When you look at other clubs in the city and maybe those outside of the city - rural clubs - we face the same challenges in terms of getting lads and girls down to the ladies team. We do well.
“We have one mens team and one ladies team and we are going into our fifth season playing in both. This will be our fifth season playing in Division Eight for the lads and the Junior C Championship.
“Our ladies team are in Division Six and they play in the Junior C Championship as well. It is a challenge to get numbers, but we are growing all the time really.”
Being a new club is helpful attracting players according to Seoighe, who is adamant about the service Gaeil na Gaillimhe provides.
“We find there is a lot of people playing with us who have different motivations for playing,” Seoighe admits.
“People who maybe played a bit of ball when they were younger and like a lot of us they stopped playing when they got to 18 or 19 because of other commitments. People who speak Irish and are looking to make friends through Irish and have a bit of a social life through Irish.
“We have a unique selling point that way, there is no other club really in the city offering that sort of Irish language environment. It is a challenge getting people down, but we get new people on both teams coming along all of the time. We are growing year on year.
“As more people hear about us and see what we are about and achieving then they may get a bit more interested in coming down joining. Numbers are good.
“We have long term goals to field more than the two we have at the moment. We would love to get hurling going eventually and some underage teams going. We did a Cul Camp in Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh the summer before last and we had 80 children attending a Cul Camp that was run through the medium of Irish.
“The demand would be there I would think for underage teams who are playing as Gaeilge. We have a lot of long term aims like that, but it is a slow process. Little by little.”
It is why Gaeilge carries such relevance for those involved in the club in Galway city. The interest in the language carries meaning.
“Our community or our parish as such is the language,” Seoighe remarks. “That is the thing that binds us together. We are from different parts of the city and people living in the city who are from different parts of the country.
“The community we are trying to build is the community around the language. You have thousands of Irish speakers in Galway city with different backgrounds and different abilities, but not a huge amount of places for them to come together to meet up, to go for a few pints, to train or to go to a match.
“The community building side of it is quite important around the language which is a really effective way of not only promoting Gaelic Games, but promoting the language. The two go hand in hand quite well.”
Attending Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh and Coláiste na Coiribe ensured Seoighe, who played at underage level with Salthill-Knocknacarra, saw the potential of the Irish language. “My grandfather was a native speaker, he moved to the city about 60 years ago, he raised my father and his family through English, but I got my Irish through school,” Joyce recalls.
“I went on to study Irish in college and it is something that grew as the years went by. It was something I was passionate about and wanted to get involved in.
“Others and I were looking at Na Gaeil Óga in Dublin thinking wouldn't it be great to have something like that here. Sometimes with things like this you can't wait for someone to do it, you have to bite the bullet, to do it yourself.”
On the field of play in 2020 Seoighe believes Gaeil na Gaillimhe can make progress. “We are improving every year,” Joyce says. “In the last two years we've done okay in the League and made it out of our group in the Junior C Championship.
“We were narrowly beaten by Killannin in the West Board Semi-Final last year. Our aim this year would be to challenge for the League and definitely to make another Championship Semi-Final, to hopefully go one step further. It is a work in progress.”
That, though, is only part of the tale. It is about more than sport. “Exactly, I don't want to say it is secondary because it is important in terms of attracting players,” Joyce responds.
“People will want to play for a team doing well or in with a chance. It isn't the most important thing. Values would be quite important to us. We are unique in a way, we have aims and targets on the pitch, but a main one would be the promotion of the language and bringing people together.
“We want to give people a chance to speak the language and develop friendships through Irish. We have a dual bond approach, I suppose, with the language, but we want to be doing well on the pitch at the same time.”
For more information about Gaeil na Gaillimhe email firstname.lastname@example.org