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Irish Sports Struggle to Survive in Vancouver

Organizers hope youth will keep the games going

A football player guarding the ball from her opponent. Photo by Agazy Mengesha
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Reported by Agazy Mengesha

Ensuring the future of traditional Irish sports in Vancouver means convincing locals to join the match, according to organizers.

High turnover rate of Irish players

Lorraine Muckian, development officer for the Irish Sporting and Social Club Vancouver, said that while Irish players living in Vancouver are the core of the ISSC, there is a high turnover rate as many come to city on temporary work visas. Reaching out to established Vancouverites—especially young people who can grow into the sport – is the sport’s long term sustainability strategy.

“Our ultimate goal would be to hopefully have an underage structure,” Muckian said. “Probably the easiest way to target that is to get into the schools, get youths enthused and get them out onto the pitches.”

Gaelic football, hurling and camogie are played in Ireland at local and county levels. Children often begin playing in primary school, creating a talent pool which funnels into the adult leagues.

Locals will enjoy the games’ novelty

In Vancouver, the ISSC women’s football and camogie teams often play matches in Memorial South Park. Maria Eviston, the club’s first female chair in decades, said locals would enjoy the novelty.

“They’re one of a kind sports, to be honest,” she said. “They’re different than every other sport that’s played here.”

Muckian said that despite the daunting difference of these games, there is a way in for non-Irish individuals. In her experience, hurling has a steeper learning curve for Canadians than gaelic football. But, anyone with a background in lacrosse or hockey would find similarities.

“It’s quite an explosive sport as well, speed is very much a part of it, it’s fast-moving, its high scoring,” she said.

Megan Monaghan, a gaelic football player, has used the club to form friendships since moving to Vancouver and said learning a niche sport is a surmountable challenge for sporty folks.

“It’s very hard to get used to the rules, because they’re just so different than other more common sports here,” Monaghan said. “But if you have typically played soccer or volleyball, basketball, rugby, those are kind of transferable skills.”

 

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