by Vice President, Ottawa Gaels GFC
In the last year, you may have noticed an influx of maroon around Almonte. This is due to the 2014 introduction of Gaelic football through the Ottawa Gaels to local youth. With similar initiatives taking place down the road in Kanata, Riverside South, Ottawa West and Gatineau the Almonte Youth Gaelic Football program was spear-headed by Kerri Beeching, a member of the Gaels and a teacher at Naismith Memorial Public School, last spring. Ms. Beeching has been amazed by the success of the program due entirely to the enthusiasm of the youth aged 6-12 and authentic Irish imported coaches.
With the support of the Ulster County board in Northern Ireland and the Canadian County board based in Toronto, the Ottawa Gaels were able to have a coach travel from Ireland to Ottawa last year. Thomas Murphy introduced the sport in several schools and supported the development of local Gaelic football ‘pockets’ in Almonte, Kanata and Gatineau. After his return to Ireland, the program grew to include Riverside South and Ottawa West. This year the Gaels have imported two coaches who have seen thousands of students over the last 6 weeks. Angela Stevenson and Emmett Stewart have made the rounds in Almonte, visiting ADHS, Naismith and Pakenham PS. The Ottawa Gaels also offer a local community program, held at the Naismith Public School fields, with over 60 children participating on Tuesdays (Grades 1-3) and Thursdays (Grades 4-7). Most of the players come from Naismith, but the Gaels welcome all youth, of any age, interested in trying out a new and exciting sport.
Last year 11 Almonte youth travelled to the Continental Youth Championship in New York City, representing the Ottawa Gaels in the biggest Gaelic football youth tournament outside of Ireland. All had an amazing experience. Some of this year’s players will be traveling to San Francisco at the end of July for the same tournament. Next year’s tournament will be held in Boston, and with the proximity and the popularity of Gaelic football in Almonte, Beeching is anticipating a high turnout at the CYC in 2016.
In July, the Almonte division of the Ottawa Gaels will be hosting a tournament during Celtfest in Gemmill Park. Youth, women’s and men’s games will be held over the course of the festival, with teams travelling from Toronto, Montreal and the US. You are invited to check out the festivities on July 11 and 12. There is also a summer camp available July 6-10 in Kanata.
The goal is to see a Senior (adult) team and hopefully a new Gaelic football club, in Almonte, develop from this initiative. Planning is taking place now, and there are opportunities for players of all ages to try out this amazing sport. If you are interested in becoming a part of this growing movement in Almonte (as a coach, player or volunteer) please contact the Ottawa Gaels at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s a great chance to connect to your Celtic roots, get active and have fun!