One of the first things Julian Fogarty did when he moved to Red Deer was look up the Gaelic Athletic Association’s local chapter.
The recent Irish immigrant came to Red Deer in February 2012. When he arrived, he sought out this athletic group not only for the sport but also for the cultural heritage it embodies.
“Wherever the Irish go, we look for a GAA,” said Fogarty. “As soon as you come to town, no matter where you are Sydney, Australia, or Red Deer you’ll say ‘Where is the local GAA team?’ You’ll always find somebody to help you. You have a support network.”
And with spring approaching, the Red Deer GAA, also known as the Éire Óg GAA Club, is gearing up for a season of Gaelic football.
“It’s more than a sporting association,” said Fogarty.
“It’s very much a cultural association as well.”
Fogarty is an architect who works for Group2 Architecture Engineering Ltd. in Red Deer.
Gaelic football shares similarities to Aussie Rules Football, but progressed separately. The ball is round and slightly smaller than a soccer ball.
The object is to score on the opponent, one point for sending the ball over the crossbar and three for sending it below and into the net.
The ball is advanced through a combination of kicks or hand passes, a stiking motion with the hand or fist.
Players can take four steps while possessing the ball before they must drop the ball to their foot and kick it back into their hands.
In the early stages of the season, the players will practise once a week. But as they get on with games and play, they will practise and train twice a week for two hours a night.
Fogarty said the organization, which touts itself as the largest amateur athletic association in the world, is mostly made up of ex-pats.
The Red Deer team is made up of half ex-pats and half locals who enjoy the experience.
“We don’t discriminate. We take all comers, all shapes, sizes colours and creeds,” said Fogarty.
“We’re pushing for new players at the moment.”
The ethos of amateurism is a part of the GAA, which focuses on play and not professionalism.
“It’s for people who want to get in touch with their Celtic heritage,” said Fogarty.
The group mainly plays in the Alberta Cup, which includes teams in Fort McMurray, Calgary and Edmonton, and the Western Canadian championships, which take place after the Alberta Cup.
“It is a physical sport, it is highly enjoyable, it can be very technical and we’re able to compete with the other teams,” said Fogarty.
The local Gaelic Athletic Association is looking for both sponsors and players. People interested in the sport and cultural organization can contact the through Facebook by searching for the Éire Óg GAA Club or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.