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Indy GAA Visit Damp Pacific Northwest
...but come up short.
The dry denizens of the Indianapolis Gaelic Athletic Association joined two thousand fellow North American Gaelic athletes in the rainy Pacific Northwest at the outset of the Labor Day weekend, looking to defend two national titles and maybe pick up a couple more. An admirable goal, on the surface.

Looking to build upon their semifinal loss at 2015’s USGAA Finals held at Chicago’s Gaelic Park, the men of Junior C hurling got the festivities off to a roaring start Friday morning and easily dispatched an upstart and energetic Tacoma Ranger crew in front of a chilly crowd at Seattle’s Magnuson Park. Up 6-6 to 0-3 at the half, the boys in black didn’t let up in the second and finished off the victory by the score of 12-11 to 0-3. They had many highlights and memorable plays, but didn’t have much time to rest on their sweaty laurels and had to hit the field for an afternoon match against Columbia Red Branch.

In the rainy meantime, as a result of confusing logistical issues, the valiant, smirking, and dismayed Junior A hurling team were called on to play a Junior C Gaelic football match against a determined Setanta San Diego team. Following a bit of bargaining and hand-wringing, our boys ran onto the soggy artificial turf against the impressive San Diego crew. The footballers from San Diego were in no laughing mood and took care of our Indy hurlers. With a perfectly executed game plan, Indy scored only a single point and were destroyed by the eventual Jnr C football champions. Indy potentially could have made it a slightly closer match, but an unnamed player missed two close-range frees near the end of the match .Nobody will ever remember that unless they’ve read this summary, though (which means potentially every GAA athlete in North America and around the world). Unexpected highlight: Possibly the first single-half “friendly” in USGAA history in which two black cards were given.

In Friday’s afternoon match, the boys in black of Indy C faced off against another of the tournament hosts: Columbia Red Branch. The match was a low-scoring damp affair (you may sense a theme with the weather by this point), with Indy C leading at the half 1-3 to 1-2. However, Indy were determined to be moist, terrible guests and added to their lead by a point in the second half and won an energetically tight game, 2-8 to 2-6. The win moved Indy into the semifinal for the second straight year. The men of Indy C dreamt of big, juicy glory and sliotars during their recuperative sleep in the night.

Early Saturday morning brought about the Junior C hurling semifinal, which put our boys on the pitch against tournament hosts Seattle Gaels. Not much scoring was on display in another contest played in a tempest in which Indy led 1-4 to 0-1 at the half. Seattle stepped-up their game following the throw-in and won the exciting match by a single point. The last five minutes were especially nerve-wracking with a couple late Indy goals that put them in the lead, but Seattle got a late goal to go ahead and, then held off Indy for a furious few hurling moments to win. In a poignant display, a loud, damp cheering section supporting Indianapolis matched that of the hometown Gaels supporters. Seattle eventually won the Junior C title by defeating Philadelphia in the Sunday final.

An apparent show of intimidation by the defending Junior A champs prevented them from having to play a semifinal against Boston Offaly, as Offaly decided to stay home in Boston and watch the All-Ireland on their GAAGO accounts. That placed Indy Green in the final on Sunday to play against Vancouver, who defeated the DC Gaels in the other semifinal match that day.

In the final match of Saturday, our Camogie ladies stepped out and met Twin Cities Robert Emmets. Looking to use their speed in the middle, deep puc outs, and scrappy defense, Indy Camogie was poised to make a fun run in the tourney. However, Twin Cities wasn’t interested in presenting us with any fun times and they came out strong to lead 2-5 to 1-0 at the intermission. The situation didn’t improve following halftime and TCRE won going away, 3-7 to 1-0. The women from Twin Cities eventually lost to Baltimore in the title match on Sunday.

Having recovered from their unexpected Gaelic football match, Indy Junior A was finally given a chance to play an actual hurling match, meeting up with an almost-local ISSC Vancouver squad who drubbed Washington DC Gaels to get to the championship. Vancouver ran off to an early five point lead with a goal and a couple points, but Indy Green hung in there and stormed back to take a 1 point half time lead, 2-6 to 2-5. The second half was very tight the entire way, and despite the deafening cheers coming from the Indy supporters, Vancouver squeaked out a two point victory in a match that could have turned on a moment’s notice with a different bounce of a ball. For the third straight Nationals, a team from Vancouver eliminated a team from Indy, following their club’s victories over our Camogie team the two prior Finals. Vancouver’s asking for it, apparently.

We sent three-ish teams and returned with a record of 3-4 (counting forfeits), but once again Indy GAA impressed clubs from across North America with our passion in the stands and the effort we put forth on the field for each match, pretty much setting a standard for other clubs to appreciate and potentially emulate. We won’t be the defending champs for any titles in 2017 in San Francisco, but we’ve seen our opponents and we’ve seen what it will take to bring home more trophies. We have 350 days until the 2017 USGAA Finals kickoff on Sept 1st, 2017.

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Article photo credit: Abra Armstrong

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