The Fort McMurray Shamrocks Gaelic Athletic Association hosted the first leg of the Alberta Cup in Gaelic football Saturday and the home teams were successful in every game.
The men's Shamrocks, who never won a game at home in last year's tournament, were 3-0 this time around. Saturday morning at the Westwood rugby pitch, the Shamrocks defeated the Edmonton Wolfe Tones 4-9 (score of 21) to 1-8 (score of 11) and beat Red Deer/Lethbridge 2-10 (score of 15) to 0-3 (score of three). In the afternoon, the Fort McMurray men's team wrapped up the tournament with a hard fought win against the Calgary Chieftains, with a final score of 0-13 (score of 13) to 1-7 (score of 10).
Shamrocks wingback Brian Walsh was man of the match for the team's last win of the tournament against Calgary. He said the difference between last year's team and this year's team comes down to fitness and the training the team did with Brian Hanley.
“We're not really better footballers than the other teams, we're on par but we're fitter,” said Walsh. “That was the difference.”
Walsh said he hopes the three wins to start the season will set a good precedent for the rest of the summer.
“Confidence will be high now and hopefully everyone will keep training and we'll be all set for a good year,” said Walsh.
The ladies' shamrocks team actually split up into two teams for the tournament on Saturday and played nine-aside games. Both Fort McMurray teams were able to beat Calgary and Edmonton and it looks like the Shamrocks are well on their way to defending their Alberta Cup win and challenging for the Western Canada Championship.
“Both teams won all their games, so that's good,” said Shamrocks co-captain Catharine Joyce. “We have a lot of returning girls, so the skill levels have definitely jumped and so has knowledge of the game. It's really helped a lot of the new girls to catch on quicker, being able to watch the girls from last year.”
Joyce said she's impressed with the play of the new players on the team who did not have experience playing the sport prior to Saturday's tourney, but said having an athletic team can make up for inexperience.
“A lot of our team is newcomers, we have nine new girls, which is why we split the team into two,” said Joyce. “I did the same thing (as last year), I asked girls I played soccer with, basketball with, volleyball with, just natural athletes, ones that would be dynamic and could pick up the game. They just watched the girls from last year and caught on quick.”
The next tournament for the Shamrocks, second leg of the Alberta Cup, is set for June 15 in Red Deer.