High expectations for Fort McMurray Shamrocks hosting the first leg of the Alberta Cup, Saturday
By Trevor Howlett
For the first time, a sanctioned Gaelic Football tournament will be held in Fort McMurray this Saturday.
The first leg of the Western Canada Gaelic Athletic Association’s Alberta Cup is set for Saturday at Westwood field. The Fort McMurray Shamrocks — both the men’s and women’s teams — are the hosts.
“We’ve got so many people who know the game here in town,” said Mike Mellon, manager of the Shamrocks, who has lived in Fort McMurray for almost 33 years. “That was always the problem in previous years. We had a few people who knew the game, but not enough to keep it going strong. But it’s great now. We’ve got some good, calibre players.”
Gaelic football is a sport mostly played in Ireland and is similar to the sport of Australian Rules Football. It’s played with a ball similar to a volleyball and scoring is done either by scoring under the goal bar for three points or through the upright for three points. It’s a fast-paced sport that combines traits of soccer, rugby and basketball. Mellon hopes to see some casual observers come out on Saturday to a rare opportunity to watch the sport locally.
“I think there will be some people interested once they see it,” said Mellon. “When it’s well played, it’s quite an exciting game and people catch on to it quick.”
For the men’s side, being able to play a home game is a dream come true after weeks of preparation.
“It’s great, it’s something you wouldn’t think you’d see happening,” Alan Carr, the captain of the men’s team. “It’s good to see there’s such an interest in it. I never thought there would be football here or even people interested. I think we have a good chance this weekend.”
The home team, the Shamrocks, came into existence last year and went to the final of the Alberta Cup. As a result, they were accepted into the Western Canada GAA and will now host the first half of the tournament.
On the men’s side, the other competing teams will be the Edmonton Wolfe Tones, the Calgary Chieftains and a combined team from Red Deer and Lethbridge. The only other women’s team to compete at this point will be from Edmonton, although Calgary may join the second half of the tourney.
This is the first year for the women’s team and all of the girls on the Fort McMurray team are from Canada. Some of the girls played on Calgary’s team last year, but now they have their own squad, and despite not having any Irish players, they’ve never felt unwelcome.
“I suppose one of the things that helps is that there aren’t any Irish girls on the team currently so we weren’t not the outside, but we’re always looking for Irish girls on the team to play with us,” said Catharine Joyce, who plays for the women’s team.
“The boys have been really helpful and they’ve been coaching us and really encouraging so it’s great to see. Even the teams from Calgary and Edmonton have been encouraging us and trying to get a girls team up here.”
The team will also have a barbecue and beer garden for the all-day event. The first games are set to start at 10:30 a.m. June 9, 2012
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