I consider myself to be a pretty enthusiastic sports fan. Watching the Patriots every Sunday (and watching them win the Super Bowl this February, cough cough) is a religious event in my family. But that enthusiasm did not prepare me for the Leinster rugby game I attended.
Although a cousin of mine plays rugby in the States, I had never seen the game played before. To me, the sport seemed like a combination of American football and soccer, minus the protective gear. I was completely amazed at how tough the players were on the field. One player even dove over his opponents, landed (audibly) hard on his back, and then stood up to get back in the game. Another thing that really struck me was how the game continued on even when a medic was tending to a beaten up player at the other end of the field. When we visited Croke Park, we were told how intense the game could get, but this was way more extreme than I had imagined. I loved it!
In class, we talked about how the Gaelic Athletic Association played a big part in the 1916 rising—the strength of the GAA added to Ireland’s patriotism. In the back of my mind, I didn’t think that a sports association could really ignite a sense of cultural nationalism to the point of liberating a country. However, looking at the crowd that was at the game proved me wrong. Every spectator at the match was completely invested. If the Irish are still completely intrigued by the sport today, I can only imagine how devoted the fans were during the beginning years. It was really cool to see how something that brought the country together so many years ago is still doing that today.
– Hanna Ciechanowski