Taking the Fields of Glory with the Midwest Athletic Association (GAA)

Taking the Field of Glory: GAA Monthly
Midwest Gaelic Athletic Association
by Vincent Beach

Sláinte chugainn ar fad!  Health to us all.  Cleveland GAA is settling into a local football schedule, with inner club matches every second Saturday at the West Side Irish American Club (Olmsted Township).  The next GAA Saturdays will be September 12th and 26th.  Between the match days, the club holds regular co-ed training sessions each Wednesday evening at the WSIA at 6:30 PM. 

The approach is well suited for new players as skill development is coached.  On the hurling side, a puck-around happens each Wednesday following the football training around 7:45 at the WSIA.  Official training is at Brecksville stadium on Sundays at 2PM.  If you are interested in trying either code (football or hurling) or are a veteran player wanting to dust the boots off again, reach out to info@clevelandgaa.com.

Referee  Certification
There are a few updates in the Midwest Division of the USGAA.  A part of the division’s by-laws, each club is required to field a referee.  That referee must be certified, and if a significant number of rules have changed or a few years have elapsed, that referee must be re-certified. 

As you may know, five new rules have come into men’s Gaelic football.  Cleveland was able to certify two new referees so far this year – Shawn Kerns and Vincent Beach. 

The training took place at Akron’s Hibernian Club on Brown Street and was administered by Akron Celtic Guard’s Keith Knott.  Shawn has many years of experience including time in Asia with Seoul GAA, and for the past few years as both a player and youth coach.  Congratulations to Shawn! 

Rule Changes
We have touched on the rules changes as they were presented in the intercounty League and as they were voted on at the last GAA Congress, but to recap as we are finally seeing them played out in Ireland’s club matches:  1)  The Kick-Out Rule:  all kicks are taken at the center of the 20-meter line and cannot be played backwards.  The ball must travel 13 meters and the receiving player cannot play it back to the keeper.  The “defensive mark”, or mark from a kick-out that travels past the 45-meter line and is caught cleanly by either team is still in effect.

2)  The Kick-Out Mark has been modified to align with the Advanced Mark.  If the kick-out is caught cleanly beyond the 45-meter line, the referee awards the mark by blowing the whistle.  The player in possession may choose to play on, being allowed 4 steps before being tackled, or may choose to take the mark by raising his hand.  The player then has 15 seconds for the free kick (set play). 

3) The Advanced Mark occurs when the attacking team plays a ball across the opposing team’s 45 meter line, the ball is caught cleanly, and the ball has traveled at least 20 meters from live play (not from a free or sideline ball).  Again, the referee will award the mark by blowing the whistle and the player in possession may elect to play-on or take the mark.
 
There are a few exceptions due to the proximity to the goal.  A mark taken inside the 13-meter line will be brought back out to the 13-meter line.  And, if the player decides to play-on from a mark within the large rectangle (20-meter box) the defense may immediately challenge him. This keeps the offensive player from being allowed the 4 steps unmolested that could find them in the goal mouth. 

The Sin Bin
4) The Sin Bin is the newest punishment for cynical behavior – we know cynical behavior as that deserving the Black Card.  In the past the black card was a sending-off with the reduction of field players.  That is, the offending player was no longer allowed to play, but a substitute could take his place on the field. 

Now, the offending player is sent to a designated location at the center of the field on the sideline for a running time of 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes and at a stoppage in play, the player is allowed back onto the field.  This is similar to hockey’s penalty box.

Only for extra time will the running 10 minutes carry over into the next period.  With the sin bin rule, the number of substitutions has also increased from 5 to 6.

5) The sideline official now has the power (and this is the only rule change for hurling this year) to bring to the attention of the official rough play, dangerous play, striking, hitting, or kicking offenses. 

The GAA has also the following guidelines during COVID-19:  no handshakes before or after games; no spitting or snot-rockets (nose clearing); team huddles should only take place where social distancing can occur; no sharing of water bottles, use sanitizer before and after play, and keep interactions with officials to a minimum.

LIVE Gaelic Sports
As teams in the Midwest and across the USGAA wait for a return to competitive play, clubs in Ireland have been competing fully for many weeks.  You can catch some of the matches on county YouTube sites or Facebook steams, TG4 (Ireland’s Irish Language Station) – free for certain programs, or via GAAGO. 

GAAGO has the largest cache of live and archived matches from club to county.  Subscriptions are available and can be viewed through many platforms including Roku.  It is exciting to see live sports again, especially Our Games.                 

Go raibh míle maith agaibh
(thanks y’all) to our readers and supporters.  We need your help and involvement but would most like to share the fun of Irish sport and Cleveland community with you.  Consider getting involved at any level. 

Fáilte (welcome) to all.  The Gaelic Athletic Association is Ireland’s largest sporting organization and a bit of home for the Irish abroad here in the US of A.  Beyond sports, the Association also promotes Irish music, song and dance, and the Irish language as an integral part of its objectives. Cleveland GAA is open to all who want to play competitive sports, meet new people, and join an athletic, fitness-minded club for all ages. 

Follow @ClevelandGaelic on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the 2020 activities for Men, Women, and Youth.  Or, visit ClevelandGAA.com.

*Vincent Thomas Francis Xavier Beach is a proud Greater Clevelander and emigrant of Michigan.  He joined the St. Pat’s Gaelic Football Club in 1999 and, with much help, is the current caretaker of the Cleveland GAA.  His Irish is a cross of dialects from the University of Cincinnati and An Cheathrú Rua.  With his wife, Michelle, he enjoys watching time absolutely fly by as their children, Ambrose (11), Bernadette (9), and Cedric (6), grow.  His other hustles are teaching Irish at PJs, coaching CYO basketball at St. Mary of Berea, coaching soccer in Olmsted TWP, and slangin’ some engineering skills on local concrete and pipe projects.

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