Gaelic Football tournament in Rome

 The second stage of the Italy/Switzerland Gaelic Football league takes place on 18 May at the Rugby Roma pitch, the training grounds of the Rome Gaelic Football Club which was established last year to play Ireland’s national sport.

In addition to the home side, the participating teams are Padova and Rovigo from Italy; and Zurich, St Gallen and Geneva from Switzerland. In fact Rome is fielding two sides, with the Rome Aussie rules squad putting forward its own team, Roma Blues.

The founder of the Rome Gaelic Football Club, Irishman Chris Taggart, told Wanted in Rome that Zurich is currently the strongest team based on form and is “full of Irish lads”, as is St Gallen, another strong team.

There are six teams competing in the men’s competition: Padova, Rovigo, Zurich, St Gallen, Rome GFC and Roma Blues. They will be divided into two groups and every team plays at least three games. There are three ladies teams, with Rome facing Zurich and Padova-Rovigo (combined). Matches will last 25 minutes, with the first two of each group going forward to the semi-finals and then the final.

Rome will be determined to make up for the defeat suffered at the hands of Padova in April during Italy’s first Gaelic Football tournament in Zurich, won by the host team. It is a case of “one-all” as Rome beat Padova before Christmas and a “good rivalry” now exists between both teams, according to Taggart.

The Rome men’s and ladies’ sides are a very international affair, and comprise mostly non-Irish members. There are also Italian, English, Belgian, Scottish and American players. Taggart believes the perceived “hybrid” nature of the sport attracts players of basketball and American football from non-Irish countries.

Gaelic football is played through a combination of carrying, bouncing, kicking, hand-passing, and soloing (dropping the ball and then toe-kicking the ball upward into the hands). Two types of scores are possible: points and goals. A point is awarded for kicking or hand-passing the ball over the crossbar, while a goal is awarded for kicking the ball under the crossbar into the net.

Italy and mainland Europe have seen the establishment of a number of Gaelic football teams over the last year or so, something Taggart puts down partly to Ireland’s poor economic situation and the resulting emigration of Irish football players. The Rome team was founded last September and is sponsored by the city’s Scholars Lounge Irish pub on Via del Plebiscito.

The GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) scene in Italy has begun to expand quite quickly over a short space of time and is beginning to attract the attention of a curious Italian media. Taggart said “There's chat about an Italian championship on 1 June in Modena, so that could be interesting.”

Those interested in learning more about Ireland's national sport can head down to the Roma Rugby grounds on Via delle Tre Fontane on the morning of 18 May from 09.00-13.00.