Gaelic Football in Seattle

  • By John Keane
  • Posted 1/01/1998
  • Essay 2263

Gaelic football is the summertime focus of the Irish Heritage Society. This is a distinctively Irish sport combining elements of soccer, Australian football, and rugby. Usually played "15-a-side" with a round ball, the game features high catching, hand and foot passing of the ball, and fast action throughout.

In the 1960s, Seattle's Gaelic football team tried to become active in the North American Gaelic Athletic Association, which had been organized in Cleveland in 1951 to promote Gaelic football competitions in North America. Since most games were held in the Eastern states, however, the cost of travel was prohibitive.

The Seattle team members were almost all Irish-born and many of them were Catholic priests, which also hindered arranging out-of-town games. A few games were held with teams from Vancouver, B.C., and San Francisco, but by 1964, the Gaelic Club football team ceased to exist.

In 1979, yet another club, the Seattle Gaels Gaelic Football Club was organized exclusively to promote Gaelic football. Unlike the Gaelic Club of the 1950s, this new club placed emphasis on building a team around American-born players who were mostly but not always of Irish extraction. In 1980, the club affiliated with the North American Gaelic Athletic Association and traveled to San Francisco to compete in the North American Gaelic Football Championships.

Today, in contrast to the lean times which the old Gaelic Club experienced, the Seattle Gaels teams, both male and female, exchange annual visits with teams from cities such as Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Denver, and San Francisco. The Seattle teams annually travel to the North American Gaelic Football playoffs.


John Keane was President of the Irish Heritage Society.

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