The fourth annual Washington DC Gaels Santa Pub Crawl did not disappoint on Saturday, December 8. With a $10 donation to the DC Gaels Gaelic Athletic Association, crawlers joined local hurling, Gaelic football and camogie teams to spread the Irish holiday cheer through the streets of Dupont Circle.
The festivities began at James Hobans Irish Restaurant and Bar and gained momentum as the Santas, elves and bearers of ugly sweaters filled the Front Page. From there, we headed to the Sign of the Wale, amidst several other rival crawls taking over bars in the area. Mighty Pint and Irish Whiskey were also on the route.
Each of the bars provided drink specials for the afternoon and into the evening, negociated by pub crawl organizer, Eoghain Clavin, Gaels member. The crowd of about 60 of us began to thin around 8:00pm, after a day of Jameson shots, Guinness pints and, for me, Red Bull! But, if a rogue Santa with an Irish accent was seen in Adams Morgan or Arlington late into the night on Saturday, the Gaels crawl is most likely where his day began.
The DC Gaels are a men’s and women’s amateur, social sports club who focus on promoting Irish sports in the DMV. These Gaelic games, in Ireland and here, are run by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and are some of the few in the world that are still strictly amateur. Players, managers and coaches are prohibited from receiving payments, thus hometown pride and bragging rights become very important.
I’m still trying to understand what hurling and camogie are, but my best guess is field hockey meets lacrosse. Gaelic football seems to me to be a cross between soccer and rugby, with dribbling, similar to basketball, and passing, much like volleyball. The field is larger than a rugby field. Fifteen players on each team fight for 60 fast-paced minutes to put the ball through the opponents’ goal for three points or by kicking it over the crossbar for one point, like an American football field goal. It’s best if it’s just YouTubed; I’m doing the sport little justice here.
The Gaels are made up of Irish natives, but also Americans and many other nationalities who’ve picked up the sport since the DC Gaels were founded in 1988. The Gaels adopted me last summer, when I was new to DC and didn’t have a friend in the city. I’ve found their social circle to be most like my friends back home in Colorado and Nebraska, where I grew up on a farm on the state line, and have latched on to the group.
I’m not sure I’ll be any help next summer when the Gaels’ season begins and the teams play locally, nationally and internationally as part of the Mid-Atlantic Division of the GAA, in hopes of qualifying for the North American Championship tournament. I can guarantee that I’ll be on the side lines cheering and at James Hobans after the games to celebrate a win or drink away a loss, though. And, of course, I’ll be at the 2013 DC Gaels Santa Pub Crawl, helping spread the Irish holiday cheer and support the club, one Guinness at a time. Cheers!
To learn more, visit: http://www.wdcgaels.com/