Gaelic Storm - umbrella 3 web

They’re back! By popular demand, Gaelic Storm blows back into Colorado Friday November 11 and Saturday November 12 for two raucous, crowd-pleasing performances at the Stargazers Theatre in Colorado Springs, and the following night in Denver at the Gothic Theatre. Don’t miss this opportunity to sing along with one of the hottest Celtic bands firing up the stage in performance venues across the country!

Gaelic Storm’s popularity skyrocketed after they appeared in James Cameron’s epic film, Titanic as the Irish party band in the ship’s steerage. Since then, the band has amassed a large, loyal and ever-growing following. The band has flourished in an extreme DIY fashion by not only launching their own label, Lost Again Records, and releasing their albums themselves (several albums on Top-5 of the Billboard World charts) but also by designing all their own album art, posters and advertisements.
While Gaelic Storm plays Celtic music that hearkens back to the traditional music of Ireland, they are hardly traditionalists, adding modern sounds and drawing influences from American rock and pop as well as music styles from around the world. The band has made countless television and radio appearances, and there are official videos and heaps of fan-posted live YouTube clips (often with the crowd singing as loud as the band).

Be There when the “ever feisty” (Phila. Daily News) GAELIC STORM, will serve up a “whirlwind ruckus” (Village Voice) at the Stargazers Theatre on Friday November 11th and again Saturday November 12 at the Gothic Theatre.
Both shows are “An Evening With” with Gaelic Storm doing two sets. Showtime is 7:30PM with Doors at 6:30PM
ALL AGES SHOWS (Gothic Theatre Under 16 must be accompanied by parent or guardian)

Gaelic Storm is: Patrick Murphy (Cork City, Ireland) Vocals, Accordion, Harmonica; Steve Twigger (Coventry, England), Vocals, Guitar, Bouzouki; Ryan Lacey on drums and world percussion; Jessie Burns on fiddle (Suffolk, England – lives in Colorado) and Pete Purvis ( Merrickville, Ontario) Uillean pipes, tin whistle, daeger pipes and highland pipes (a Grade 1 piper who toured with award winning pipe bands).
TICKETS: Friday Nov 11 Stargazers Theatre CO Spgs
www.stargazerstheatre.com or by phone 719-476-2200 (subject to service and handling fees).
Advance Tickets available without service fees at Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub, 21 South Tejon St., Colorado Springs CO
TICKETS: Saturday November 12 Gothic Theatre Denver/Englewood www.GothicTheatre.com or
Info/Tickets call Celtic Events 303-777-0505
“Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/celtic.rockies

October 11 CC Travel_Belfasst 1

by Ann Augunas

BELFAST – Ireland I’m standing in the middle of an ever-growing crowd of people here in Northern Ireland and a sense of great excitement is heightening all around me. All of a sudden I am emotionally involved in the whole of it as we are thrown back in time, to May 31, 1911. I can actually feel what it must have been like for the folks whose lives played out so enormously here at this famous shipyard of Harland & Wolff, birthplace of the Titanic and, at the time, the largest shipbuilding company in the world.

Powerful voices of combined gentlemen choirs are performing the soulful Naval hymn. Youngsters, boys and girls from surrounding schools, dressed as newspaper boys of that day, faces smudged with ink, are preparing to do their part in helping recreate this event. Then, at exactly 12:15 pm, a shot rings out. Voices reach high pitch and everyone cheers mightily, much as they did 100 years ago when the mighty RMS Titanic slipped into the waters of River Lagan at her launching. It was an experience I know I won’t forget.

Today a certain sense of expectation continues as Belfast positions itself for its role on the world stage come April 15, 2012 when it will commemorate the hundredth anniversary of what we have come to know as an unforgettable human tragedy, the sinking of the RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage to New York. Never ready to forget the lives lost, or how the lives of those who built Titanic were such an intimate part of the story, and how it all played out in history, Belfast is hard at work readying itself for the event.

Front and center is the ongoing construction of Titanic Belfast, a 97million British pound project that promises to be a “must-see” not only for the half million visitors expected next April, but also going forward as a permanent piece of Belfast history. This spectacular, 6-story, state-of-the-art structure, with an exterior design that represents the bows of three ships, will take visitors on a start-to-finish tour of the vessel’s construction, launch, maiden voyage and tragic end.

Also here in the Titanic Quarter, as the area is known, is the original SS Nomadic, one of 2 tenders that served the passengers of the Titanic. Nomadic was responsible for taking the ‘Lords, ladies, luggage and servants’ of first and second class passengers from Cherbourg, France, to the ship, while another vessel, the Traffic, ferried third-class passengers. The Nomadic was quite elegant, much smaller but similar in décor to its legendary counterpart, even to the small staircase, a copy of the one we have come to know thanks to films about the Titanic. It has been stripped down to be totally restored according to the designs and drawings of the day. It’s an unknown piece of history I found quite interesting.

Another integral piece of the story not-to-be-missed can be found at the world-class Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, located close by on 170 acres of Belfast’s countryside. Here all things Titanic (Titanica) can be viewed. The story of the White Star Line, the owners, the designers of the ships of the day, the drawings, photographs, and artifacts from the era, along with those found on the ocean floor. From road, rail and air modes of transport, on to the various buildings out-of-doors, visitors get a peek at life as it was lived back in Edwardian times. It’s a great exhibit that’s worth spending the several hours it takes to get to see most of it. You might also find information about the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.

Personally, I have to admit that visiting Belfast was never on my list of places to see in Ireland. Its sad history of dark days of intimidation and despair never resonated as a welcoming or safe place. The actual experience, though, was far from what I and other attending journalists had envisioned. To a person we agreed that Belfast was fascinating, its people warm and welcoming, and any visitor would feel totally at ease getting into the rhythms of the city. The eclectic mix of things to do and see, the grand architectural styles of its beautiful buildings such as City Hall, its churches, beautiful hotels, fine museums and cultural sites, its authentic Pubs and fine restaurants, are things any avid traveler will enjoy.

Interestingly, back in the 1900’s Belfast was one of the most prosperous industrial cities in the world, famous for its rope factories, cotton and flax, and being the world’s largest producer of linen. Great design skills and quality workmanship produced world-class steamships even though most of the necessary raw materials had to be imported. Over 30,000 people worked at Harland & Wolff at the time. Thanks to its energy, innovation, and well-organized working conditions, Belfast was at the pinnacle of success.

As for the future, once again it’s set to impact Ireland and the world. Samson & Goliath, two iconic, yellow cranes still standing in the shipyard at H & W, are now involved in the production of wind turbines. Projects going on within Belfast promise an increase of tourism to the area. The city itself is a place of wonderful contrasts, historic and beautifully old, yet cosmopolitan, trendy and new. And since food plays such a major part of travel, it’s important to know that all of Ireland possesses a world-class dining scene that’s on the ascendancy. Forget those former ideas of bland, Irish cooking because dining, along with entertainment and a lively nightlife, is alive and well in Belfast.

Suffice it to say, if you, too, are fascinated by the story of the Titanic, you might include Belfast in future travel plans, remembering that anytime is a good time to visit this new, up-and-coming, old city that’s making history all over again.

Visit www.tourismireland.com for information about travel to Ireland. Visit www.discovernorthernireland.com for information about Belfast.

Coming next; Part II, North from Belfast.

seamus egan wall

by Cindy Reich

If you ever wanted to be music mogul, now’s your chance! Solas are embarking on a new multi-media project and are inviting anyone and everyone to get involved. Through the “Kickstarter” website, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1490987662/shamrock-city , they are hoping to raise the money needed to fund this project.

The beauty of Kickstarter is that there is a finite period of time to raise the money and if the full amount isn’t committed, no one pays. You only pay if the money has been raised by the deadline. You can contribute any amount from one dollar on up, and there are special premiums you will receive, based on your donation. For as little as $10, you will get a pre-release digital download of the new album. And it goes up from there, all the way to a Solas house concert ($10,000). In between are signed copies of the album, tickets to upcoming gigs, meet and greet at gigs, t-shirts, a custom-made bodhran and more.

The project is called “Shamrock City” and is based on a story from Seamus Egan’s own family history. The title comes from the name once used to describe Butte, Montana. “I remember my father telling us about a relative that came over from Ireland to Philadelphia, but then went on to Butte, Montana”, says Seamus. “The story was that he was a bare knuckle fighter and that he fought his way across the country and ended up in Butte—and died in Butte, Montana. He had been murdered, because he was supposed to throw a fight and he didn’t. So the person who had bet on the other fighter—and lost, had my relative killed. So this was all in our family lore.”

“A few years ago, we had the chance to play at the Irish festival in Butte, Seamus continued, “and it got the ball rolling. I started doing a lot more research on my family history there and through that began to learn more about Butte itself. Butte has a remarkable history and it seemed the more I looked into it, the more intriguing it became.” (Note—at one time, due to the mining in Butte, in the 1800’s there were more Irish per capita than any other town in the USA including New York, Boston, etc.—cr)

“When the copper mining kicked off in Butte, one of the mines was run by an Irish fellow, Marcus Daly, and it was well known that if you could make it to Butte, you would be guaranteed a job in his mine if you were Irish”, Seamus said. “I saw a great quote in my research from a letter that an Irishman working in Butte had written to his brothers back in Ireland. He said, “Come directly to Butte—don’t even stop in America!”

This project will have a wealth of new material that is being written for the project and the biggest problem, according to Seamus is how to limit the material, as there is so much of a story to tell. They will also be doing filming in Butte, so it promises to be both a musical feast as well as a visual telling of the tale. “We aren’t doing the History Channel, Seamus says, laughing. We are trying to weave a story together that weaves a personal family story along with a larger story of a place and a time and what that meant in American history. It isn’t just about the Irish. People from all over the world ended up in Butte.”

Check out the “Shamrock City” project and the Kickstarter campaign on the Solas website: www.solasmusic.com

Jerry O'Reilly

When Dublin traditional singer and set dancer Jerry O’Reilly learned that he would meet some Colorado folks as he travels through the Mile High City he got excited,
“That’s brilliant! I’ll be looking forward to it. How about me teaching the Sliabh Luachra polka set or the Clare Lancers reel set. These are two sets that I particularly like… Pick one that you think your dancers would enjoy and that we can have some fun learning.”

So the party is set for October 27 at Eron Johnson’s Antique Warehouse 389 South Lipan, Denver. The Event is free; Doors will open at 6:30P for a little social hour and then at 7:30P we’ll see if we can create a few tidy sets across the room. Bring a song, tune, or your dancing shows. We do request a RSVP by October 25th so contact us now at numbers below.

Jerry is a founding member of the Brooks Academy Dancing School established in Dublin in 1982 and is still actively involved teaching a weekly dance class. He is in demand as a teacher/caller all over Ireland, the U.K., Europe, The United States and Canada.
Jerry has taught dancing in Paris to the Association Irlandaise annually since 1988, at the Willie Clancy Summer School since 1984, at Wadebridge in 1998, at Sidmouth in 1999 and at Whitby Folk Week every year since 2000.
He also gave instructions for sets at the North American Convention of Comhaltas Ceolttoir-Eireann in Washington D.C in 2000, and paid a return visit there in December 2001. He was also called upon to teach dancing at ‘Feile Cois Chuain’ in 2004, The North Atlantic Fiddle Convention in Aberdeen in 2006, and has recently returned from teaching at the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention and the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in St. Johns, Newfoundland.

A noteworthy Irish traditional singer, Jerry was exposed to the music at an early as by his family. “I’ve been listening to songs and singing all of my life. My first memories of singing were in my paternal grandparents’ house in Pembroke Cottages in Donnybrook.
I have memories of crawling around on the floor as a toddler during Hoolies there – listening to the singing and, I’m told, emptying all of the bottles. My grandmother Annie Bissett was a magnificent singer with a ‘big’ voice. I can still hear her in my mind singing Teddy O’Neill. My grandfather ‘Jacko’ O’Reilly was also an excellent singer who had joined the British Navy during the First World War and whose favorite song was Bold Robert Emmet.”

If Jerry shows up October 27th wearing blue he has a good reason.
Another one of his passions is Gaelic Football and Hurling, and particularly the Dublin Gaelic Football and Hurling teams. The sounds of the song “Boys in Blue” still ring in his ears from the celebration September 18th in Croke Park after Stephen Cluxton scored the winning point for Dublin as they beat Kerry to the All-Ireland to capture the Sam Maguire Cup. Jerry gushed after the victory, “I’ve the mother and father of a hangover, but what a day. And to snatch it at the last minute like that was magic!”
Well, we’ll have to tell him about our Denver Gaels!

No charge for this event but donations will be accepted for the instructor.
Eron Johnson Architectural Antiques Warehouse is at 389 South Lipan, Denver, CO
Thursday October 27, 6:30P Doors.
Directions call 303-722-2014 ‎ (Note: Not the other store on S. Broadway)
Please RSVP by Oct 25 to CelticEvents@rmi.net or 303-777-0502

Mick Molony_banjo

New York University’s Professor of Music and Irish Studies, Mick Moloney is the pre-eminent scholar of Irish-American music from the past two centuries. Born in Ireland, the musician and singer has recorded over forty albums and hosted several American Public Television series. In 1999, he was awarded the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest official honor a traditional artist can receive in the U.S.

Moloney’s recent brought together an all-star Irish band and brass band to record, “If it wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews.” The project is a nostalgic look at the early days of Tin Pan Alley, when Irish and Jewish immigrants worked together to produce the songs that became the foundation of Broadway musical theater. From 1880 to 1920, Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley flourished with the musical contributions of Jewish and Irish songwriters.
The Irish/Jewish collaborations of Tin Pan Alley were attended by all sorts of interesting identity ambiguities. There was the famous Norah Bayes who had a huge hit with the Ziegfeld Follies with the song “Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?”. Bayes was actually born Norah Goldberg but changed her name, one assumes, partly to appeal to the huge Irish-American urban audience of the day in variety theater and vaudeville. One of her five husbands was Jack Norworth who wrote “Shine on Harvest Moon” with Norah and also the huge hit “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Norworth himself also wrote and sang scores of Irish songs. The noted “Jewish” star of the New York stage, Eddie Foy, was actually Edwin Fitzgerald!
Though there were doubtless tensions and competitiveness and the usual business break ups and make ups, the Irish/Jewish Tin Pan Alley collaborations represent essentially a charming story of decades of good natured ethnic flux, competition and cooperation which left a lasting imprint on the history of American popular music.

“If it wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews” met acclaim from music critics including Earle Hitchner of the Irish Echo: “No one has succeeded more in taking this once vital part of Irish American culture out of musty archives and moldering dissertations and placing it afresh on CD and concert stage than Mick Moloney.”

The Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society & Beck Archives
Center for Judaic Studies and Penrose Library, University of Denver
invites all interested parties to join the RMJHS Annual Meeting Sunday October 30, 11:00a.m at BMH Synagogue Social Hall, 560 S. Monaco Pkwy, when Dr. Moloney illustrates his presentation of the musical origins of Tin Pan Alley with live musical performances.

Tickets for this entertaining and insightful examination of cultural cross-pollination in a bygone era in U.S. cultural history are $10 and must be reserved by October 20th
For Information please call Professor Jeanne Abrams at 303-871-3016.

Michael Collins 1

Eamonn De Valera. Mary McAleese. And now: Michael Collins.

The Irish Network Colorado (INCO) is bringing His Excellency, Ambassador Michael Collins to Colorado who is following in the footsteps of Ireland’s first President as well as the current one. As an emerging force in the Colorado business scene, INCO resumes its mission to provide beneficial programs and events to the Irish and Irish American community here in the Rocky Mountain region.

The Ambassador’s visit is tentatively taking place November 3rd – 4th, 2011. Although this visit will have its political component, INCO also is incorporating goals of reaching out to the local Irish and Irish-American community, enhancing educational links between Colorado based institutions & Ireland and increasing economic exchange between Ireland & Colorado.

Several events are in planning which include both private and public engagements with local business, higher education, and Irish Community leaders.
INCO encourages the entire Colorado Irish community to come show your support. Although not all events will be open to the public, there will be opportunities for everyone to get involved. Check IrishNetworkCO.com for updates and schedules as they become available. Email us at colleagues@irishnetworkco.com for more information and for volunteer opportunities.

October 11 CC Geals gals_tophyTwo

When the Denver Gaels first competed in the North American championships in 1996, the lone Men’s Football team was just happy to be representing the Mile High City. Just 15 years later, the Gaels were the largest club en force at the Championships. Forty-seven players representing five different teams competed in the Championships at Páirc Na nGael in San Francisco. Unlike the club founders the players from Denver weren’t just happy to compete, they had their sights set on bringing home some silverware.

The tournament started out very brightly for the Denver Gaels, with the Junior C Men’s Hurling team taking on long heated rivals Seattle. Denver came out of the gates firing, finding dual star Adam Kiefert up front, who quickly turned his man and fired a shot at goal. The Seattle keeper had a nice reaction save, but he couldn’t recover the rebound shot from Adrian Stalbaum giving Denver an early lead that it would never relinquish. Denver’s captains Matt Santambrogio and John O’Neill lead the Gaels backline in a stellar performance that held Seattle to just 3 points. The Gaels continued the scoring thanks to tenacious play of Farris McManus, Mike Prince, and Stephen Pinsonneault. Their pressure earned frees throughout the game, which Adrian coolly put over the bar to extend the lead. In the end the Gaels won comfortably 1-11 to 0-3, a great result for the squad of American hurlers.

The victory earned the Junior C squad a matchup against St. Louis in the quarterfinals just three hours later. St. Louis and Denver also had a hurling history as it was this same St. Louis squad that Denver beat in 2007 to progress it’s top squad to Junior B. The young C Hurlers came out with energy but ultimately could not fight toe to toe with the quality of the St. Louis. The Gaels battled hard, and found some bright performances from Kyle Dunne, Cormac McGann and Jay Bagwell who tallied the lone Gaels goal in the contest against the eventual champions of the C division, St. Louis.

The Junior B Hurlers began their quest for a championship against the same Twin Cities squad that they defeated in last years semifinals. Gaels manager Alan Murphy warned the squad “They’ve spent the entire year thinking about what we did to them in the semi’s last year, and you know they’re chomping at a bit for a chance at another shot at us!” The Gaels took the words to heart and applied the pressure early. Veteran hurlers Ciaran Dwyer and Vinny Commeford combined for some early scores and soon after the All-American half forward line got into the action with scores coming from Pat Ream and Bobby Canaly. The game broke open soon after when the Twin Cities keeper let in a couple soft scores. The Gaels rode the early lead to a comprehensive victory 6-5 to 1-6.

In the semi-finals the Gaels faced Indianapolis. From the throw in defensive pressure dictated the pace of the game. Both teams struggled to maintain possession and get score in the opening minutes with half-chances flying well wide. Again it was Vinny Commeford who settled the nerves of the Denver side, as the Waterford native began to take control of the midfield and nailed three long-range points from the run of play. His charge inspired Bobby Canaly and Pat Ream once again who each got scores from the half-forward line. Indy clawed its way back into the contest earning several frees in Denver’s half. Indy made Denver pay for every free given with a free taker who possessed deadeye aim from anywhere within 65 meters. With Indy gaining momentum, full-forward stalwart, Ciaran Dwyer stepped up in the moment and delivered a huge goal giving Denver a one point lead headed into the second half 1-5 to 0-7.

The second half, started out much like the first with both teams battling for an offensive rhythm. The Denver backs kept Indy at bay for much of the contest, lead by tenacious fight of captain Brian Togher and keeper Bingo Byrne. The sides traded a few scores from frees giving Denver a two point lead with about fifteen minutes left in the contest. Sensing the urgency, Indy began to mount more pressure on the Denver goal area. Using fierce ground hurling; Indy slipped a rebound past Denver keeper Bingo Byrne. Indy rode their momentum, and put away their second goal within 5 minutes. Down four, Denver was rattled but not defeated. Vinny Commeford got one score from play, and another from a free-in to draw the game to within two points with five minutes left to play. In a move of desperation, the Gaels put in manager Alan Murphy into goal, and pushed Bingo into the forward line. The move paid off, with Brian Togher taking a nice cross-field pass from Pat Ream and put the ball over the bar to draw the game within one. With three minutes left, Denver earned a free 45 meters out from the Indy goal. Vinny stepped up and as he had all weekend he put the ball over the bar to tie the match. The Denver sideline erupted urging the team forward for one last push. Unfortunately, Indy had other plans in mind as they placed another ball in front of the Denver net and slotted a late goal past the Gaels defense. With just extra time left in the contest Denver had already expended all the energy it had in the tank. Indy put away one more free-in to cap off the cracking match 3-11 to 1-13. Although bitterly disappointed, the Gaels Hurlers kept their heads high. In the huddle Ciaran Dwyer reflected, “That was a battle between two teams of men. You know sometimes you don’t get the breaks, but we can be proud of how we played out there.”

The Gaels men’s football squad was coming off a promising finish as shield winners of last year’s Junior C Football competition. Captains Brian McCarthy and Adam Kiefert had put extra emphasis on recruiting and development and brought a strong team with four new American players featuring in the starting lineup. The Gaels received a bye to the semifinals where they played last year’s Junior D division champions Baltimore Bohemians. The Gaels back line were challenged early in the contest by a very skilled Baltimore forward line who were moving the ball all around the Denver half for scores and frees. Denver’s nerves settled down once Adam Kiefert received the ball 25 meters out and drove at goal finding an open Ross Doonan for an early goal to level the score. A second goal came just five minutes later for the Gaels when first year player Adam Johnson initiated a great combination with Ross, who played it to Rònàn O’Màitiu for the goal. The Gaels only held onto the lead briefly as a fight for a loose ball in the box lead to a penalty for Baltimore who converted to take the lead. The half ended with Baltimore leading 1-8 to 2-1. Determined to stop leaking points, the Gaels adjusted its defense and brought on some additional firepower to make a push in the second half. But Baltimore kept putting on the pressure, and always seemed to find an open man thanks to the hard running of their halfbacks into the Denver half. Only a great reaction toe save from Bingo saved Denver from going down two goals. Late in the second half Denver seemed to benefit from the altitude and began to mount a comeback with scores from Seamus Blaney, Kieran Lynn, and Rònàn to bring the Gaels within three points. In the last five minutes the Gaels had three good chances at goal to tie the match, but could not convert before the whistle blew as Denver fell to Baltimore 2-6 to 1-12.

The weekend was not over for the men’s Footballers who found themselves in a shield contest against Charlotte. Short a few players battling back from Injury the Gaels looked to the panel to get the job done. It was another cracking contest for the footballers who received stellar performances from the midfield duo of Rory McGarry and Adam Johnson. Rory lead the way in scoring getting several points from the run of play as well as a couple frees to push the Gaels forward. The Gaels also received stellar performances from ageless veterans Martin Concannon in the full forward line, and Shay Dunne in the back line who was relentless in breaking up the Charlotte attack. To their credit Charlotte hung in the whole way and kept it close on a steady diet of points and frees. Late into the second half the two sides exchanged goals and points to take the contest to overtime. With five minutes added onto the contest the Gaels got a great score from Adam Johnson who split the uprights on a 40-meter kick from his right boot. The Gaels held onto the lead for four minutes before conceding a point on a free. Denver determined to go home with a win, kept the pressure up and Adam Kiefert drove at goal, hit the post but then followed through to see the ball into the net for the deciding score. The Denver Footballers again took the shield 3-8 to 2-8.

Although the Men’s squads didn’t take home the silverware they set out to earn, every one of their voices could be heard cheering at the Ladies Camogie Final. There a combined team representing Denver and Twin Cities made history by winning the Junior A Camogie Championship in an epic extra time victory (read their story on page…). At the final whistle all forty-seven players, family members, and friends, flooded the field to congratulate the ladies on their tremendous accomplishment. In her speech captain Kyle Shane proclaimed, “This cup belongs to our entire club; our men’s teams for training with us, our managers for coaching us, and our friends and families for supporting us! We are all a part of this club, and deserve to celebrate this cup!” And in true Denver Gaels fashion, celebrate we did!

The Denver Gaels are always looking for new players and supporters. You can find out more about our club and how to get involved on our website www.DenverGaels.com and on our Facebook page.

photo by Amanda Rieker

October 11 Celtic Connection cover photo by Amanda Rieker

Story & Photos by Amanda Rieker
The stands erupted into barely controlled chaos as the final whistle blew, signaling the success of six years of recruiting, training, and commitment to a dream of winning a Camogie championship. The hard fought battle on the pitch against the girls from Washington DC was the culmination of years of hard work. It ended with a one point win in overtime. But all that mattered to the Rogue Camogs at that moment was the trophy in their hands.

The North American County Board (NACB) is the governing body of Irish sports in the US, including Camogie. They host a playoff tournament over Labor Day at a rotating host city. This year it was in San Francisco, CA. The ladies from the Denver Gaels had previously joined up with Seattle and Twin Cities to field a team in 2010, the inaugural year for the Rogue Camogs. In 2011, Seattle fielded a full team of their own. This left Denver and Twin Cities to join forces for a second year. This ragtag group of girls finally unseated the multi-year champions from Washington DC for the Junior Camogie crown in San Francisco.

Camogie is an exciting, fast-paced sport that incorporates dexterity, finesse, agility, speed, and endurance. It’s baseball and ice hockey combined and turned upside-down. Points and goals are scored by teams made up of 13-15 players per side. The men’s companion sport of hurling is the national sport of Ireland. It’s 3,000 year history and role in modern Irish life are unique. It’s more than a sport, it’s a community.

In Ireland, it’s a way of life, similar to baseball in America. Children are introduced to hurling and camogie in school. The friendships and camaraderie born out of the sport in Ireland become a foundation for adult life. As described by an Irish-born member of the Denver Gaels, “when we were kids, we used to say we bleed blue. We’d do anything for each other.”

In the US, most don’t learn about the sport until adulthood.

“I got involved with hurling in 2000 in Milwaukee. I played for five years in their leagues. My brother had played a few years and got me into it. It was the first sport I really got excited and jazzed about – LOVED it, obviously,” described Jess Haxton-Retrum, one of the founders of Camogie in Colorado. “Jenn Dressler and I built the Camogie team [in Milwaukee] and after a few years of recruiting and training as a team, we went to finals…in 2003. We beat DC, the only other team in the junior category.”

Jess relocated to Denver in 2005 and started training with the Denver Gaels. The club had originally played only Gaelic football, but in 2004/05 it took on hurling as well. The club now hosts a couple of thriving and competitive hurling teams. The Rogue Camogs are continuing their search for new players with a sense of spirit, competitiveness, and camaraderie to join their family.

“Sometimes it’s hard to find women who appreciate the physicality of Camogie. If you recruit from pools of women who already like lacrosse, rugby, hockey, and soccer you may have better luck,” added Jess.

Kyle Shane, a Co-Captain of the Champion Rogue Camogs, believes the friendly, welcoming environment is also a big seller for playing on the team. Kyle discovered the sport at the Colorado Irish Festival in Littleton in 2007. Her rugby background quickly made her popular with the team. “It was great to be a part of such a welcoming team with great leaders and support. It made the first year of fumbling around very enjoyable and inclusive,” she said.

Kyle added “even if you haven’t played sports before, you can pick it up pretty quickly and get such an amazing feeling of accomplishment, exercise, and friendship/connection with your team. The sport really offers something for everyone.”

In the 2010 playoffs, Kyle injured her knee while playing gaelic football. Her subsequent surgery and physical therapy didn’t hold her back from leading the Rogue Camogs on to victory in 2011. She continued to lead practices and fitness sessions despite being unable to run the drills herself. Her leadership and optimism inspired the rest of the team to perform at their highest levels.

Kyle’s goalkeeping skills helped the Rogue Camogs qualify for the 2011 championship match in San Francisco. The ladies were able to defeat teams from Seattle and Indianapolis through their strong defensive maneuvering. However, their final match against Washington DC in the round robin-style contest saw the ladies struggling with strain and exhaustion. They finished the marathon of matches with two wins and one loss, qualifying them for the championship match with Washington DC.

On Sunday, the final day of competition, the girls knew they were going to face down a strong rival. After a day of rest, they were ready. The previous match gave them insight into their competition. They devised a new strategy, reworked the lineups, and set their minds on bringing home the trophy. The full length match featured strong defense on both sides, limiting the scoring opportunities. With one goal and one point each, the teams went into overtime. It was a battle of epic proportions on the pitch. The underdog Rogue Camogs were determined to defeat the repeat champs. Christie Washam of Twin Cities helped the Rogues take an early lead in overtime with a point. Kyle Shane stopped several attempts by Washington DC to equalize. When the final whistle blew, the ladies swarmed their Co-Captains Kyle Shane and Sarah McFarland of Twin Cities.

SPF11 UpTop_BagpipeCowboy

What a great time in Spanish Peaks country Sept 22-25. A beautiful part of Colorado not on the beaten path – great folks too.
Ceili/Sessions in a “Ghost Town” – Workshops, concerts, more
sessions. Here are a few photos. Stay tuned here for info on 2012 Fest & Retreat..

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