Gaelic Games for International Students. Aaron Calliham/DJ Collins

PY4122 is a new module that hopes to promote Gaelic Games and help explain some of the fabric of Irish society and culture to International, Study Abroad and Erasmus students. It is a full 6 credit module, delivered by Dr DJ Collins and Mr Alan Griffin of the PESS Department. This is the second semester of the module running, and currently has 22 students registered. Here are the views of Aaron Calliham, one of the students currently studying the module.

Howdy! My name is Aaron Calliham and I’m from College Station, Texas. I am a third year Non-EU exchange student studying Business at UL for the Spring 2019 semester. Back home I attend Texas A&M University where I am the loudest and proudest member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie class of 2021! There, I am a student with the Mays Business School where I am majoring in Accounting to hopefully go on to work in the industry as a forensic accountant. As you may can tell, I take great pride in my home university and part of this may be due to the fact that I am a fourth generational Aggie starting back with my great-grandfather who graduated from A&M in 1941. Many members of my family have also followed in his footsteps and so we have been an Aggie family since before I was born. Therefore, I am no stranger to the concept of taking pride in where you’re from. Especially when it comes to supporting my university’s athletic teams through the best and the worst times which was something I had quickly discovered to have in common with the Irish. However, it was not until after I made my decision to take the Gaelic Games module that I realized what true local pride looks like to the Irish and how much the Gaelic games here mean to the communities that each team represents.

I was fortunate that this module’s meeting times worked with the rest of my semester’s schedule because this is by far my favourite module that I have been taking here at UL. My reasoning behind taking this module was mainly due to my fascination with the sport of hurling and Gaelic football as I had viewed videos of gameplay and highlights before coming to Ireland. It looked like a lot of fun and I was all in for trying it out myself. Little did I know, however, that there was so much more behind just the pure sport and through this module and I have learned that these games are much bigger than they appear to be just from the outsider looking in’s perspective. As far as the module goes, it is made up of a lecture portion and a lab portion. During lectures, we learn various important concepts regarding gameplay, history, and the overall role that Gaelic games have played in Ireland and their significance to Irish culture. Labs, which are my personal favourite, is when we are physically learning how to play the games and are being coached on the proper technique of how to play both hurling and Gaelic football. This module also takes time to give us a bit of insight on the process of coaching others and the strategies used by coaches to properly instruct/coordinate a team effectively and efficiently. The lecturers/coaches for this module are extremely knowledgeable on these subjects and they have made the experience one that I shall not forget any time soon. I have learned much about not only the games but Irish history and the love the Irish have for Gaelic games. I have also made some great friends from all across the globe through this module due to the interactivity and team mindset it promotes amongst its students.

One of my biggest takeaways from this class is the level of cultural immergence I have felt that I have gained through the module. My best example of this was one weekend where I decided to take a day trip to Dublin to watch the League Finals hurling and Gaelic football matches at Croke Park. One could obviously see how learning how these games are played from the Gaelic Games module would help me as a foreign spectator to actually understand the game and derive more entertainment out of what I was watching. Moreover, although this is true, there was something much bigger than just that that I was able to take away from watching these games. Being in Croke Park, surrounded by thousands of fans from different parts of Ireland to cheer on their county’s team, there was an energy I felt that I had recognize because back home, we call it a spirit. For us at A&M, it is known as the Spirit of Aggieland – an energy that overwhelms our sports venues that is radiating off our fans when they are there to support our teams. This was the same type of energy that I felt at Croke Park. It is what I would call the Spirit of Ireland and it was as strong as any spirit that I have felt in College Station. Although the individual spectators were distinguished by their colours, their flags, or their cheers and boos, the driving force that was ultimately responsible for the strong passion given by each fan was the sense of pride and love for the sport. It is almost impossible to describe in words. That is one thing this module has taught and I believe it is something that I would not have truly understood any other way if I had not taken this class.

Figure 1 Inside changing rooms in Croke Park


This module has been absolutely incredible. I only wish it lasted longer so I could continue to practice and play these games. I, however, upon my return to Texas, will be bringing back with me my very own Gaelic football, hurley and sliotar to introduce these truly unique sports to my friends as well as maintain the skill. In fact, I am considering looking into what clubs and organizations exist around College Station that I might be able for me to join others in playing both hurling and Gaelic football. In the end, I cannot thank the coaches and UL enough for providing such a unique experience for me. I highly encourage others to try this module! Because for me, this has been, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I could have made here while studying abroad.


Thanks and Gig ‘Em


Aaron Calliham

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