You won’t have to travel to Dublin, Cork, Limerick, or Galway this weekend to see some great Gaelic sport. The Al O’Leary Tournament will be coming to Bath Community Park in Bath, Ohio on October 7th thanks to the Akron Celtic Guards Hurling & Camogie Club.
Spectators will be treated to a fantastic display of hurling, camogie, and Gaelic football free of charge. There’s no parking or admission costs for the tournament, which is quite amazing considering that some of the top clubs in the Midwest will be in attendance. It will have a festival vibe with food and music, a full day of celebrating Irish culture.
The excitement surrounding the event starts at the top with community leaders enjoying the buzz that comes with the tournament.
“We’re so delighted to be welcoming the Al O’Leary Hurling Tournament back to Greater Akron, Ohio this year,” stated Mary Tricaso, CSE CSEE, Director of Sales for the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau and Sports Alliance of Greater Akron. “This fall tournament presented by the Akron Celtic Guards Hurling Club joins a growing honor roll of events being held in our area. It not only allows us to highlight our area’s attractions, restaurants, and entertainment options to visiting athletes and spectators, but contributes to Greater Akron’s visitor economy by generating more than $56,000 dollars in local hospitality industry expenditures.”
The Akron Celtic Guards were founded in 2002 as a men’s hurling club, and were mentored early on by Al O’Leary, who was a founding member of the Cleveland Kickhams Hurling Club. It should come as no surprise that the annual tournament is named after O’Leary.
Since the club’s inception, they have expanded to include men’s hurling, women’s camogie, and a youth program. They compete as members of the Midwest Division of the United States Gaelic Athletic Association (USGAA). The USGAA is a constituent body of the Irish Gaelic Athletic Associations (GAA), which oversees all Gaelic Athletic Associations in the world. Their men’s hurling team just won their second consecutive Midwest GAA Junior C Hurling Championship.
“Hurling and camogie offers the chance for spectators to experience a different sport and essentially a different culture,” Coleen Taylor, a member of the club who plays camogie, added. “This sport is like nothing anyone who isn’t familiar with it has ever seen. It might look a bit like lacrosse or field hockey, but when you get close one will realize it’s its own unique experience. It allows the spectator to be involved in something completely out of the ordinary and offers them to chance to learn about something new. It gives them the chance to experience a little bit of the Emerald Isle without having to leave the States.”
Jason Ross, who describes himself as a 38-year-old “rookie” when it comes to hurling, shares Taylor’s passion and excitement for the sport.
“Hurling offers athletes a chance to connect to their Irish heritage if that’s important to them or it’s just a great chance to enjoy learning a new sport,” Ross continued. “Staying active is sometimes hard for people because a lot of workouts are boring, but hurling is not boring at all. It also gives the athlete a chance to meet a ton of great new people. As far as the spectators, I can’t think of a more spectator-friendly sport. Although the rules might be a little foreign at first, the action on the pitch is non-stop. There is always something going on and it’s amazing how fast the pitch can be flipped and the action be moving in the other direction. Scoring chances happen often and can happen at any moment so the excitement of a goal or point is always there. Now that I play hurling I have found myself watching matches online because it really is that exciting.”
The first annual Al O’Leary tournament was held in 2009 as a friendly regional hurling tournament between three clubs from Akron, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis.
2017 marks the 9th Annual Al O’Leary Tournament and the second year for the games to be played at Bath Community Park in Bath Township. With the support from the Sports Alliance of Greater Akron, the tournament has grown to be the Midwest’s largest Gaelic games tournament attracting hurling, camogie, and Gaelic football clubs and collegiate teams from around the country. Some of the confirmed teams include the Pittsburgh Pucas, Pitt Panthers, Roc City, Virginia Tech, Cleveland St. Pats, and Indy.
“We are thrilled to welcome back hurling and camogie players from around the country to our annual Al O’Leary Tournament,” Akron Celtic Guards Hurling & Camogie Club Chair Nicholas Frank concluded. “We are also excited to welcome Gaelic football at this year’s games. It’s a fantastic opportunity for Northeast Ohio to experience Gaelic sports first-hand, and immerse themselves in Irish culture. These sports have grown monumentally over recent years in the United States, and our tournament will provide fans the opportunity to experience the action of the ‘fastest game on grass’ in person.”