Established in 1979
About the Gaels
The Seattle Gaels – a program of the Irish Heritage Club of Seattle – endeavors to promote the Irish Sports of Gaelic Football, Hurling, and Camogie to Men, Women, and Youth in the Pacific Northwest.
History of the Seattle Gaels
Gaelic Football has been played in the Pacific Northwest since the 1920s. In the early years, it was usually in the form of pick-up games at the annual Irish Club picnic. However, in the late 1950s, the game became better organized in the Northwest, team jerseys were purchased and challenge games were organized against teams from Vancouver, BC, and even against San Francisco teams. These Seattle teams were composed of a few young Irish-born priests, other Irish-born people living in the Seattle area,and a couple of their friends. Contacts were even made in 1959 with the newly formed North American County Board (NACB) with a view towards affiliating with the GAA, but those efforts came to naught, and in the late 1960s, Gaelic Football basically became dormant in the Seattle area.
The game was revived here in 1979 when the Seattle Gaels Club was formed. That year, the Gaels played a few challenge games against a team from Vancouver. In 1980, the Gaels officially affiliated with the NACB and the first registered officers were: Danny Quinn Chairman, Frank Shriane Vice-Chairman, John Keane Treasurer, John Watkins Registrar; Brian Fitzgerald Secretary, and the County Board Delegates were John Keane, Danny Quinn, and Brian Fitzgerald. Also involved were Tommy Jordan, Tony and Joe Coyne, Fr. John Madigan, John Duggan, and a few others. The late Mike O’Malley also got involved, and he became oneof the people who over the years until his untimely death in 1996 had a huge influence on the growth of Gaelic Football in the Seattle area.
The Seattle Gaels in 1982 amalgamated with Seattle’s Irish American Club and the Irish Festivities Committee to form the new Irish Heritage Club, but the Gaels still retained their distinct identity as a Gaelic Football Club under the Irish Heritage Club’s umbrella. In 1980, a Tacoma team was also organized by Tom Quinlan and John Duggan and they joined with Seattle and Vancouver to form the Northwest Division of the NACB but the other teams did not yet affiliate with the NACB. After playing several challenge games against Vancouver and Tacoma, the Seattle Gaels traveled to San Francisco’s Polo Fields to play the San Francisco Sean McDermott’s in the North American Senior Football Quarter-Final, losing in the end by just 6 points in Seattle’s first-ever officially sanctioned Gaelic Football game.
The Northwest Division League was later expanded to include teams from as far away as Calgary and Edmonton. However, the Tacoma team folded after several very successful years, including one year when they lost to San Francisco in a Playoff game played in Tacoma. At various times, other teams, including one from Portland and another Seattle team, Pearse Ogs, also joined the Northwest League, but these teams also lasted only a few years. The Northwest Champions – Tacoma, Vancouver, Calgary, and most recently Seattle – competed in the NACB Championship Playoffs on an intermittent basis since 1980, but Seattle has competed every year since 1994.
In 1997, the Seattle Gaels affiliated two teams for the first time, the usual Men’s team and a new Women’s team made up of a few experienced players and mostly new players who were completely unfamiliar with the sport.Both the Men’s and Women’s teams participated in the North American Championship Playoffs that year, and Seattle Gaels historywas made as both teams made it to the finals of their respective divisions. This was an especially tremendous achievement for the Seattle Gaels Women as this was their first ever Gaelic Football season.
In 1999, the Seattle Gaels won their first North American Championship when the Seattle Men’s team defeated the Atlanta Gaels in the NACB Junior “B” Final at the GAA Playoffs in Chicago. At the same Playoffs, the eventual Ladies Champions, the Florida Gaels, only narrowly defeated the Seattle Women in the Junior Championship Semi-Final.
In 2004 the Seattle Hurling Club merged with the Seattle Gaels to include a Hurling Team. The team went on to compete that year at the Denver 2004 National Finals in the Junior “C” division. The people in the Seattle area are rightly proud of what their hard work has accomplished here over the years.
In 2006, the Seattle Hurling Club became the NACB Junior “C” Champions when they beat the Denver Gaels at the GAA Playoffs in Philadelphia.
As in every city, it takes tremendous dedication and commitment to come out year after year to promote and develop the games of the Gael. Our sincere thanks to those people who have contributed so much to keeping Gaelic Games alive in the Pacific Northwest.
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