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A New Kind Of GAA Club Is Spearheading Irish Language Revival

A New Kind Of GAA Club Is Spearheading Irish Language Revival
By Arthur James O'Dea

The Irish language possesses a risible level of practicality in Ireland.

While a healthy portion (39.8%) of the population claim to retain the ability of conversing as gaeilge, the 2016 Census revealed that only 1.7% of those accounted for spoke the language on a daily basis.

Hardly surprising, persevering with the Irish language is an undoubted labour of love. Yet, a growing number are seeking to pursue it nonetheless.

Na Gaeil Óga are a GAA club based in Lucan, Co. Dublin. Since their emergence in 2010, the club has continued with their original remit that all members would use the Irish language exclusively.

Spurring on the creation of similar clubs in Dublin, Galway and Belfast, why are certain GAA players choosing to join clubs that must begin at lowest rung of their county's championship ladder?

Padráig Ó Fearghail is a member of Na Gaeil Óga and a former inter-county player with Wicklow. In a new video promoting the benefits of these Irish language clubs, Ó Fearghail offered his rationale for taking the competitive step backward:

Every GAA club has an identity, an identity based on geography. With Na Gaeil Óga, our identity is based on language and that's much more important to me.

Hailing originally from Wexford, Ó Fearghail was originally a member of St. Aidan's, Ferns in his native county.

Enjoying tremendous underage success, he was part of the Ferns team that won the Wexford Intermediate Championship in 2007, losing narrowly to Oulart the Ballagh in the Senior equivalent in 2013.

Yet, at 29, working commitments left Ó Fearghail in search of a new club in Dublin and Na Gaeil Óga was his choice.

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While they have been on a consistent upward curve from the point of their emergence in 2010, the Wexford man has loftier ambitions still:

I suppose, the short-term goal we have for next year is to be the first Irish-language hurling team to win the Championship in Dublin.

On a personal level, I'd hope in the long term that we can inspire others to establish Irish language clubs and to promote Irish that way.

This is an unquestionably intriguing development, and Ó Fearghail is not the only player used to the bigger occasion willing to start anew; former Donegal county man Rónán Mac Niallais is just one of many ex-senior club players, underage stars and players with Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cup experience joining the dual club. 

Ó Fearghail is part of an emerging generation of elite players who are turning their attention to building Irish speaking clubs around the country. He is joined at Na Gaeil Óga by former Donegal county man Rónán Mac Niallais and a host of ex-senior club players, county underage stars and players with Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cup experience.

Eoin P. Ó Murchú, Cathaoirleach of Na Gaeil Óga understands the importance of this recognition: 

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It's a big statement for all the players involved but it's a massive vote of confidence from the likes of Padráig and Rónán in the ongoing work to build vibrant sporting communities through the Irish language.

Padráig and Rónán ... [will give] the Irish language speakers the courage and confidence to create communities of Irish speakers striving to play sport at the highest level.

Although such an endeavour is likely to remain relatively niche, it is nonetheless an intriguing initiative that will normalise - and perhaps popularise - the Irish language to a greater degree.

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You can see all of Padráig's interview below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH1c6-kl2sw

See Also: The Reason There Was No Cork Ladies' Football Documentary Is Very Simple

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