Experiencing the Community and Pride in Irish Sports Culture

Feb 16, 2019 10:02:00 AM / by Emma Aulenback

In this week's post, Emma visits Dublin sporting landmark, Croke Park, and learns about the wonderful world of Gaelic Football. As part of her efforts to find her place in the local culture and get situated in the city, she takes in the sense of community displayed in this beloved sport. Without also staying too far removed from American sports, she shares how she kept up with the Super Bowl!

My geographic coordinates have changed. Who knew this newly adopted latitude and longitude would inspire a new habitude and attitude about life? While I am loving the opportunity to meet a diverse array of people from around the world, and discovering the enchanting nooks and crannies of every alleyway, I am still trying to find my footing and adjust to my life abroad (literally and figuratively—the cobblestones are quite slippery here!). Like many things, a sense of belonging is something we never fully appreciate until it is lost.

Dog in bookstoreA dog named Birdie, well known in the community, as her owner runs a local bookshop!

Seated high above Dublin, on our first My Global City excursion to Croke Park, the Gaelic Athletic stadium, I felt a strange twinge in my stomach. While overlooking the rows of billowing chimneys did remind me much of my own home, it was not a longing for a physical place that induced this feeling. Instead, it was our incredibly passionate tour guide, Cian, and his unfaltering love for Gaelic Football. Far from a fierce competitor, I am somewhat indifferent to sports—a bad call is really no skin off my back. It is the culture surrounding sports, however, that is quite magical to me! Simply adorning the colors of “your” team unites people across all backgrounds to form a strong community. This is true for Gaelic Football, especially, as the players from each community club are indeed members of that community! There is no trading or contracts like in the American leagues… “you play for where you are from”. Championship players are regular folk, who practice on their own time and lead ordinary lives. One of the most well known players is a biology teacher just down the road from the stadium. It is not fame or fortune that drives this sport (they do not make a single dime—or Euro, shall I say) it is the love of the game, and more so, love for the community to which they belong.

Croke Park Maybe it was just the fear of heights making my stomach hurt!

We are all on the edge of our seats as Cian animates the most dramatic story of his home team, whose last minute comeback delivered a championship victory! His words paint the whole stadium with excitement and celebration. It is this vibration beneath my feet of the ethereal fans clicking their heels and stomping their feet, that consumes my whole being and makes camp in my stomach. The sparkle in Cian’s eyes makes me believe I have encountered the kindred spirit of my Uncle Jimmy, who has an otherworldly commitment to the New England Patriots (he indeed went unconscious for a quick spell after Malcolm Butler's game winning interception) and the same knack for telling a good story.

Bee strongThese motivational critters are scattered around the city!

Thus, while the pain of missing my family and feeling out of place were strong, they mingled with the infectious joy of Cian, and were subdued by the chuckles he spurred. A few days later, I enjoyed the Patriots victory from a local Pub, which to my delight was filled with local Irish people repping Red, White and Blue. I stayed up until 4 A.M. to do so—not because I truly cared if we won or lost—but for my Uncle Jimmy and everyone back home, who depended on “my luck of the Irish” to bring the trophy home.

Jumping in DublinBelonging to life!

While it is uncomfortable not knowing my place here, I appreciate the opportunity to explore what makes the people here tick with pride. Who knows, maybe I will become so immersed in my new community, I will start repping the black and white jerseys from the Portobello Club up the road… but don’t think for a minute that I will ever shed my 6 New England Patriot Championship rings!

Thanks, Emma!

Emma Aulenback


Emma Aulenback is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Sociology major at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she is studying abroad in Dublin this semester.

Emma's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA Dublin Program

Topics: Dublin, Ireland, Local Culture