The Luck of the Irish — in Oriental Bay

Gaelic football is the latest sport to be held on the beach of Oriental Bay, joining the various types of beach volleyball and beach football that we've seen for a few years now on the beach.

The Wellington and Hutt Valley Gaelic Club is the region's only Gaelic football and hurling club, so they value these once-a-year beach tournaments— usually the beginning of November — to introduce locals to this ancient sport.

Their president Trevor O'Halloran describes the event as a five-a-side, five-minute half, single sex, one-day beach blitz. Last November 12 teams made up of five players took part in the beach tournament.

He says that the club likes to promote the game to locals through the summer. "The separate pre-Christmas social league and post-Christmas more competitive nine-a-side tournaments bring together our 200+ members with an even mix of Irish/non-Irish; men/ladies; young/old; experienced/beginner players. By hosting these summer games the club grows and builds its core registered players steadily. Membership now sits at 80+".

A full New Zealand Gaelic Football national championship was held in March in Upper Hutt this year with teams from Auckland and Canterbury clubs attending. A total of 11 teams of 15 players took part over a two-day tournament in all four codes of Gaelic sports. In October Wellington will host the Australasian Gaelic Football Games.

One enthusiast I spoke to at the beach tournament, described Gaelic football as similar to Aussie Rules with a mix of football and rugby league. A player can only take four steps with the ball at any one time. The beach version has the usual vagaries of Wellington weather to cope with — four seasons in a day. On the beach there's an extra hazard when our famous wind whips up the sand to get in your eyes.

So sometimes they might need the help of a couple of lines from that famous Irish blessing:

May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face...

JCD, Bay View newsletter 65, May 2015