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Hey Beer Leaguers,

A few weeks back Nick and I brought the ancient Irish sports hurling and Gaelic football to you with an article and vlog on the United States Gaelic Athletic Association’s 2018 Finals (Phew! That’s a mouthful). The finals were held just outside of Philadelphia, PA over Labor Day weekend. If you didn’t have a chance to see that piece you can check it out here.

If you’ve never heard of these sports it’s time to expand your horizons, man (said in my best Jefferson Spicoli voice). I have saved you the trouble of typing words into your Google machine and provided the wiki pages for information on hurling and Gaelic football.

The USGAA has a fairly high level of competition. The teams in the USGAA get after it on the pitch from roughly April through September. It’s not uncommon for multiple teammates to go down to injury for part or all of a season. That competitive spirit might be great for some people, but a little too intense for others. What is a lad or a lass to do if they are looking for some good sport and a little craic, but don’t want something as physically demanding as the USGAA? Enter the world of the intramural sport.

Intramural. Co-ed. Pub League. Beer League.

All these terms can be used to describe the same thing. And all of them exist for pretty much the same reason when it comes to Irish sports; to play the sports we love in the spring and fall and introduce the world of Irish sports to the uninitiated. Many cities that have USGAA teams also have pub leagues. We are lucky enough here in the Washington, D.C. area to have the D.C. Irish Sports League.

DCISL was formed in 2007 as a way to create more exposure for Irish sports in the Nation’s Capital and to be a feeder league to the local USGAA clubs.

DCISL co-founder Shawn Lavelle remembers the formation of the league like this.

“Above all we wanted to be able to make the games accessible to people and have a chance to socialize afterwards. Other cities had been growing strong programs using weekly leagues and we hoped to replicate that success with a fun and low-pressure environment.”

So… for those of you keeping score at home, DCISL was founded so that people could:

  1. Play sports
  2. Have fun
  3. Socialize (read: drink) afterward

Please, Shawn… continue

“These games can be challenging even for experienced American athletes, as you may be using familiar skills in unfamiliar ways. Mistakes are going to be made! We wanted people to learn from them, not be embarrassed.”

Here in DC we play both hurling and Gaelic football. The league and the games are co-ed and meant to be fun but allow for development of skill at the same time. We play right in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall. The level of competition and location of the league have been key to its success and the success of the local area clubs.

“At the time, the local clubs would practice weeknight evenings in the suburbs, in places that you wouldn’t get a lot of visibility. What we could provide is a low barrier to participation, during the day, smack-dab in the middle of the city where hundreds and hundreds of people would be walking or driving by. People hear about the games and want to learn; players come out to knock off the winter’s rust or to get more games in before the adrenaline of the summer season wears off. We’re happy to have everyone, from experienced Irish to rookies and kids to retirees. We’ve had players come from as far away as Baltimore and Richmond, and [we have] sent plenty of players to clubs in the D.C. area.” 

– Shawn Lavelle – Co-founder, D.C. Irish Sports League

You might be thinking, “Can guys and girls actually play together and have good fun without someone getting hurt?” The answer is “YES!” and it looks something like this.

Contact your friendly neighborhood USGAA club for more information on local pub or beer league teams…. And don’t forget to have some good craic afterward!