Life and GAA in Vancouver – Oisin Doyle Aughrim

Life and GAA in Vancouver










Vancouver GAA

It is an exciting time for GAA in Vancouver. The landscape has changed enormously in recent years, due to the formation of several new clubs, accommodating the growing influx of Irish immigrants landing on the pacific shores and it shows no signs in slowing down.

Currently there are three GAA football clubs: Eire Óg (set up by AGB man Darren McAndrew in 2018 and managed by Bray Emmets man Ronan Matthews), Fraser Valley Gaels (FVG), who formed in 2014, and my own club ISSC, where the latter two clubs also field a ladies team. There are two hurling clubs in the city, my own club JP Ryans and the newly formed Cu Chulainn. ISSC also field the only camogie team in the city.

The standard of the GAA here is very high, with many former county players, All Ireland winners and All Stars plying their trade here and normally the clubs would contest the Senior grade in the North American championships alongside the Boston, San Francisco and Chicago clubs.

Due to the rapid expansion in playing numbers over the past few years and growth in the number of teams, last year was the first year we held our own Vancouver championship consisting of a Junior and Senior grade. A proud year for GAA in the city. Matches would be played on a full day hosted by a particular club, consisting of matches from every grade and sport, both ladies and men.

Western Championships

The Western Canadian Championships is the biggest championship in Canada for us Vancouverites, our bread and butter. The competition consists of teams from Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Edmonton to whom hosted this year’s competition. The championship is played over the course of two days. On the Saturday, teams play each other on a league basis and to determine ranking for the semi finals/finals which are played on the Sunday.

In the Mens Football, we started the Saturday by beating Calgary, FVG and Eire Og and topped the group and straight into the Final on the Sunday. We met our Vancouver rivals FVG who were gunning for a three in a row. In what was a hard hitting game, the heartbreak of last years one point defeat spurred us on to a convincing win on a scorelineof 3-26 to 1-6, to land our first Western since 2015.

In the Ladies Football, to whom I coach, we also went unbeaten in the group stages on the Saturday beating Calgary, Edmonton and FVG to land a spot in the final on Sunday against FVG, consisting of Katie Kindlon from AGB. This match was a closer affair where ISSC, captained by one of Coolboys finest in Shauna Hilley, beat FVG on a scoreline of 2-5 to 1-6.

In the Mens Hurling, it was not all plain sailing for JP Ryans on the Saturday where we beat Calgary and Edmonton but lost out to a strong Cu Chulainn outfit consisting of Jamie Byrne from Glenealy and Jem Kavanagh from St Pats. This left us with a semi final berth against Edmonton on the Sunday morning. They provided stiff opposition to which we snuck by on a scoreline of 1-10 to 0-9. We met Cu Chulainn later that afternoon in the final which was described as the game of the tournament. JP Ryans were down by 8 points at one stage of the game to draw with the last puck of the match. The game went to extra time where JP Ryans prevailed by a goal on a scoreline of 4-16 to 3-16.

It ended up a great day for the ISSC and myself but more importantly, it was an even better weekend for the GAA and all those that participated. Edmonton put on a fantastic event and its great being able to play GAA when you are so far away from home. The friendships, camaraderie and memories formed from these events are immeasurable.

Life in Vancouver

Vancouver is a special city that has exceeded all expectations. Life here is easy yet busy. You are never far from an Irish accent or a reason to go for a pint or 10. Encompassed by beaches, pristine lakes, mountains and remarkable scenery you are never short of anything to do. Most of my summer evenings consist of GAA and catching sunsets like this on a daily basis.

On weekends, I try to act all Canadian by hiking, campingand seeing nice lakes. On these trips, I try to ensure that I let people know I’m Irish by wearing my best O’Neills gear.

In the winter months, we turn to snowboarding and skiing and spend most of the snow days by taking pictures like this “for the Gram”.

But not all is rosy, my name is a daily struggle for many out here and outside the handful of Irish bars in the city, a good pint of Guinness is few and far between. I long for the day when I get my hands on a nice creamy one in Paddys Bar back home.

For myself, I plan to stay in Vancouver for a while longer. As the Irish saying goes, “An a bhíónn siúlach, bíonn scéalach – “He who travels has stories to tell”. There are many more hills and valleys to be explored in Canada before I land to the peak of Cushbawn mountain overlooking the Granite City back home.

Aughrim will always be mo ghrá agus mo croí, but Vancouver has me now.


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