Gaelic games in Baltimore, MD are on the rise after the Baltimore Gaelic Athletic Association was formed by Tadhg and Lucy Prenderville who had grown frustrated with their commute to Washington to partake in Gaelic games.
Don Markus for The Baltimore Sun reports on the brainchild of Tadgh and Lucy Prenderville. Tadgh, a native of Castleisland in Co Kerry, used to commute from Baltimore to Washington DC to play Gaelic football, a sport he grew up both playing and loving. Lucy Clerkin also commuted to DC to play camogie, a sport the Maryland native had learned while visiting her grandmother in Mayo.
Of the creation of the BGAA, Prenderville said “It grew out of the frustration for the traffic on the Baltimore-Washington beltways.” While the traffic was a nuisance, he and Lucy Clerkin grew close during their commutes - the two married and now have a daughter together, Patricia.
He and Lucy held an information table at the Irish Festival near the Convention Center in 2003, and the enthusiasm they encountered for at Baltimore GAA surprised both of them.
"The Sunday after the Irish Festival, we had 14 people come out to Patterson Park," Prendeville recalled.
The BGAA had a rocky start, but has now recently found their footing. With between 60 and 75 members, there are two women's teams and two men’s teams that compete regionally throughout the spring and summer.
The Baltimore Bohemians, as they call themselves, have won the Junior Grade 3 (out of six) national football championship in 2010 and 2011. The club will host the GAA North American County Board Championships in 2015 or 2016, Prendeville said.
The club has responded well to a sense of both civic duty and social fostering. As a nonprofit organization, the BGAA charges a $50 membership fee and contributes to local charities such as the Maryland Food Bank, Make-A-Wish Foundation and The Maryland School for the Blind.
"If you join our club, it's an instant 100 more people in your social circle,” said Prenderville noting the social factor.
While the social aspect is important to Prenderville, he does make it clear that it shouldn’t come in the way of competition. “It is about the sports. If we played an Irish team at our level, we could compete. When we step on the field, we want to take care of business. We train as hard as anybody."
While the BGAA is flourishing at the moment, both Lucy and Tadhg hope to see the association last for generations to come, noting the impact of having children start early and get involved.
"There are a lot of kids who are under 5 coming to our games, said Lucy. “We want the sports to grow.”