Taking the Field of Glory: Midwest Gaelic Athletic Association National Finals Results
By Vincent Beach
The 2021 USGAA Finals took place in Canton, Massachusetts (Boston) starting on Friday, August 20, and finishing on Sunday, August 22. The Midwest Division was well represented: Pittsburgh Celtics (Men’s Intermediate Football), Cleveland Saints (Men’s Junior C Football), Buffalo Na Fianna (Men’s Junior D), Pittsburgh Banshees (Ladies’ Junior B), Cleveland Saints (Ladies’ Junior C), Pittsburgh Pucas (Hurling Junior C), and Cleveland Saints (Hurling Junior D).
The Men’s Football and Hurling Junior D level, and the Ladies’ Football Junior C level are reserved for new teams less than three years old (developmental bracket). Nevertheless, the quantity of clubs and competitiveness at the developmental level continues to grow.
In chronological order, on Friday the Cleveland Saints faced off against Charlotte James Connolly from the Southeast Division in the Men’s Junior C bracket. The Cleveland men fell behind by halftime but battled back early in the second half with a couple of quick goals. The surge was too little too late as James Connolly’s advanced finishing 2-9 to 2-4. Connolly’s went go on to lose to eventual champions, Delco Gaels, who faired very well in their Philadelphia Divisional games and easily took the national title.
The Lady Saints were warming up by the time the Cleveland Men stepped off the field. Cleveland faced the Raleigh Cú Chulainn Ladies and held them scoreless. Scoring five goals and twelve points, it was the first Cleveland Ladies’ USGAA playoff win in history.
The Cleveland faithful were not finished on the day yet, as the hurlers warmed-up for their match against Jersey Shore (Philadelphia Division), while the ladies final whistle sounded. The Saints with Sticks were introduced to a very physical style of play and in the last quarter of the game pulled ahead of the central Jersey club. The inaugural Saints won in exciting fashion 2-11 to 2-8.
Next up were the Junior B Ladies, Pittsburgh Banshees. Due to the pandemic and some travel restrictions still in place, clubs from Toronto and the Cayman Islands were unable to travel, thus limiting some of the bracket sizes. Such was the case for the Ladies Junior B bracket, where three teams were drawn for a unique format.
The Friday winner of the Banshees and Notre Dames (Philadelphia Division) would go onto the final, while the loser would play-off on Saturday against Charlotte James Connolly’s. The Notre Dames stretched out a win by the score of 2-11 to 3-5.
Later Friday, the Midwest Junior C Hurlers, Pittsburgh Pucas, earned lottery draw against the Denver Gaels of the Southwest Division. The Pucas fell to the eventual tournament champions in a high-scoring game with the final tally, 4-12 to 6-22.
Going into their first game on Saturday were the Celtics and Na Fianna. But first, early Saturday morning, the Lady Saints fell to the eventual tournament champion Delco Gaels (Philadelphia Division) by the score of 0-5 to 6-11. The Banshees faced the Charlotte Ladies at the same time, pushing the game into overtime. Charlotte went on to win by the score of 5-5 to 4-6.
At the Men’s Junior D level, Buffalo Na Fianna faced the Tacoma Rangers and handily disposed of them; 0-2 to 7-18, in their inaugural year. The Cleveland Hurlers were next-up, facing the 2020 Philadelphia representative, South Jersey Rebels. The Rebels tallied scores back and forth with Cleveland, but the Saints eventually pulled away in the fourth quarter of the match. Final score was 3-4 to 4-9.
The Celtics competed at the Intermediate level after winning the 2019 Junior A championship. On Saturday afternoon, they faced Aiden McAnespie’s (Northeast Division). Like so many times during the tournament, the Midwest team fell to the eventual tournament champion. Final score was 2-5 to 3-18.
As Saturday evening set-in, clubs and officials awaited the final schedule to be posted as Hurricane Henri approached the East Coast. By 7PM, the decision was made, and schedules posted for the championships. There would be no shield matches.
For the Midwest, the Buffalo Na Fianna club were first up in their Junior D Final against the Delco Gaels; two youth clubs turned adult went head-to-head. Buffalo controlled the game early and did not look back. Final score was 3-7 to 2-3. Comhghairdeas (congratulations), Buffalo on the national title.
Next, the Cleveland Hurlers faced the Charlotte Hurlers at 10AM. Charlotte rolled through their bracket, scoring 8-38 to 2-10 in their two matches. The Saints held them much tighter but gave away several frees as the James Connolly’s raised the cup after scoring 1-14 to 1-4. The Saints fought well to the end with numerous goal mouth scrambles being denied by Charlotte in the waning minutes. Overall, the Midwest represented well at the Finals. Next year’s championship will be in Chicago.
Al O’Leary Tournament: The annual tournament will be held by the Akron Celtic Guards on October 2. Reach out to Akron for more details on this great hurling and camogie tournament.
Cleveland GAA Golf Outing: Cleveland will be back out whacking in the annual golf outing on October 9th at Copper Top in Valley City. Check the Club website (ClevelandGAA.com) or social media for more details on the scramble and dinner special. This year’s sponsor is Ward & Burke Construction – a global leader in microtunneling as well as water and wastewater infrastructure specialists.
Cleveland Adults: Several rookie-friendly sessions are planned throughout the fall and winter for football, hurling, and camogie. Reach out to the club if you are interested in trying a Gaelic sport ahead of next year’s competitive season.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh (thanks y’all) to our readers and supporters. We need your help and involvement but would most like to share the fun of Irish sport and our community with you. Consider getting involved at any level.
Fáilte (welcome) to all. The Gaelic Athletic Association is Ireland’s largest sporting organization and a bit of home for the Irish abroad here in the US of A. Beyond sports, the Association also promotes Irish music, song and dance, and the Irish language as an integral part of its objectives. Cleveland GAA is open to all who want to play competitive sports, meet new people, and join an athletic, fitness-minded club for all ages.
Follow @ClevelandGaelic on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the 2020 activities for Men, Women, and Youth. Or visit ClevelandGAA.com.
*Vincent Thomas Francis Xavier Beach is a proud Greater Clevelander and emigrant of Michigan. He joined the St. Pat’s Gaelic Football Club in 1999 and, with much help, is the current caretaker of the Cleveland GAA. His Irish is a cross of dialects from the University of Cincinnati and An Cheathrú Rua. With his wife, Michelle, he enjoys watching time absolutely fly by as their children, Ambrose (12), Bernadette (10), and Cedric (7), grow. His other hustles are coaching CYO basketball at St. Mary of Berea, coaching soccer in Olmsted TWP, teaching Construction Management at CWRU, and laying down some engineering skills on local concrete and water/wastewater projects.