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‘Irish eyes are smiling’ as Gaelic Youth games come to Buffalo

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Buffalo will play host to the world's largest youth Gaelic Games next July.  It's the first time the Gaelic Athletic Association Continental Youth Championships selected a smaller city to host the games. More than 3,000 youth athletes on 250-teams will participate to play Gaelic football and hurling.  WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley talked to some local students who play in Gaelic leagues.

Students who play on the Buffalo Fenians under 12-football team demonstrated their ability on at the West Seneca Soccer field. That is where the games will take place next summer.

“Gaelic sports is like nothing really a lot of people in America have ever seen unless you kind of know something about it,” said Matthew Lomot of Buffalo. He is the head coach of the under 12 football team.

“It’s not soccer. It’s not rugby. It’s a completely different sport that’s been around longer than any of them,” explained Lomot. 

Reilly Shea of Orchard Park Middle School and Steven Higgins, a student at Fredrick Law Olmsted School both play Gaelic football.  

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Gaelic football on West Seneca soccer field.

“We wear cleats, soccer cleats, jersey, high shorts, knee socks,” replied Shea. 

“Kind of what makes it its  own sport is that you have to either bounce it on the ground ever few steps and then you can only toe tap it,” said Higgins.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul appeared for the announcement of the Gaelic Youth games.

A local organizing committee spent three years luring the games to come to Buffalo. Buffalo is the first city to host the games that is not in a traditional rotation of major cities including New York, San Francisco and Boston.

Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul appeared at the announcement in West Seneca.  

"We are now in the big leagues with this announcement," declared Hochul.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Chairman of the committee to bring the games to Buffalo, Padraic Walsh, appears with local leaders for the announcement in West Seneca.

"We are being treated on par with those larger cities, but I will tell you right now, they are not cooler cities. We are on fire here in western New York."

Chairman of the committee Padraic Walsh said much preparation work will get underway on the soccer fields in West Seneca to prepare for next July.  “We’re going to transform this place into 15 individual Gaelic football fields of different sizes because of different age groups,” Walsh said.

While Gaelic football is more like soccer, Walsh described the hurling competition as 'hockey in the air.'

“Hurling is the fastest field sport in the world and they have traced it back over 3,000 years as a warrior sport,” noted Walsh.

Next year’s Gaelic youth games are expected to bring in 18,000 visitors from around the U.S. and Canada and generate nearly $1.9-million economic impact for the region.

Local leaders and those closely tied to the Gaelic games say Buffalo is a "perfect match" given its strong Irish-American roots. Coach Lomot has the 'red hair' that represents his heritage.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Matthew Lomot of Buffalo is the head coach of the under 12 football team.

“So if you were to trace your red hair, where does it come from?” asked Buckley. 

“My father’s red hair and his mother, they’re from Ireland and Scotland, so that’s where that comes from,” replied Lomot.