Aisling Mac Aree takes a broad look at the remarkable growth of lacrosse in Ireland, Musial Awards and preparations for returning to training for the UCD Lacrosse Club in the latest Club Focus
Lacrosse is a little like hurling, only the boss of the hurley is replaced by a net and putting the ball over the bar won’t do you much good. For the majority of Irish people, knowledge of lacrosse might be limited to American television or Enid Blyton books (think Wild Child, Teen Wolf or Mallory Towers), and as such, they might be surprised to hear that it’s actually one of the fastest-growing sports in the country. From initiatives bringing lacrosse training into schools, to active leagues at collegiate and national levels, the sport has a thriving community in Ireland. Furthermore, even with Covid restrictions in place, there have been several exciting developments in the field of Irish Lacrosse.
Among these developments was the Irish Men’s Senior National Team qualifying for the 2022 International World Games (IWG). These games offer a pathway for sports to be considered for inclusion in the Olympic Games and provide a huge amount of publicity for the sport in Ireland. However, despite the indisputable benefits that competing in the IWG would have for Irish lacrosse, the Men’s Senior National Team volunteered to vacate their spot in the Games in order for the Iriquois Nationals to be considered for selection in their place. The Iroquois Nationals have been described as being “to lacrosse what Ireland is to hurling”. As the originators of the sport, they are widely respected within the lacrosse community and have been described as the “soul of the sport”. The difficult decision on behalf of the Irish team was greatly appreciated by the Iriquois Nationals who stated, “words do not do justice in expressing the depth of our appreciation for the tremendous sacrifice of Ireland Lacrosse.”
It was not just the Iriquois Nationals who were appreciative of this act of sportsmanship, the wider sporting community were moved by the selfless act and, because of this, Ireland Lacrosse has been selected to receive a Musial Award, symbolic of the greatest moments and showcases of sportsmanship. This is massively significant for the sporting community of Ireland as it is the first time that a team outside of the United States has been selected to receive this award and the first time it has been given for Lacrosse. This award demonstrates the values that Irish Lacrosse holds dear; “sportsmanship, kindness, and character in sport”. These values make up the very heart of the game and are tangible at every level of the sport.
Another exciting event in Irish Lacrosse is the 2021 World Lacrosse Men’s Under 20 World Championship is set to be held in Limerick. The World Championship, which was originally scheduled from the 9th to the 18th July this year, will now be played in June of 2021 due to Covid-19 restrictions. Unfortunately, as with all sports in the current climate, this event was not the only casualty of Covid-19. The Women’s National Team trials were postponed in July, and again in October. Most collegiate leagues were cancelled or postponed for the winter season, and training has come to a halt as a second lockdown came into place.
UCD Lacrosse has also struggled to adjust to these new restrictions. For a club that advertises themselves as being "90% social and 10% Lacrosse”, there has been a seismic shift in the way they can organise events this year. Under normal, pre-Covid circumstances, they would train twice a week and head for team pints in the clubhouse after training on Thursdays. Another important event would be the annual Galway trip which involved both playing matches and going out in Galway city. “We had a vibrant social calendar, with events, team building, and nights out almost every second week. We hope that we can eventually get back to that”.
However, the group have decided to make the best of things and have started planning out new and safe events, such as Zoom Halloween Movies, online chalk talks and wall-ball drills. They have also put a Covid safeguarding policy in place, so as soon as the country begins to re-open, they can resume training as normal with every measure in place to ensure the safety of the players. “We.. strictly only train non-contact at level 3. The wellbeing of our members is of paramount importance to us.”
Looking forward, the club has said “We are aware that it is a very difficult time for Freshers to start at UCD. There was no ‘Freshers’ Week’ this year and as such you may have missed the opportunities usually afforded to first-years to join clubs and societies and get involved in campus activities. However, our doors are always open to anybody who wants to try out this brilliant sport".
"Whether you are in first-year, final year, a complete beginner, or an undisputed pro, every level is welcomed. For anybody looking for a way to meet new people, have some fun, and maybe do a bit of sport in the process, Lacrosse is the best club you could hope for”.