Na Fianna 2019 Finals

Ladies of Na Fianna,

Please read the following carefully and fully and then make sure you answer!
Nationals this year is August 23 rd thru 25 th in Leesburg, VA and Na Fianna will be attending. Games for our divisions (football and camogie) are played on FRIDAY, SATURDAY and (if we go the distance) SUNDAY. As such if you plan on traveling you will be obliged to take several days off from work in order to travel and make the games. (more info, see below)

New this year to ladies Gaelic football is a Junior C Division where newer clubs and players can compete for the North American Championship cup. (Previously ladies football junior division only had Junior A and Junior B groups.) Na Fianna usually competes as a Junior B team and, in the last few years, we have been on the cusp of being able to field 2 full teams. The same is true this year given how many people we have registered as Players (45!) and given how many new people we have we could easily field Junior B and a Junior C teams as well as our junior camogie team.

NOTE: Your board must make a decision on this matter by MAY 19th !!!
If you are going to Nationals please, Please, PLEASE indicate so on Teamer OR let Sean or another coach know! Do so ASAP. Deadline is MAY 16 th by 3pm (Board will make the final call that evening.) If you want to go but are not sure if you can, please indicate a MAYBE on Teamer.

In the interest of keeping things Short and Sweet, above s is the most important information you need. Below I will go into some details as to the Whys and Whats of Nationals, games, teams, etc…


Why Two Football Teams?

A full field game of ladies Gaelic football at Nationals means that there are 13 women on the field at all times. When you register a team, however, only 22 are allowed on the roster for any one game. So if a team brings 25 players they can only play a max of 22 in any one game. (Those names can change for next game but not during the same game.) Our junior division allows for unlimited subs. Unlimited subs is good for a team with a large panel but it is up to the coaches to decide who plays in any game. At the start of the year, Na Fianna voted to be a Competitive Club which means we are asking the coaches to play the women they feel give the Club their best chance of winning. That may mean that the 13 starters in a game are the only players who will play in that game… or it could mean that all 22 players on a roster will get some game time in that particular game. It depends on the day, the players, the opposing team, etc.

If Na Fianna sends both a Junior B and a Junior C team then the odds of everyone who traveled playing during Nationals weekend is nearly guaranteed. However, this means that the Club must send at least 26 players to Nationals to field 2 full teams. Obviously we’d like that number to be closer to 30 or even 35 so that both teams have subs. (Note: for new people especially, players from junior C can switch to the junior B team during Nationals but then cannot go back to play in junior C. Also, once you have played in a junior B game you cannot play in any junior C games for the rest of the tournament.)

As mentioned, the date for the Board to sign up teams entering Nationals is May 19th . This is quite early in the season because the draw for the scheduled happens in June. The “draw” means that teams from the same division – like ladies junior B football – are pulled out of a hat for who plays who in the semi-final games. From that the schedule is drawn up and game times established. Many teams, Na Fianna included, have a good number of dual players so the hosts make sure that games do not overlap so that our camogie players, for example, would not have to run from one field directly onto another with little or no rest in between. This is done as much as possible throughout the whole weekend so some schedule change on or before the day is inevitable. We, like many smaller clubs, also have the added issues of having coaches who are also players – so ladies football, camogie and possibly multiple men’s hurling divisions are all involved. That’s a lot to consider and we are only one Club out of dozens! If a Club enters a team and withdraws after the draw occurs and the schedule has been decided that Club will be fined and suspended until the fine is played. This incentivizes Clubs to not enter teams only to turn around and withdraw thus messing up the schedule and wasting other Club’s time and money. The fine can be as much as $2500 per team. This is why we ask for commitments so early and that you make a decision about going to Nationals. This is why we are giving you the option to sign up now and possibly have 2 ladies football teams this year. If we do not get enough people for 2 teams committing to Nationals then the Board will enter only one football and one camogie team… even if 25+ people end up traveling.

To be clear: you could travel to Nationals and not get to play at all.
This is not to scare you into staying away or agreeing to go if you aren’t sure. Your Board just wants this potentiality to be as clear as possible. At the end of the day, just attending Nationals is a great experience – from a team, skills and individual point of view! We train all year for this weekend especially and I hope each of you will be able to take the time and enjoy it, too.

USGAA Championship Details

This year is the first year (that I am aware of) that the championship game weekend is being held in August. Normally it is over Labor Day weekend in September which means most people get an extra day for travel (i.e. Monday) but I won’t get into why the change this year as it’s a long story. It is what it is at this stage. Most codes and grades have quarter finals on Friday, semi-finals on Saturday and Finals on Sunday. That means travel to Nationals is required on Thursday and (usually) go home on Monday. Sunday night there is a big party in an Irish pub/restaurant hosted by the local GAA club(s) for all the teams, supporters, referees, etc. The venue for these championship games changes every year. Traditional tournament sites are: San Fran, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago. But the following places have also hosted in the recent past: Seattle and Cleveland. They try to alternate east and west coasts to help offset costs to Clubs. This year is the east coast and the time difference is killer. I strongly suggest that people do not try to fly a red-eye Thursday and then expect to play well in a qualifying match on Friday morning. (Junior teams usually get graced with the early morning time slots for games, FYI.) So it is likely that you will need to travel out to Dulles International Airport on Thursday and return on Monday morning. Time off requests run along the lines of Thursday, Friday and Monday or just Thursday and Friday with a return flight Sunday night if missing work on Monday is not an option.. The games are “one and done” so if we lose Friday in the quarter finals there is no path to winning the division. (There is a “losers bracket” for teams called the Shield Tournament where the losing teams can play each other just so the whole weekend isn’t a complete waste. These games we take nearly just as seriously given that our Club get so few competitive games during the year. They could be held Saturday &/or Sunday depending on field space and referees.)

The Tournament
Everyone who attends these games are required to pay an entrance fee. Everyone. Yes, even the players! It has always been like this and, no, it’s not great but this is (in part) how the Club(s) who host recoup some of the cost of putting these games on. (Welcome to the GAA!) There are weekend passes available or you can pay daily – which usually ends up costing more if you end up attending every day. The web site I linked above has a tab where you can buy passes online. Before June and there’s $5 off. If we have a group of 30 or more then we can get 10% off the total bill. (Your Board will look into buying in bulk IF enough people commit to going. We will make that decision as soon as we know how many are planning on going to Leesburg.) At the tournament there will be food (burgers, fries, etc. and usually Irish crisps and candy too), drink (alcoholic, nonalcoholic and some Irish choices), merchandise including playing equipment and event specific clothing, and other booths which could include raffle items, massage therapists and any other things the hosting Club(s) can come up with. (Once you see West Coast 7s, times it by a factor of 10 or so.) Buses are usually provided to the teams as part of our entrance fee (which is why we are obligated to stay in certain hotels) but you must either pay to get into the fields on the day or be wearing your pre-purchased wrist bands which you will wear all weekend. As mentioned, the teams are obligated to stay
in the host hotels but no team is obligated to eat only at certain places or even attend the festivities
Sunday evening.

There are a lot of moving parts to get our wonderful Club players as many full, competitive games as possible during the season (West Coast 7s, San Fran trip, Denver tournament, Orange County and LA games and more) with the grand culmination of all our fundraising, training and hard work to be USGAA Championship weekend (aka Nationals). We want this experience to be a great one for all involved but to be able to accomplish that we need your help – your feedback, your participation, your energy and your passion. Na Fianna is over 20 years old and one of the best GAA Clubs out there. Not because of the trophies we win but because of the friendships we establish, our love and trust in one another and our respect for every individual. We are a GAA family; we are Na Fianna.