Although the social aspect "was the main reason we started the club," Prendeville said the club takes the competition fairly seriously.

"It is about the sports," he said. "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."

Jimmy Zabel, who played soccer at Mount Hebron and later at Mount St. Mary's, said the BGAA has a little for everything — less competitive teams during the spring and fall and more competitive teams during the summer for travel to tournaments across the country.

"We're definitely out there to win," said Zabel, who still plays soccer in a men's league in Howard County, where he grew up. "But there's a big social part to it, too."

The atmosphere now is more what Prendeville remembers from his childhood.

Prendeville said he grew up in a town called Castleisland, in the southwestern part of the country, playing every sport imaginable — for the town. The town's Gaelic football teams were dynasties, so the competitive instincts remain even as Prendeville is closing in on 40 (he's 38, "and I feel very sore after I play").

Gaelic football grew out of soccer during the 1850s, when "it was dangerous for Irish people to play an English game," Prendeville said. Still, Gaelic football is more like soccer "if you had 13 goalies playing at the same time using their hands and feet," Lucy Prendeville said.

Gaelic football is not as rough and potentially bone-jarring as Australian Rules Football, which some Americans have become familiar with on ESPN. Prendeville said the Australian game was started when the most notorious of Irish criminals were sent Down Under rather than to local prisons, bringing their footballs with them.

"Australian Rules Football is lawless Gaelic football," said Prendeville, an operations manager for a Baltimore-based cosmetics manufacturer. "You can see how the game could spawn from people who were in a prison yard."

Hurling — camogie for women — also had its share of social and political influence. According to Prendeville, hurling doesn't go back thousands of years like Gaelic football, but when the country was split for political and religious reasons, the Irish kept their sticks for playing hurling "in the air" while the English continued with two similar sports closer to the ground: ice hockey and field hockey.

"Lacrosse players say that their sport is the fastest on grass, but hurling is," Prendeville said.

As their club has grown, so has their immediate family. The Prendevilles now have a daughter, Patricia, 20 months.

"She has her own [camogie] stick," said Lucy Prendeville. "There are a lot of kids who are under 5 coming to our games."

Lucy Prendeville said the Washington club to which she and her husband once belonged is starting to form a league for kids. She has similar aspirations for the Baltimore Bohemians.

"We want the sports to grow," said Lucy Prendeville, who works in sales for Under Armour.

don.markus@baltsun.com

Irish Sports 101 clinic

When: Sunday

What: A free clinic, open to the public, where beginners and returning players can learn how to play Irish sports

Where: Latrobe Park (baltimoregaa.com/fields)

When: Hurling/camogie, 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m.; Gaelic football, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts