The members of the UNC Irish Sports and Culture Club, which became an organization in 2014, play Gaelic football and hurling.
Members of the Carolina Irish Association choreograph and perform traditional and modern Irish dances. Their showcase is on March 27 at the Stone Center, said member Shelby Hammerstein. The group is trying to gain awareness for it today.
The Raleigh Gaelic Athletic Association sponsors the Irish Sports and Culture Club with coaching and equipment, said treasurer Sarah Holstein.
One of the coaches, former chairman of the Raleigh GAA Dara O’ hAnnaidh, moved to the United States five years ago from Ireland.
“The Irish community in the Triangle is really flourishing,” he said. “The dancing and sports clubs are really good for the Irish community. It’s an easy home away from home.”
The UNC Irish Sports and Culture Club is having a Gaelic football competition on Sunday against N.C. State University’s Gaelic sports club in Raleigh.
The members of both the Irish Sports and Culture Club and the Carolina Irish Association have various backgrounds, and many don’t have any Irish ancestry at all.
Hammerstein said the Carolina Irish Association members try to promote and celebrate Irish culture through dance, and they hope that people without any Irish descent will also become interested through their performances.
Hammerstein said she has been Irish dancing for 15 years. Her grandmother is of Irish descent, and the Carolina Irish Association allows her to stay connected to her lineage and to part of her childhood.
“I had the opportunity to go to the world championships in Ireland when I was eight,” Hammerstein said. “I felt a huge connection there. Dancing is a huge part of my life and my identity.”
The group has beginner dance classes for anyone to attend.
Holstein is not of Irish descent and only learned of traditional Gaelic sports while studying abroad in Dublin. When she returned to Chapel Hill, she wanted to spread awareness of these sports because she saw how important they were to Irish people.
The club is mainly focused on athletics, but Holstein said they would like to get into other parts of Irish culture, such as steel-string music. They are also interested in recruiting more women.
“Gaelic sports are some of the only sports women continue to play after school, so we want to get more women involved,” she said.
Members of both groups said that they are interested in collaborating with each other in the future.