Ireland, The Land of Saints, Scholars and Sport

Traditionally, the Irish have been acclaimed for our literature, music and friendly pub culture.  Yes, we have beautiful scenery, but this isn’t a climate that encourages a lot of outdoors activity – but no, that does not slow us down.  While we might not have the international reputation of some countries for sporting success, we do have a national love of sport, all sports and any sports.   We’ve long been known as the land of saints and scholars, but it might be time to add ‘sports’ to that list.  If you are looking for Irish gifts for a sports fan, it won’t be hard to find something perfect.

Right now, the nation is afire with football fever as Ireland progresses through the UEFA 2016 championships.  Of course, this is not American football but the game called soccer in North America.  Irish fans have made themselves enormously popular in France by being themselves and embracing the Irish gifts of humor, music and general good-natured merriment.  In fact, the fans have pretty much upstaged the players as video after video of their good deeds and witty antics has gone viral.

James Joyce once said it would be great challenge to get across Dublin without passing a pub, and driving through the countryside today one might be tempted to say it would be an equally good challenge to drive from one end of the island to the other without passing a golf course.  The leisurely pace of golf leaves plenty of time for banter and stories so no wonder it is popular here!

Of course, locally the Gaelic Athletic Association keeps the nation’s young people engaged in our own traditional sports – hurling, gaelic football and camogie – with clubs in villages and towns in every county.  At the county level, the games draw enthusiastic crowds and the GAA county colors show up on a wide range of Irish gifts.

Sports from other countries are also growing in popularity.  Rugby has become a big deal here, and each of the four provinces fields a team.  The national team plays in the Six Nations league, and those playoffs inspire the same wave of national sports mania as the UEFA championships, although on a slightly smaller scale.  The American sport of basketball is also catching on, and more and more homes can be seen with a hoop mounted outside.  So far, basketball is not very organized, and it is mostly played by friends at parks and in driveways.

The beautiful game known as football here and soccer in the USA is probably the most popular sport in Ireland.  At least this month it has captured the nation’s attention, inspired children to dream big as they kick a ball around with their friends, and propelled Irish fans and their lovable antics to the international stage.  Sports-themed Irish gifts are very timely this summer, whether it’s a simple baseball cap, a useful golf towel or a rugby shirt more likely to be worn to the pub than on the field.