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It might look like soccer or lacrosse, but it's the Gaelic games

On first glance, you might think one game looks like soccer, and the other hybrid lacrosse. Look again.

You'll see those "soccer" players bouncing the ball, and the players holding sticks are also catching the ball in their hands.

About 2,000 young athletes from 250 teams will be playing the fast-paced games of Gaelic football and hurling during an international tournament that starts Thursday in Western New York.

Billed as the largest Gaelic games held outside of Ireland, this year's Gaelic Athletic Association's Continental Youth Championships will be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the West Seneca Soccer Complex, 3747 Seneca St.

"It's basically an eye-opener for someone who's never seen it," said tournament head Paul Mulciare of the Buffalo Fenians.

Boys and girls from 6 and under to 18 will be playing games of Gaelic football, which looks like a cross between soccer, basketball and the rough and tumble of rugby. Hurling, billed as the fastest game on grass, also is on the schedule. Players wield sticks shaped like axes, combining the skills needed in baseball, lacrosse and hockey. Older girls play camogie, the female version of hurling.

Many skills are needed for the games, and playing can help athletes who play other sports, Mulciare said.

"Your mind is constantly running, thinking about what you're doing all the time," he said. "That’s why we start them young, to teach them all that."

The sports here and in Ireland are amateur. There is no professional level, he said.

Teams and families will be bused from hotels, and others can park at West Seneca West High School, 3330 Seneca St., and take a shuttle to the fields. No parking will be allowed on Seneca, Main or side streets. Admission is $10 for adults Friday and Saturday; those under 18 are free. No coolers are allowed in the gates, but chairs are permitted.

Food and drink will be available on the grounds, including Irish sausage, hot dogs, hamburgers and curry chip, soft drinks, beer and hard cider.

Mass will be celebrated at 8 a.m. Sunday under the food tent. Volunteers will be wearing green shirts.

Buffalo joins cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago that have hosted the games. Mulciare said this is the largest number of athletes the tournament has had.

The tournament will generate 5,000 hotel room nights, drawing teams and visitors from as far away as California and generating $3 million for the local economy, according to the Buffalo Niagara Sports Commission.

Buffalo to host continental Gaelic games in 2017


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