Gaelic football Saturday on the Plains of Abraham

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Photo: Les Patriotes de Quebec

(Back row, left to right) Jean-Philippe Mazet, Jerome Fiolleau, Jean-Sebastien Gagnon, Alexandra Furlong, David Talbot, Darragh Murphy and Jean Pouliot. (Front row, left to right) Alexis Giroux, Steve Moreau, Stewart, John Cheetham, Alain Lachance and Michal Pawica.

City youth will get an education Saturday in Ireland's most popular sport - Gaelic football - courtesy of Les Patriotes de Quebec. The team is inviting youths 12 to 17 to participate in an initiation match, which will serve as a kickoff of sorts for this year's fifth annual Quebec Celtic Festival.The festival itself won't begin until September 10. In the meantime, Ireland's most popular sport will serve as an appetizer.Les Patriotes were founded in 2006 with a mix of amateur players of all skill levels. The sport resembles a combination of football and rugby, though it is somewhat less violent than the former.The game is played on a soccer field, but with a ball that looks like a volleyball. Players are allowed to push and shove and pass the ball by kicking or striking it. Players cannot run with the ball in hand for more than four steps without releasing, bouncing, or kicking the ball back into his hands. Three points are made by putting the ball in the net, or one point, by getting it over the cross bar.In a nutshell, that is how Gaelic football is played.The sport, barely known in Quebec City, enjoys wild popularity in Ireland."I attended a game in Dublin at the Crocke Park and 83,000 people were watching," Ile d'Orleans resident Jean Pouillot told the Chronicle-Telegraph last summer.Pouillot plays for and is a member of the board of directors of Les Patriotes de Quebec, the local Gaelic football team. The Montreal Shamrocks are the province's only other Gaelic football team. Most players in other leagues are Irish-born, but Les Patriotes annually field only two or three Irish natives."When we play against Americans, they can't get over a team that speaks French on the pitch," Pouillot said last year.