Ireland's president visits high school in Sammamish to watch gaelic football

SAMMAMISH, Wash. -- Irish President Michael D. Higgins spent Thursday morning at Skyline High School where students showed off their skills playing gaelic football – the national sport of Ireland.

Skyline senior Jordan Shim never thought his physical education class would include Ireland's president as a spectator.

“This is new to all of us,” Shim said. “To come watch a pretty big high school play a P.E. sport that’s big in his country, I think it’s awesome.”

Higgins had a front-row seat watching the students play Ireland’s national sport.

Gaelic football is at least 350 years old and it’s a cross between basketball, football and soccer. American physical education instructors are only now introducing more kids to the sport to help keep them physically active.

“It’s constant movement, yeah,” said James Corcoran, a player for Seattle’s gaelic football club, Seattle Gaels. “It’s a great way to keep fit.”

“It’s very easy for the students to learn the game,” said Terence Lynch, youth coordinator for Seattle Gaels. “They’re re-purposing skills they already know.”

The Seattle Gaels helped introduce the sport to local schools.

“There are clubs around the country that want to duplicate what we’ve done here in Seattle,” said Brian White with Seattle Gaels. “Teachers from around that country that want to try to integrate this into their curriculum.”

“It’s a weird sport but it’s pretty fun once you get the hang of it,” said Shim.

Most kids said they caught on to the sport pretty quickly. Playing in front of an international visitor meant students were trying to prove they’re on top of their game.

“It’s totally surreal,” said Skyline student Alec Willig. “The fact that the president of another country came to my high school to be able to watch us play this sport, it was a lot of fun.”

Perhaps with international encouragement Skyline student athletes will stick with gaelic football.

“He came up shaking our hands, coming feet from us,” said Willig. “It’s pretty cool.”