When Tadgh Prendeville moved here from Ireland in 1998, he didn't know a soul. Now, he says he can count about 80 locals among his closest and dearest friends.
Back in 2003, Prendeville started Baltimore's Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA)—a sports club where members play Gaelic football, hurling, and camogie.
"At first, I was very lonely and almost flew back home," Prendeville says. "But I stayed here because this club helped me form a community."
Prendeville originally heard about the GAA through its chapter in D.C. He played there for a few years and met his wife, Lucy. The two of them (along with a friend) formed a chapter in Baltimore.
"Somebody asked me once what it meant to be Irish and I didn't know what to say," says Lucy, a New Jersey native whose parents emigrated from Ireland. "These sports connect me to my heritage."
Gaelic football is similar to soccer, but the field is larger, players can use their hands, and goals are either one or three points. Hurling is like field hockey, and the female version of hurling is called camogie.
"Hurling is the oldest known Irish sport," Lucy says. "If you're starting a Gaelic sports club, you have to include it."
The season starts in mid-March and the club plays in co-ed leagues until May. After that, it starts divisional play and divides up into gendered teams. The club then takes on other regional teams. It all culminates with the national championships on Labor Day. Baltimore is currently the Mid-Atlantic champion in football and camogie.
"We're looking for people who seriously want to play," Prendeville says. "While we're about sharing a circle of friends, we really just want to compete."
While some of the club's 80 members are Irish, most of them are Americans.Many are not originally from Baltimore and want to make friends in their new city.
Prendeville says it's great that he has no shortage of friends, but he admits that hasn't been the best reward. Eight months ago, he and Lucy had a little girl, Patricia.
"Her mother's already bought her a tiny hurling stick."