With Penn State and UCF game, Ireland’s hurling takes center stage

Penn State tight end Kyle Carter hits a ball with a hurling stick as players take part in traditional Irish sports, Gaelic football and hurling, following practice at University College Dublin on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Dublin. (AP Photo/PennLive.com, Joe Hermitt)

Penn State tight end Kyle Carter hits a ball with a hurling stick as players take part in traditional Irish sports, Gaelic football and hurling, following practice at University College Dublin on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Dublin. (AP Photo/PennLive.com, Joe Hermitt)

It’s kind of thrilling to see the Penn State football players with hurleys in hand as they try out the traditional Irish sport of hurling.

If you’ve never heard of the game, you’re in for a real treat. It’s a crazy-fast sport full of action and, to American eyes, it looks remarkably dangerous. There are heavy wooden sticks swatting at hands and feet in an effort to get a baseball-sized ball into two scoring stations on each end of the pitch.

Hurling is played on an absolutely huge field — as much as 100 yards wide and 160 yards long — which means Penn State and the Central Florida will have plenty of room to stretch out for their big game in Dublin’s Croke Park.

To score in hurling, a team has two options. Option one is to smack the ball past the goalkeeper, who’s manning a net that’s wider than a typical soccer goal. The other option is to hit the ball above the crossbar. Blasting the ball, called a sliotar in gaelic, past the goalie earns three points. The easier shot above the crossbar is worth 1 point.

The squad required to play the game is huge too. You need 15 players on each side to fill out the monster-sized pitch.
Why so many players? Why on a field so big? That’s because a solid hit on the ball can send it more than 80 yards across the field. With that kind of range, you need lots of space.

Want to know more about hurling, then check out this short video on the basic rules of the game.

http://youtu.be/TmzivRetelE

HERE IN AMERICA

If you have an interest in hurling after seeing Croke Park during Saturday’s game or after seeing the American footballers trying their hand at it, then check around your nearest big city because there’s a good chance there are people playing hurling or gaelic football in your own back yard.

While it’s hard to believe, the sport is gaining major traction here in the U.S. Massive clubs are in Milawaukee and the New York City areas. Beyond them, even smaller cities are seeing teams popping up. You can even do a spot check for your state in Hurley to Rise’s listing page at http://www.ydtalk.com/hurley/u-s-hurling-clubs/

Once you find them, don’t be shy. Contact them and ask if you can stop by and learn more about the sports. You’ll be glad you did.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Hurley to Rise has worked over the last few years to try to provide some real instructional posts on how to play the game and describe it in terms familiar to Americans. In that time, I’ve managed to discuss a wide variety of topics about the game.

Here are some starting points:

Penn State linebacker Mike Hull, third from left, grabs a hurling stick as players take part in traditional Irish sports, Gaelic football and hurling, following football practice at University College Dublin on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Dublin. (AP Photo/PennLive.com, Joe Hermitt)

Penn State linebacker Mike Hull, third from left, grabs a hurling stick as players take part in traditional Irish sports, Gaelic football and hurling, following football practice at University College Dublin on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Dublin. (AP Photo/PennLive.com, Joe Hermitt)

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The hurlers kept going without me

While I’ve been mostly skipping hurling for this year, and prospects seem slim for any real hurling action in the immediate future, my enthusiasm for the sport hasn’t dimmed.

It’s still a great game to watch, as you can see in the above clip.

Even though I’ve been sitting on my kiester, the world of hurling has continued to move forward. Just the other day, I got a request to add a new team to my list of U.S. clubs. Welcome aboard, Richmond! (And if your club isn’t on the list, let me know!)

LABOR DAY WEEKEND: Check out the Gaelic Athletic Association matches coming up in Boston.

LABOR DAY WEEKEND: Check out the Gaelic Athletic Association matches coming up in Boston.

Likewise, the North American clubs are getting ready for the yearly championships. This time, GAA players from across the continent are traveling to Boston, where they will be playing at the Irish Cultural Center over Labor Day weekend. The event, organized by Boston and the North American GAA, promises to be be bigger and better than before.

Over in Ireland, county clubs are working their way through the All Ireland, the championship series of hurling. The semifinals featured Kilkenny vs Limerick and Cork vs Tipperary in the last week or so, with powerhouses Kilkenny and Tipperary making it to the Sept. 7 final.

WORLD COVERAGE: See what's happening with GAA teams from around the globe in Gaelic Sports World

WORLD COVERAGE: See what’s happening with GAA teams from around the globe in Gaelic Sports World

Beyond the game itself, the real story in Ireland is that Sky Sports, the British broadcaster is offering coverage of many Gaelic Athletic matches. That means that some Irish viewers haven’t been able to see broadcasts of their key games. At the same time, the games are being broadcast in the greater UK as well, resulting in some mixed reviews from British sports fans who are more accustomed to their own brand of football, rather than gaelic football and hurling.

Also since I’ve last written, a new digital magazine has launched. Gaelic Sports World, helmed by Gaelic Sportscast’s Denis O’Brien, is a publication dedicated to gaelic sports from across the globe. (You can even see my name in the magazine as a writer.) Check out the latest issue here.

Meanwhile, America is getting ready to invade Ireland with its own game of football. The Croke Park Classic, set for Aug. 30, will feature American college football teams in the historic Irish stadium. The match will pit Penn State against the University of Central Florida in a very unique setting that’s sure to pique many Americans’ interest in the gaelic games. Check out this post for a detailed look at the game announcement and a gaelic sports primer for Americans.

So, like I said, it’s been a remarkably busy time, even without me taking time to blog about it.

Penn-State-Logo

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‘Major Tom’ on what it takes to be on the hurling pitch

In an Irish tourism video, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield tested his skills while on the hurling pitch. http://youtu.be/LFiGhD1OEws

Hadfield became something of a media sensation during his last mission aboard the International Space Station when he offered a cover version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Nothing special, you might think, but what was cool is that he recorded it while floating in zero gravity. http://youtu.be/KaOC9danxNo

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A few St. Patrick’s Day parade photos from U.S. hurling clubs

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and Gaelic Athletic Associations around America are out in full force. Here are some pictures from some of the clubs’ appearances in various parades over the weekend. Do you have some pictures from your events this weekend? Send them to john@johnsimcoe.com

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Learn more about the Hampton Roads Hurling Club of Virginia at www.facebook.com/HamptonRoadsHurlingClub

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Learn more about the Fox River Hurling Club of Wisconsin at www.foxriverhurlingclub.com/

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Learn more about the Naperville Hurling Club of Illinois at www.naperhurling.com/

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Learn more about the Tacoma Rangers of Oregon at tacomarangers.wix.com/tacoma-rangers

Learn More about the Roc City Hurling Club of Rochester, NY, at www.facebook.com/roccityhurling.

Learn more about the Roc City Hurling Club of Rochester, NY, at www.facebook.com/roccityhurling.

Learn more about the Allentown Hibernians of Pennsylvania at www.pahurling.com.

Learn more about the Allentown Hibernians of Pennsylvania at www.pahurling.com.

LOUISVILLE

Meanwhile the recently founded Louisville Gaelic Athletic Club was featured on WLKY.

Check out the interview and discussion here: http://www.wlky.com/news/Louisville-group-recognizes-Irish-traditions-year-round/25004460

Learn more about gaelic football in the Louisville, Ky., area by visiting louisvillegaa.com

Learn more about gaelic football in the Louisville, Ky., area by visiting louisvillegaa.com

SALEM, OREGON

The Statesman Journal offered up an introductory article on the great sport of hurling. Check it out here: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20140316/NEWS/303160054/For-some-hurling-whole-new-ball-game

In any article like this, it’s important to tell people when and where the club meets, info this article offers in its first paragraph. Doing so helps bring out those with casual interest or allows Irish ex-pats to catch up to the local club.

YOUR CLUB?

Has your club been featured, past or present, in the local media? Send me a link to john@johnsimcoe.com.

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America loves the gaelic games — especially when it’s St. Patrick’s Day

It’s March, and that means a slew of articles and news stories are popping up that offer mainstream America a glimpse at hurling and gaelic football.

NEW JERSEY: Students at Kean University can learn more about hurling thanks to a new club that's started at the school.

NEW JERSEY: Students at Kean University can learn more about hurling thanks to a new club that’s started at the school.

As one might expect, the various U.S. clubs are happy to oblige with such interview requests. They need all the publicity they can get, and St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect opportunity to talk to America about getting connected to their Irish roots.

Here at Hurley to Rise, I want hear about all these interviews. Send me links to articles, video clips and even radio interviews.

Why send them to me? Well, the more exposure your club gets, the more people will find you.

Just mail your links and information to john@johnsimcoe.com

KEAN UNIVERSITY

One new club is located at Kean University in Union, N.J., and the university’s online newspaper featured the club in a helpful article that will help the club recruit new members.

It was especially great that Dave Lewis, the club founder, explained the GAA is more than a sporting league. ““The GAA [Gaelic Athletic Association] community is so supportive of one another and they want the sport to grow and get bigger and make sure people have a very genuine cultural experience.”

Find the Kean Hurling Club on Facebook.

NEW ZEALAND

Hurling is drawing interest in other English-speaking countries too. Across the globe in Christchurch, New Zealand, there’s a surge in play as Irish ex-pats arrive in the country. Read all about it this article from The Press.

Find the Christchurch GAA on Facebook  or at the McKennas website.

YOUR CLUB?

Again, has your club been featured, past or present, in the local media? Send me a link to john@johnsimcoe.com.

Let’s get people talking about the gaelic games.

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