How a leprechaun can help your hurling club

LUCK OF THE IRISH: Enjoy this coloring page

LUCK OF THE IRISH: Enjoy this coloring page on your own, or just ask and Hurley to Rise will send you a version to use for your own events.

While this isn’t exactly hurling related, I just wanted to point you to a St. Patrick’s Day-themed coloring contest going on here in York, Pa.

Your kids can color in the image at right to win some prizes from The York Emporium, a local bookstore, including a spot on their St. Patrick’s Day Parade float.

Details on the contest, and the coloring page image can be downloaded in this PDF.

Still wondering why I’m even mentioning this hyper-local contest on my blog? Because I’m the artist of this beauty of a coloring page!

Yeah, I know I should have added a hurley and sliotar into the image somewhere, but I couldn’t figure a way to do it and still have it appeal to those not familiar with the gaelic games.


The greater message is this though: GAA clubs in America (and elsewhere) need to offer a full-course menu of activities during their recruiting efforts. You certainly need to appeal to adults with the promise of comradery, after-game beers and athletic competition. But you also need to start catering to the family crowd as well. Do this by offering parent-friendly leagues, sideline activities for kids in tow, game instruction for kids, picnic events and crazy things like coloring page contests.

With that in mind, hurling and gaelic football clubs are welcome to use the image for their own events — as something to hand out to kids during a publicity campaign, an activity to keep kids occupied while mom and dad are on the pitch, or even on a giveaway t-shirt. Just let me know and I’ll send you a raw image.

Further, I can help you come up with other, more GAA-themed coloring pages and images if you are so inclined. Just contact me at

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Try the Crossbar Challenge as a hurling club fundraiser

Hurling clubs in the U.S. are notoriously underfunded. They beg their players for dues to cover field costs, insurance fees, advertising and equipment replenishment, so it’s no wonder that the clubs are constantly scrounging for cash.


OBJECT: Hit the goal’s crossbar with a sliotar. The more times you hit the crossbar, the better.

EQUIPMENT: Hurls, at least 10 sliotars and a goal.

DISTANCE: 10 yards out (maybe less).

SHOTS: The player gets 10 balls.

ENTRY FEE: $10 per player. ($7 goes to the hosting club, $3 for prize money)

PRIZES: Top prizes are based on the number of times the crossbar is hit among all players. Each “hit” on the crossbar gives the player one share of the prize money. The more hits the player makes, the more shares earned.

WHEN: Play between games at a tournament or at the end of a tournament.

For the most part, fundraising comes in the form of pub crawls, pub sponsors and direct solicitation. A while ago, I suggested creating an annual Poc Fada (essentially a hurling-inspired game of golf) as another revenue generator.

Well, here’s another idea: The Crossbar Challenge

This fundraiser (which I stole from the GAA, which, I believe, was stole from the soccer world) tests a hurler’s skill to the extreme. Essentially, contestants get a set number of hits from a set distance from the goal. The object is to bounce the ball off the crossbar with one of those hits.

Your team’s skill level is what determines the number of shots they can take and the distance. For most American players, I would recommend 10 shots from 10 yards (or even less) out.

Of course, this is a really tough test of one’s hurling skills. You’re asking people to hit a very thin target with a fairly small ball.

Since there’s a chance that no one will hit it, I would suggest a tie-breaker: Turn the players around and have the players make one hit. Whoever hits the longest ball (first bounce only) is the winner of 50 percent of the prize amount, the second longest gets 30 percent and third gets 20 percent.

Here’s a look at some Irish players taking the challenge.

WHEN: The best time to have this fundraiser is when your club is hosting a tournament, so you can get oodles of players from multiple teams.

Typically, you’ll want the Crossbar Challenge to take place after all the games are done for the day. You don’t want to tire out the players before their big game.

PRIZES: While I’m not sure of any real prizes for a Crossbar Challenge, here’s how I would do it:

Collect $10 (or whatever amount you deem appropriate) from all the players.

Seventy percent of the collection goes to the hosting club. Thirty percent of the entry fee goes into the prize pool.

Every time a player hits the crossbar, he earns one share of the prize. When all the contestants have played, divide the pool up into the number of shares created and dole out those shares.

The reason you should give out shares (versus a first, second and third prize) is because anyone who hits the crossbar should be honored, even if for just a couple of bucks. Why? Because hitting the crossbar at all is a major accomplishment!

STAFF: The fundraisers will need a few staff members. Essentially you need a treasurer, a record-keeper and two judges.

  • Treasurer: This person is responsible for collecting all the money and distributing the prize money at the end of the competition.
  • Record-Keeper: This person collects all the names of contestants and records hits as determined by the judges.
  • Judges: Two judges are stationed at both sides of the goal. They watch to see if the ball hits the crossbar and signal to the record-keeper.

Clubs might also consider adding:

  • Emcee: This person hooks up a PA system, introduces every player, jokes around with them a bit, tries to get the crowd into the event and encourages additional signups.

BIG BUCKS: To create an even bigger fundraising bang for your buck. Announce the Crossbar Challenge a few weeks before a tournament and urge interested players to find their own sponsors and raise the entry fee to $50 or $100.

The point here is that the contestants should ask their workplace, employees or family to sponsor them.

To further sweeten the prize-pot, try to get a few local stores to add to the winnings in the form of gift certificates and sports supplies. The hosting club should also offer a club jersey too.

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Converting America (Part 6): Poc Fada fundraisers for hurling clubs

Since hurling clubs here in America are so small, so decidedly tucked away in the “niche” sport category, a lot of them have trouble paying field-use fees, gathering equipment and attracting the attention of non-players. Basically, they’re always short on cash.

CROSS-COUNTRY: Tipperary’s Brendan Cummins lets fly during the 2009 Martin Donnelly Poc Fada on Annverna Mountain. (INPHO via

Most try to scrape together money by hosting pub-crawls, soliciting donations at Irish heritage festivals or tapping sponsors, which are almost always Irish pubs.

Almost all of these efforts tie the game and its Irish roots with throwing back a few beers. For most, this is absolutely fine. For others, it’s an unfortunate reinforcement of the Irish stereotype — that of a pub-loving, drunken rabble-rouser.

If hurling wants to succeed in Puritanical America, it needs to rise above that. It doesn’t need to rise too far, mind you, because there’s plenty of beer-loving sports fans here in the U.S., but a even little separation from that stereotype is sure to help.

So here’s what I would suggest for the next hurling club fundraiser: A poc fada.

Now bear with me, because I bet a lot of American-born hurling players don’t know what a “poc fada” is.

Basically, it’s the hurling version of a homerun derby for baseball players — with a golfing twist.

In a poc fada, the players assemble at a given point and hit their sliotars as far as they possibly can. Then they advance ahead to where the ball landed and hit it again. The players are working their way to an end point about 3 miles away. They keep hitting their ball until they get there, and the player with the fewest strikes wins.

Players in the All-Ireland Poc Fada Championship can do this in 50 hits or so. Americans might be lucky if they can get it 80. Here’s a website dedicated to that event, which includes rules, results, photos and videos.

Still, this is the kind of activity even non-hurling players can get into — heck, they would probably even pay a fundraising fee to play. Consider this:

  • The skill set is minimal, so practically anyone can do it. (Maybe not well, but they can do it.)
  • Smashing the ball as far and as hard as you can is always the most satisfying part of the game. A poc fada boils hurling down to just that.
  • The rules are simple — hit it as few times as you can to reach the goal.
  • It provides a basic introduction to several key aspects of hurling — long and big hits, the ball and the hurley.
  • It sparks an interest in hurling.
  • People of all ages and athletic levels can participate.
  • It’s a day out in the country that isn’t a golf game. This is something different.

Here’s how you can set up a poc fada fundraiser:

  • THE LAND: Contact a local farmer, park administrator or Joe Average land owner and talk to them about the poc fada. Ideally, you’ll want to use a 50-yard-wide strip of land that goes over hill and dale and is relatively clear. It only needs to be mostly clear, because obstacles make a poc fada more fun. For farmland, the basic grazing pasture (and not cropland) is ideal.
  • RUN-THROUGH: Get some team-members to do a run through of the proposed course and figure out the average number of hits, the par, it takes to complete (this will be important). You should also look for potential hazards on the course — not golf-style hazards, but injury-inducing hazards — and clear them out.
  • THE DATE: There’s two schools of thought on this. Either have it on or near St. Patrick’s Day — to catch people when their Irish pride is the highest — or as far away from St. Patrick’s Day as possible — to intrigue non-Irish folks about gaelic sports.
  • FINANCES (FOR SKILLED PLAYERS): Your hurling club members (and anyone who’s good with a hurley) should take pledges from their friends, family and coworkers. Basically, they pledge to pay you more for the least number of hits by following this formula: (50 + the pre-determined course average) – (the player’s score) = The Pledge multipler. Example: Someone completes the 65-par poc fada in 52 hits (50+65-52=63), his supporters then pay him 63 times their pledge amount. So someone who pledged 25-cents now owes $15.75.
  • FINANCES (FOR THE PUBLIC): If the public wants to play, have them pay to play. I’d recommend that they pay $20 or so, include some refreshments and a giveaway item, such as a shirt or mug.
  • RECRUIT: Once you’ve got the fundraising rules down, the par established and pledge forms created, you need to go out and recruit some additional participants. First off, hit up local business people with Irish names, news broadcasters, celebrities, politicians, retired sports stars and maybe even current players from the local pro baseball team — this will help you get some publicity. After that, start circulating forms at local pubs (yeah, why not?), Roman Catholic churches and schools (lots of Irish folks there) and anywhere else you can think of to generate some interest. At the same time, hurling club members should be seeking out pledges of their own.
  • ADVERTISE: Once you’ve got a date and a location, start advertising the event. You don’t necessarily have to spend money to do so, just send a press releases to your local paper, television and radio stations. Print up some fliers and hand them out around town. Be sure to explain what a poc fada is, too.
  • LEGAL: If you play the poc fada on private land, you need to get some sort of waiver that exempts the landowner from liability for injury. This is absolutely necessary. Whether or not it’s on private land, you should also have a waiver that exempts the club from liability for injury. There are two likely injuries in a poc fada, someone gets hit by a sliotar or someone trips and hurts themself on rough terrain.
  • TRAIN: At the start of the poc fada, you should host a training session for all newcomers on how to hold the hurley, how to hit the ball and give them a few practice swings. If it’s apparent that novices aren’t going to hit as well as your regular members, you might want to consider a shorter course for them.
  • HELP: Don’t let all your hurling club members play in the poc fada, have a few work as ball-spotters (very important!), ombudsmen and on-the-course coaches. Their goal is to make sure the non-members have fun, learn the basics of a poc fada/hurling  and corral people who wander off the course. They should also keep a close watch on the equipment to make sure no one walks off with a hurl or sliotar.
  • PLAY: When the big day arrives, get out there early. Make sure the weather will be good, because if it’s not it will be miserable. Have someone in charge of all the side details — parking, refreshments, restrooms, form organizing, equipment quartermaster, fee collection, cleanup, boundary marking and so on. Once all that’s all good, get playing, have a good time and be proud you’ve further secured your club’s future.

Want to see an actual poc fada? Here’s a you tube video where they blast hits along a country road in Ireland.

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