COMEDIAN: You can see Chris O’Dowd in “Bridesmaids” and “Thor: The Dark World.” One of his early British TV series, “The IT Crowd” is available on Netflix.
It can be difficult to get a good grasp on the sports of hurling and gaelic football for Americans. We don’t have any frame of reference for the games. We’ve never seen a movie that focuses on the gaelic games. We can’t watch them on TV. There’s never been a video game based on them — well never one that was released in the states.
These sports are just totally off our radar on a national cultural level.
So it was interesting to see the video where minor Irish celebrity Chris O’Dowd, a featured actor in movies such as “Bridesmaids,” “Gulliver’s Travels” and “Thor: The Dark World,” talk about his views on gaelic football.
And as you saw, O’Dowd isn’t just a fan. O’Dowd actually played gaelic football as a goal keeper. Representing County Roscommon, he played throughout his “high school years” and eventually in the post-school Under-21 divisions. While he was in the Under-21 division, he manned the goal for Roscommon in the 1997 Connacht Minor final against County Mayo.
So, we have Chris O’Dowd on our side. That’s good. But who else?
Are there other Irish actors and musicians that are fans of the gaelic games? Let me know.
Next we can look at the 10 greatest hurling moments according to the broadcasters of the Sunday Game. http://youtu.be/ajeagHCk15g (Warning, this is a bit of a long video thanks to the great intro.)
If you don’t mind some gaelic football mixed in with your hurling clips, then check out 2013′s best tackles in the GAA. http://youtu.be/RBiDK5NHsIo
But hold on a minute … we do have a few American clips to show you!
Eamonn Gormley, who brought us the fantastic 1-million-plus viewed “Fastest Game on Grass” video, hit the fields in Cleveland, the host of the 2013 North American County Board finals and brought us two great videos.
First up, we have the camogie champs. http://youtu.be/QyyJsSxMqnE
Then take a look at this compilation of moments from the NACB finals weekend.
We especially enjoyed the lengthy interview with GAA president Liam O’Neill. http://youtu.be/OjqIcuG80is
And of course, why not relive the All-Ireland hurling final. The championship was settled in a replay match between County Clare and County Cork. Their first attempt to determine the year’s champions ended in a draw, so they had to play it again a few weeks later. This is the entire un-edited game. http://youtu.be/Rv9FGy9MqOY
Word just came out that the Penn State football team will square off against Central Florida later this fall. Not to exciting, really. Just another football game, right?
Not exactly. In 2014, the Nittany Lions are planning to take their opening game on the road. And not just down to Florida either. They want to leap across the pond to Croke Park, Ireland’s legendary stadium in Dublin.
Here in the United States, we pretty much assume that European countries aren’t terribly interested in what we Americans call football. We think they’re all crazy about what they call football and what we call soccer.
And while that soccer is popular in Ireland, Croke Park is primarily used for a whole different kind of sport. Two sports in fact.
One sport is called hurling. It’s a 3,000-year-old game that is the likely forebearer of hockey (both the ice and field versions) and lacrosse. Hurling is what this very blog is dedicated to. In “Hurley to Rise,” I look at how hurling is being played in America, offer tips on how to play and provide some guidance to the fledgling teams that are popping up.
The other sport Croke Park is known for is also called football, but it’s not anything like what Penn State plays, and its only a little bit like soccer. The Croke Park version of football is commonly called Gaelic Football outside of Ireland.
Both sports attract huge crowds to Croke Park, which can seat more than 82,000 spectators. The sports are collectively organized by the Gaelic Athletic Association, a group dedicated to preserving and strengthening Irish culture.
Gaelic Football follows pretty much the same rules as hurling, except that it has no stick and the ball is more like a soccer ball. Instead of hitting the gaelic football, you kick it. Other than that, the games are quite close in rules and playing style.
Now you might think this is all rather quaint. They play these nice little sports on their nice little island and no one pays any attention to them.
But you’d be wrong, because here in America, they’re actually becoming fairly popular.
There are gaelic sports clubs in the Nittany Lions’ and UCF Knights’ back yards, for example. In fact, there are a lot of teams all across the United States. You can find a list of U.S. hurling teams here, most of which are organized by American divisions of the GAA.
And if any of this seems remotely interesting to you, contact those teams and find out how you can get on the field (or simply come out and watch a game). They will, without a doubt, be happy to have you.
Finally, I invite all you Penn State and UCF fans to take a look around this blog and learn even more about hurling. Then, when you’re off to Ireland next year, you’ll have plenty to talk about with the natives.
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.
HOW THIS IMAGE CAN HELP YOUR CLUB
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN BRONZE: Hurling legend Christy Ring is remembered in a statue at the County Cork airport in Ireland. (Photo from Donal O Caoimh of http://www.donal.ie)
When you look at old documentaries, it’s usually with a little bit of a smirk on your face. They are quaint, often silly and terribly outdated.
But today I ran across an old hurling video starring Christy Ring, one of the game’s best players ever. In it, Ring and his narrator provide some absolutely wonderful advice on some of the basic skills of the game.
So it was with great sadness that I found out that the 2012-13 season was in jeopardy as the National Hockey League’s player’s union and its team owners battled it out over how much the players were played. The talks degenerated quickly and the players have been “locked out” of their paid playing opportunities since early in the fall. Since then more than half the season has been canceled. The truly exciting “Winter Classic” was canceled.
And fans? They’re angry and frustrated.
Even the NHL Network has pretty much given up. Now it’s broadcasting games from the Canadian Hockey League.
And despite occasional bursts of activity, things look quite dismal for the remainder of the season, the playoffs and the Stanley Cup finals.
Sounds a lot like the way the Gaelic Athletic Association operates. Unlike so many other premiere sports leagues around the world, the GAA doesn’t pay its athletes. In fact, it strictly forbids it. Yet every year, it fills massive stadiums in Ireland for its games of hurling and gaelic football. And across the world, more and more teams are springing up for these games every year.
But instead of letting the best players go to the highest bidder — as they do in virtually every other team sport in the world — the players of hurling and gaelic football fight it out on the pitch for community pride. It’s true. Players aren’t allowed to join any club they want, instead they can only play for the team that’s affiliated with their birthplace.
So, if such a policy were enacted for America’s National Football League, then players born in Pennsylvania would only be allowed to play for the Steelers or the Eagles. Even then, there would probably be some sort of imaginary line splitting Pennsylvania in half to designate boundaries on who goes where.
But I digress.
The point here is the Canadian politician offers an excellent option for the Stanley Cup, and there’s even a few good reasons why it should happen:
The Stanley Cup was originally meant to awarded to the top amateur team in hockey. Not the professionals, but the guys who had to hold down a day job.
The Stanley Cup is not controlled by the NHL. It is governed by independent trustees who can award it at their discretion.
Quite frankly, the NHL and the player’s union need to get the message that the sport of hockey can go on without them.
Further, the fans of the sport could be well served by a wake-up call of their own. Just like the GAA does, the Stanley Cup organization could foster a wave of hometown pride as amateur hockey clubs from across the U.S. and Canada battle it out in a March Madness-style tournament to get their name on the cup.
And the day after these amateur players hoist up the cup? They go back to their jobs and a chorus of “atta boys!”
That’s exactly what happens in the GAA, and it is a spectacular celebration of sportsmanship.