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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
CROKE PARK: The stadium hosting the the 2012 All-Ireland Hurling Championship quickly filled up toward the end of the minors match as the crowd geared up for the seniors battle between Galway and Kilkenny.
As the Minors Hurling match was closing down, the stands at Croke Park began to fill up as all of Ireland settled in to watch the 2012 All-Ireland Seniors match between Galway and Kilkenny.
In the minors match, the stadium in Dublin had only filled to about one-quarter of its capacity. But by the end of that game, which leads directly into the seniors match, the crowd had blossomed to more than 80,000.
As the seniors game broadcasters and analysts hit the field, the crowd proved too noisy for them to even hear well, as they started to clutch their headphones to hear one another.
BIG CROWD: Just before the game started, the hurling teams marched into Croke Park stadium and broadcasters announced that more than 80,000 spectators had shown up for the game.
Before the start of the game, their was a short pregame show featuring a procession of the two senior teams, flags from every county in Ireland. The most amusing sight was two balloons that carried massive flags for County Galway and County Kilkenny.
BALLOONS: The pregame show featured an advertisement for a tourism event in Ireland set for next year. “The Gathering” is meant to draw in a Irish diaspora from around the world. Two floating balloons featured the flags of Kilkenny and Galway.
After theatrics with the flags, the hurling teams assembled on the field for a minute of silence — but I didn’t hear for what. After that rather noisy minute, the game commenced.
QUIET PLEASE: The massive crowd on hand could be seen during the moment of silence before Sunday’s All-Ireland Hurling final between Galway and Kilkenny.
As the glow of the 2012 London Olympics fades, some hurling fans might be wondering “Will there ever be a game of hurling at the Olympics?”
While the answer for the immediate future is “no,” the sport could make it to the Olympics some time in the decades to come.
THE MAIN REASON
First off, one has to understand the main reason why hurling isn’t in the Olympics: Not enough countries play significant amounts of hurling to justify an Olympic tournament.
GOLD MEDALS: Hurling is a sport that was created in Ireland, and with a lot of work it could develop into an international game. Once it hits that level, it could be considered for a future Olympics.
If it happened today, or even 10 years from now, any international contest in hurling would be dominated by a team from Ireland, the sport’s home country. Irish hurlers would, quite simply, devastate their opponents from other countries. It would be like having kindergarteners playing high-schoolers in a game of basketball.
Take a look at American Football. It suffers the same problem: lack of competitiveness. A U.S. “dream team” would completely destroy any assembled by another country.
So right off the bat is there’s no hurling in the Olympics because there’s no quality competition available to Ireland.
And that is the simple answer — the simple answer to the simplest version of the “Hurling at the Olympics” question. No one can touch the Irish at hurling, so there’s no point in creating an international competition.
But that leads us to a better question: “How could hurling become an Olympic sport?” That is, what is needed to insure quality games of hurling on an Olympic stage?
First off, let’s tack off a few things that the hurling community is doing right.
1. Governing body: According to the basic IOC rules, every Olympic sport must have an international governing body.
Citing American football again, you’ll note that there’s no such organization for American Football. Well, in truth, there is such an organization — the International Federation of American Football — based in France, but it offers no oversight to the way Americans (or even Canadians) play the game. Can you imagine some organization in France handing down sanctions against the the San Diego Chargers, for example? Or an organization telling the Canada’s CFL to remove the two-point conversion from the rulebooks? No, that just isn’t going to happen.
Unlike the NFL and the CFL, the world of hurling is actually dominated by one organization, Ireland’s Gaelic Athletic Association. While the GAA is essentially an Irish organization, it has a world-wide reach and has made decent efforts to push the sport past its national boundaries, so it can technically qualify as an international governing body. 2. Gender equality: Olympic sports also need to include both genders, and for that hurling gets bonus points again. The GAA actively promotes camogie, the game of hurling for women. Just like many sports, there aren’t a lot of camogie players out there, but there’s certainly enough to build up to an Olympic level.
With those minor hurdles cleared, we come back to the getting into the Olympics in general.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
It appears that there’s a hard way and an easy way for a sport to graduate to become an Olympic sport. Let’s look at both:
The Hard Way: The GAA would spend roughly the next 20 to 30 years aggressively building and promoting the sport of hurling in additional countries. It would certainly help its case if it managed to push the game to every continent and through multiple cultures.
In Europe and North America, it has a decent enough showing. Over in Australia and New Zealand, they wouldn’t have too hard of a time to build up some organizations either. Just a little more investment of time and money in those zones would create some real competitors.
Believe it or not, Argentina once had a thriving hurling scene, but that was dampened by World Wars I and II. Still, reviving it might be possible. Once it had a foothold again in South America, it could easily spread through the rest of the continent.
Asia and Africa would obviously prove to be the most difficult sells. China certainly has the money and people power to give a hurling team a try. Dangle the possibility of more Olympic gold in front of them and they would very likely take on the challenge. The GAA just needs to supply some coaching. The Japanese might appreciate the game too, given their interest in baseball. The starting point in Africa would logically be South Africa, but beyond that it might not gain much more ground. (Although check the video below!)
Over every continent, the GAA should “sell” the game to countries that are already fielding strong teams in sports such as field hockey, lacrosse and baseball. These sports share many of the same skills as hurling, and countries that show strength in those could pick up hurling in just a few generations of players.
Once the GAA gets those foreign clubs started and sufficiently competitive, it’s just a petition away from playing for Olympic gold.
But like I said, that would take forever. Decades of work. Hundreds of millions in investments.
The Easy Way: There’s another route to the Olympics for sports such as hurling. All that needs to happen is for Ireland to become a Summer Games host country and run hurling as a demonstration sport.
You see in the past, the IOC allowed host countries to include non-medaling sports on the Olympic schedule. The problem is that demonstration sports have been gone since 1992, but that could easily change in the next few years with simple ruling from the IOC. (And it’s an option that many sporting organizations and fans want back.)
The key to “The Easy Way,” of course, is earning the right to host the Olympics — a massive undertaking in its own right that takes — you guessed it — decades of work. Hundreds of millions in investments.
So yes, hurling could be an Olympic sport … given lots of time, effort and money.