Chris O’Dowd: Actor and gaelic sports hero

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.

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.

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Robotic goalkeeper could flush humans out of the game

Two Japanese firms that actually share the same name have teamed up to do something unthinkable. They created a robotic goalkeeper.

Well, that isn’t terribly unthinkable, I suppose, but the fact that they made it out of a toilet is a little unfathomable.

The device is actually kind of ingenious. When a player kicks the ball, the SGTK (an acronym for Super Great Toilet Keeper) gauges the speed and distance of the incoming object and then fires its own ball out of the toilet basin. That ball follows an intercept path to deflect the soccer ball away from the goal.

In the video, it’s an impressive set up that’s sure to get a plumber’s heart racing.

Now of course, this is kind of a joke project, something done for fun to have a laugh. The company that made this also created a toilet-styled motorcycle, after all.

And although the limber loo seems unstoppable,  its not hard to spot see some of its football flaws.

  • The ball-launching john has to be reloaded, so it can’t stop follow up shots that have been recovered from a rebound.
  • It appears to be only able to defend when the ball is launched from the white circle on the field. That’s like saying you always have to stand directly in front of the commode when you wee. It’s no fun if you can’t test your accuracy from different angles and distances!
  • The SGTK may not be able to block a shot that flies in extremely close to the device. Although perhaps it would just rotate with its lid up and use that to block.
  • I also wonder how it might handle a ball that’s bouncing. Could it calculate the erratic nature of a ball that’s skipping along and losing velocity?
  • It doesn’t have any ability to recover the soccer ball and pass it to one of its non-commode teammates.

Despite all those issues, I can’t help but wonder how such a device might be useable for hurling or gaelic football.

Just think, it could:

  • Operate as a goalkeeper when none can be found, after all, no one really wants to be a goaltender.
  • Serve during practices and drills to help players develop their goal-scoring shots. They just need to remember to put the seat down when they’re done.
  • Save valuable game time by having a throne right on the field. (No more racing to the Port-A-Potty near the concession stand!)

Of course an SGTK would have to be entirely reconfigured to be used in a hurling setting. Hurling balls are much smaller, of course, but they also move a lot faster than a soccer ball. Maybe the SGTK could fire out a Frisbee-sized disc instead of a ball? Even better, have it fire a urinal cake — it would intercept the sliotar AND leave the field smelling fresh.

And converting the SGTK to gaelic football? No problem since it’s functions wouldn’t be that much different than it is in a soccer setting.

Even the cost is relatively club friendly. You can get one built for 600,000 yen, which is a little less than $8,000.

But then the question lingers — like the funk of Mexican meal on the way out — is $8,000 too much for a goal keeper or would we be flushing our money away?

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Gear up for the North American hurling finals

BIG GAMES: Click the image for a full-size version of this poster promoting the 2012 North American gaelic championships

Gaelic Athletic Association players from around the country are getting ready for their big year-end event this weekend as Philadelphia hosts the North American County Board championship games.

The three-day event will include games of hurling, camogie and gaelic football.

If you’re wondering when your local team is playing, check out the schedule here.

Right now, I’m planning to attend games on Friday, although I doubt I will play. I’ll try to post some blogs and photos from the site if at all possible, so keep an eye out for additional posts on Friday.

Initially, the Philadelphia club planned to have its new facility ready in time for the 2012 event, but that just didn’t come to fruition. You can see the future Limerick complex here.

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May tournament in Cleveland

After the St. Pat’s GFC April kick-off party, the club will host a multi-state tournament at Victory Park.

May is a great time to bring hurling to the masses. No matter how much they drank on St. Patrick’s Day, they’re bound to be sober a month later. More importantly, it’s finally  getting warm enough in the Northern U.S. to get out and play some hurling.

Cleveland’s St. Pat’s Football Club will be doing just that on Saturday, May 19 when it hosts its second annual St. Pat’s Sevens Tournament. The event, at Victory Park in North Ridgeville, Ohio, will be played on four fields simultaneously and include gaelic football, ladies gaelic football and hurling.

Teams from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana and Ontario are currently scheduled to appear.

For more information, contact the St. Pat’s Gaelic Football Club.

If you’re interested in the club, don’t miss their Shamrocks & Rookies night on April 13.

Is your club planning a hurling event? Send me the information at, and I’ll post it here at Hurley To Rise.

After your event, send me photos and a report, for a follow up post!

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Converting America (Part 4): Embrace the new media

Welcome to Part 4 of my series about how the Gaelic Athletic Association can increase interest and participation in their sports here in America. Now on to the entry …

In America, and I would assume the rest of the world, the youth culture has whole-heartedly embraced technology. Whatever is new is what they want.

BIG CROWD: GAA games in Ireland regularly fill thousands of seats.

If the GAA, the international governing body of the Irish sports of hurling and gaelic football, wants to capture an American (and world-wide) audience, it must dive into these technologies and make their sports the sport of a new generation. The first step, of course, is to actually be available to that generation, and the GAA has clearly bungled that effort.

But all is certainly not lost. The GAA can turn things around in a matter of months if acts quickly, and here’s a game plan for them.

  • Build a feeder website – For most of the world, hurling and gaelic football are an oddity. In fact, it’s not too crazy to assume that most of the world has never even heard of either sport. The GAA needs to change that, and the best way is to build a multi-language “feeder” website that lays out the basics of the sports, without going crazy on the details. It should entail a snapshot of the sports’ history, a basic guide on their rules, some videos of each, a checklist of items you need to play and a simple storefront for basic supplies. Once you’ve got this, promote the heck out of it at Irish festivals, Irish bars, the Olympics, sporting events and anywhere else that seems appropriate.
  • Get a YouTube channel. Get a Twitter account. Get a Facebook page – I am still puzzled why the GAA doesn’t have (or at least doesn’t advertise) accounts on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Each of these are vital to reaching out to the tech-savvy crowd. On YouTube, regularly post quality videos of match highlights. On Twitter, pump up big games and venues where Americans can see them. On Facebook, promote local clubs, highlight key matches, point out equipment suppliers and create a general push for hurling and gaelic football.
  • Freshen up the North American GAA site — Go on, take a look at the North American GAA site. It’s not a disaster or anything, but it certainly is boring. The site needs a new look, daily fresh content and be made to clearly promote its sports.

    ONE STEP BEYOND: The GAA app for iPhone looks great, but what about Android users? And how about something for those who play the sports instead of catering only to spectators?

    It also needs an updated guide on the clubs that are currently active. If the Irish GAA needs to take over the site, so be it. Once things get working right, it could hand it back to the North Americans.

  • Build a gaelic games app – (Updated from my initial entry) Smartphones and their so-called “app programs” are huge. The GAA desperately needs to reconsider the app they have available for their sports. It shouldn’t be a simple scoreboard program. It certainly  needs to provide scores, but it should also house player profiles, team histories, international activities, game rules, videos and coaching tips. Or better yet, make an app for each of those categories and for both sports. Frankly, the GAA needs to go a step further and help those trying to play their sports, not just an app for spectators. Additionally, the GAA needs an app for the other big platform — Android-brand phones.
  • PLAYSTATION 2 GAME: In 2007, Transmission Games published a hurling video game, which included an instructional DVD for real-life players.

  • Keep building video games – Back in 2007, a company called Transmission Games came out with a few video games: One featured hurling, two featured gaelic football, and I believe a fourth came out that combined the two gaelic games on one disc.  (There’s also a game advertised here, but I know of no other information on it.) Unfortunately, all the Transmission Games publications got terrible reviews and only worked on Region 2 Playstation 2 consoles.  Regardless of their initial reception, the GAA should subsidize the development of new games and make them available on a worldwide market. Sure, they won’t be big sellers, but their very existence might convince video game junkies to put down the controller and pick up a hurley. In this case, any recognition of your sport is good.
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