The Diagram Group takes a look at hurling

The Diagram Group is a great company, based in New York, I believe, that makes a living showing people the fine details of everyday things.

KNOW THE SPORT: In 1974, the Diagram Group offered a look at how the game of hurling was played.

KNOW THE SPORT: In 1974, the Diagram Group offered a look at how the game of hurling was played.

In particular, they use drawings and infographics to explain complex subjects, such as how sword designs changed over the centuries or the wide variety of musical instruments that have been created since the dawn of time.

The company also has several editions available of its book called “Rules of the Game,” where each entry takes a look at how a variety of sports are played. Not only does it go over the playing rules, but it also offers layouts of how the playing surface should look and equipment to be used.

For a person totally new to a sport it can be extremely helpful to have the topic so thoroughly explored and in an extremely visual way.

With that in mind, I give you the 1974 version of the “Rules of the Game” entry on hurling. There have been several updates since the 1974 version, and while I have one of the newer editions, but since the sport has changed very little since then, the 1974 version generally works for a new player, even if the drawings are quaintly ugly.

In fact the only two changes I can detect between now and then are that helmets are now mandatory and what the Diagram Group is calling a “Throw In,” which is something I’ve never heard of. I’m not intimately familiar with the more-arcane rules, so it might still exist.

Even better, go grab a copy of the modern version of the “Rules of the Game” for yourself. Not only can you show people how to play hurling, but you get some idea on how to play other non-American sports such as korfball and shinty. If that’s not enough, why not brush up on your knowledge of how gymnastics is actually scored and the required size of baseball diamonds?

Want to see bigger images of these pages? Click here for Hurling Page 1 and Hurling Page 2.

FOULS: The Diagram Group shows some of the ways you can get in trouble in the sport of hurling.

FOULS: The Diagram Group shows some of the ways you can get in trouble in the sport of hurling.

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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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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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A new look for Hurley to Rise

Welcome to the new version of Hurley to Rise. The new home will provide the blog smoother uploads and editing.

NEW LOOK: Hurley to Rise's new look

All my old posts are here too, though they might look a little weird for a while until I work backwards and adjust them to the new look.

So please be sure to bookmark this site, unbookmark the old site and check back for new posts every week or so.

My “Fall season” is supposed to begin in October, so I’ll have plenty of things to talk about, not to mention the fact that I still have lots of things to say about the summer season.

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It’s time again for the Super Bowl of hurling

Killlkenny Scorecard

GOING FOR FIVE: This graphic was created by the Irish Independent, a national newspaper in Ireland. See the full story on Kilkenny here:

You may not have noticed this, but there’s something out across the Atlantic, and it’s not Hurricane Earl. Over in Ireland, hurling, the sport this blog is dedicated to, is making big news as that country’s two best squads are prepping for the 2010 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship.

To you and me, that’s like the Super Bowl of hurling.  As with the 2009 Championship, the two teams are Kilkenny and Tipperary. If Kilkenny, the favorite, wins it will be the fifth straight title for the county.

Not to be outdone though, we Americans are playing for our own title this weekend.  Hurling teams from around our country are gathering this weekend in Chicago for the North American Championship.

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