Straight from Ireland — The best hurling of 2013

It’s the end of the year, and since you can’t find too many hurling clips of American squads in action, we’ll turn to the bonafide experts of the game over in Ireland.

First up, we’ll start with this video from the GAA as it highlights the best goals of 2013.

Next we can look at the 10 greatest hurling moments according to the broadcasters of the Sunday Game. (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.

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.

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.

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.

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Penn State, UCF schedule a stop at Ireland’s Croke Park

penn-stateWord 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.ucf-knightx

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.

To help you get an idea what Hurling is like, check out this video:

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.

Want to see some more of Croke Park? Check out this video and check out this post.

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.

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Game awareness in hurling is a test of skill … and hearing

LEARNING CURVE: Playing hurling is a different from many team sports since it's difficult, if not impossible, to truly set up plays that outwit your opponents.

LEARNING CURVE: Playing hurling is a different from many team sports since it’s difficult, if not impossible, to truly set up plays that outwit your opponents.

We return to my conversation with Mike, a guy working out with the St. Louis hurling clubs, as he worked to learn more about the national sport of Ireland.

Mike continues on in his letter (which I’ve edited a bit):

This weekend in the rookie’s practice I had a very good run on goal, soloed it with people hacking away at me, juked the heck out of one guy… and then completely messed up at the mouth of the goal … I didn’t even think about looking for teammates or even just attempting the point. On the other hand it was my first legit attempt on goal, and actually the first time I ever possessed the ball in a game-like setting.

Besides working on fundamentals, and working on looking for teammates with a better position, is there any way I can improve my situational awareness? I’m not sure how I got so close to the goal because the only thing I was thinking was “Oh crap you have the ball!” Is this something that comes naturally by just scrimmaging?
Basically I am asking, how do I become a sound offensive (or all around player) and actually be productive with the ball?
Regarding situational awareness, its not surprising a new player is a little green with it, even with prior team-sport experience. Hurling, while it shares a lot in common with Lacrosse and even ice hockey, has a high degree of randomness in it. In fact, it’s almost impossible to truly set up plays other than baiting an opponent away from one of your teammates or simply faking them out.
As with anyone adopting a new game, such awareness it will come, especially as you run through some of the more complex drills available in hurling. These drills don’t teach you to set up plays, but rather they are meant to hone your skills and promote skill usage while on the run.
Names in the game: One clear bit of advice I offer to new players is this: Learn the names and voices of all your teammates, especially those hailing from Ireland. More importantly, learn to listen while you’re on the field, because they will be hollering advice through the entire game — not just when you have possession!  Once you begin to tune those guys in, you’ll soon hear’em even when you’re practicing on your own. Some times it will just be “Jonesy is open!” but eventually you’ll find the more practical advice sticks with you, such as “both hands on the hurley!”
So to sum it all up, my advice to new players is:
  • Practice your basic skills at a decent clip.
  • Learn to listen to your teammates.

Good luck out there, newbies!

Photo by STEVE BURT via

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Hurling books make great stocking stuffers


Over the last few years, Hurley to Rise has read a few books about the sport of hurling that have helped us understand the game better. We Americans need all the help we can get understanding hurling and its finer points, and sometimes a book is just the ticket.

With that in mind, I can say I wholeheartedly recommend these as Christmas stocking stuffers for the hurling enthusiast on your gift list.

“Hurling USA: America Discovers an Ancient Irish Sport” by Denis O’Brien — An exploration of the sport as it arrived in America, disappeared and reappeared in modern times. History lessons aside, the author talks to a number of modern enthusiasts about how they first encountered the sport and brought it to their own little corner of the United States. Originally an e-book, it’s now available in print form too.  (In full disclosure: I am quoted in the book.)

“Ireland’s Professional Amateurs: A Sports Season at its Purest” by Andy Mendlowitz – This was one of the first books I read about hurling (and its related sport, Gaelic Football) and it delved into explaining some of the background elements of the game in Ireland. In particular it looks at how the amazing athletes who play the game aren’t compensated for their play. Instead they do play out of pride for their homeland. It’s really a foreign concept to many Americans — these guys perform at a pro sport level, but don’t get paid millions for their work. Heck, they don’t even get paid thousands for their work.

“The Wolfhound Guide to Hurling” by Brendan Fullam — This thin book offers a look at the historical and mythical roots of the game and offers some early accounts of those who reported on the sport. It supposes that the reader knows quite a bit about hurling and its legendary players, but despite those complaints it’s quite interesting.

I also have a few other hurling books in my to-read pile, but I just haven’t got to them yet. They are:

Expect a review on those in later entries in Hurley to Rise.

Do you know of any more? Care to write a review of your favorite? E-mail me and let’s work together!




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2012 All-Ireland Hurling finals: Before the game

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.

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