Celebrating our collective Irish-ness, even if you skip the hurling

It was a strange series of errors last year that meant I had to skip mentioning St. Patrick’s Day and a variety of local Irish-themed events in my area, York, Pa.

Of course, that’s just totally not cool at all since this blog is about the very Irish sport of hurling. Though most people in the U.S. haven’t heard of the lacrosse-like field game, it’s one of two national sports in Ireland and once you get a glimpse of it, you’re sure to be impressed.

HURLING: This centuries old sport was developed in Ireland and is slowly making strides around the world as a fast-paced and challenging game. (Kristin Sullivan Photo)

HURLING: This centuries old sport was developed in Ireland and is slowly making strides around the world as a fast-paced and challenging game. (Kristin Sullivan Photo)

I certainly was, and desperately wanted to try it, the result is this very blog where I document my effort to learn it, play it and figure out how I might possibly be able to watch it here in the U.S.

I found my “hurling home” with the Baltimore Bohemians, the closest group of players to York (though if anyone wants to try starting up a team here in the Harrisburg-York-Lebanon-Lancaster region, just let me know) . As part of the gear-up to the spring season, the Bohemians are set to appear on Baltimore’s WBAL from 5  to 7 a.m. on Tuesday, March 15, where they will guide the host Sandra Shaw on what it takes to play hurling and gaelic football. Later in the month, they begin their Irish Sports 101 clinics to teach new players about the games.  (You should also check out these flyers: Drink Like the Irish and Irish Sports 101 for more info.)

As with the Baltimore team, all things Irish are popping up in York County, Pa., as well.

Most important of all is the fact that the local McDonald’s restaurants are tempting us all with their luscious Shamrock Shakes, a thick ice-cream drink that’s loaded with calories, and actually used as a stunt double for toxic waste.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have already partaken of one small-sized Shamrock Shake this season. I figure one or two more might be on my future menu.

Be warned though, not every McDonald’s is smart enough to participate in the annual Shamrock Shake promotion. One website, shamrockshake.com, is doing its best to help you out. It offers a shake locator for those trying to get their fix.

GOING GREEN: A float cruises down Market Street and through Continental Square in the 2009 York St. Patrick's Day Parade. (paradelady photo)

Shamrock Shakes aren’t the only St. Patty’s Day tradition you can indulge in here in York.  This Saturday Gaelic-ophiles can get their Irish on with the 2011 York Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Along with the parade itself, there’s bands, food and all things Irish.

To and from your St. Patty’s day-themed events, check out Maewyn’s  Irish Pub & Restaurant here in York.  Nearby in Cumberland County, check out Coakley’s Irish Pub, which is next door to the Oxford Hall Celtic Shop in New Cumberland.

Coming up in June is the Penn-Mar Irish Festival, which offers music, food, dance and shopping as well.

So even if you’ve got no interest in my blog about the Irish sport of hurling, you’re sure to find some Irish-friendly activities here in York.

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Welcome to Hurley to Rise

So you’re probably wondering what in the world this blog is about. The title, “Hurley to Rise,” certainly isn’t the clearest to American audiences.

The name, in part, is a nod to how I want to change my life. I want to “rise” above my current lifestyle of TV-watching, Web-surfing and general laziness and get in shape. I want to pull myself together and be more fit and feel good about myself.

The other part — the “hurley” part — is a little more obtuse, and I’ll do my best to explain.

“What the heck is a ‘Hurley?’ I can guess you’re asking. Most Americans only know ‘Hurley’ as a character on ‘Lost.’ Others might wonder if I’m referring to Elizabeth Hurley, the lovely British actress best known as Hugh Grant’s ex.Hurling equipment -- Hurley and sliotar

But those aren’t the hurleys that I’m talking about. I’m talking about the stick used by hurler.

Still not helping? Well, before I go any further, let me state that being a hurler, at least in this instance, has nothing to do with tossing your cookies after a long night at the bar.

A hurler is a person who plays the sport of hurling.

Yep, I know, offering the name “hurling” is no big help either. That’s because, except for a few organizations in the U.S.’s biggest cities, hurling is a sport that’s unknown to most of America.

But fly across the pond to Ireland, and you’ll soon find a game that’s got fans as rabid as the NFL and players as tough as anyone in the NHL.

In short: Hurling is a traditional gaelic field game, where two teams of 15 fight to smack a baseball-sized ball into two possible scoring stations. Most people describe it as a mix of lacrosse, hockey and baseball.

That description does the game no justice though. It’s exciting. It’s exhilarating.

And I want to get in on the action.

Take a peek at the YouTube video below for an idea of what I’m talking about.


Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

That’s what I thought after I watched this video, and several others peppered throughout the ocean that is YouTube.

And then, I thought, “Gee, I bet I could learn to play that game.”

It was a crazy idea because I’m no athlete. I’m a pretty sedentary guy. I’m just an Average Joe office worker who’s biggest physical activity is mowing the lawn.

But with “Hurley to Rise,” I want to change that.

My goal here is three-fold:

  1. – Learn how to play hurling.
  2. – Get in shape in order to do so.
  3. – Learn more about hurling, its 3,000 year history and help (in my own little way) introduce it to America.

I have no idea how well I’ll do, but keep watching this blog for text and video updates on my efforts.

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