Review: Ustream quality in the 2012 hurling final broadcast

BLOCKY: A screen grab from the Minors action between Tipperary and Dublin. This screen grab was made at the lowest streaming level, 240p as broadcast into DSL.

I signed up for the UStream broadcast of the hurling finals out of Croke Park in Ireland. Since I’m in the U.S. and no U.S. broadcaster has offered a hurling match in years, watching the games it via pay-per-view was the only way possible.

After I entered my credit card information and activated the player, the game popped on the screen. The first game on the bill was the “Minors” match featuring teams from Dublin and County Tipperary. Minors play is for any player under the age of 21, and is sometimes called “U21.”

CRISP IMAGE: At the “Best” mode in a streaming, the images from the minors match were crisp. The problem was that about every 30 seconds or so, the broadcast locked up and then skipped a few seconds of play.

The game ended up freezing on my computer a lot early on as I had it in “Best” mode, but that was too much for my DSL connection to take. Eventually, I switched it down to “Low,” which is at the 240 setting. From there, I got great audio, but the images were blocky. That made it tough to follow the sliotar, which is smaller than American baseball. The game locked up completely on a regular basis in “Best” mode, which made for some frustrating viewing — especially since I missed several point scores.

Eventually, I scaled up the streaming level to 360p and then 480p. Just one level below “Best” mode, the 480p locked up a bit here and there, but ultimately served me well.

Watching the game, the skill level was impressive, and better than any play I’ve seen in the U.S. It turned out to be a great game that was only dampened by the fact that it ended in draw.

FLIP SCORE: Because hurling scoring can be confusing to a newcomer, the broadcast would occasionally flip to show the total points each team had in the game.

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A belated wrap-up of the hurling championships

Blaming the rough economy in Ireland, some fans decided tickets for this year's All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship in Dublin's Croke Park were left unsold. For more details, click the image.

It’s been a while since I updated, and you’ll have to forgive me for that. I’ve been wrapped up in personal projects and then my area of Pennsylvania had a few tropical storms roll in, which resulted in localized flooding.

The damage to my home was more of an inconvenience than anything, but enough to keep my mind off of hurling and all the excitement that happened in this great sport.

Heck, I haven’t even picked up my hurley in weeks.  And while I’ve been putting in my hurling effort on the back-burner, the rest of North America has been picking up the slack

In early September, hurling and gaelic football teams from around the United States and Canada converged on San Francisco for the North American GAA Finals.

Here’s a look at some of that West Coast action, which included at least a few East Coast teams:

The event was hosted by the San Francisco Gaelic Athletic Association. The winners list can be found here.

The games, by the way, didn’t include clubs from  the New York GAA, because that organization is considered a separate “county.” That’s probably good since that area, which also serves some of New Jersey, is teeming with Irish-born talent that would likely crush the up-and-coming North American squads.

You can also read the experience of one of the GAA officials at the game here.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the 2012 North American finals will be held right here in Pennsylvania, with the Philadelphia teams serving as hosts.

A few weeks later over in Ireland, the big leagues held their finals. The 2011 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship was a rematch from last year as the Kilkenny team took on the lads from Tipperary. Don’t worry, I won’t reveal the end — just in case you missed it.

Here’s part one of an edited telecast of the game:

 

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Hurling should be fun first

Here in America, when hurling enthusiasts get together, we talk about how great the sport is and how we can make it grow. We want to show everyone we meet how great the game is. We want them on the field and having some fun.

CLASH OF THE ASH: Hurling is a field sport a lot like lacrosse and was developed in Ireland. If you're interested in playing the game, do a web search of the word hurley or camogie and your nearest big city or university. (Art by John Simcoe)

But over in Ireland, the country where hurling was born, there’s a different sort of talk. The Sports Desk Blog of the Irish Examiner does a good job in summing it up the constant drumbeat of angst:

The fact is hurling is elitist. There should be no shame in that. It’s an art-form, something that can only be performed by a minority because it takes years upon years of mastering. That’s why it’s such a treasure.

It’s a fanciful thought to believe every boy and girl in the country is going to puck a ball. It should be that way but hurling can’t and will never be that game simply because it’s so difficult to play. Not enough people have the patience to pass on or absorb the skills.

Such talk continues on to complain that hurling is a sport that will be continually dominated by just a few regions because no one else can even consider catching up — Kilkenny and Tipperary counties are just too good to even bother stepping on the pitch when they’re your opponent.

That dominance, they say, is what’s killing the sport. People aren’t interested in watching the game, and they certainly aren’t interested in learning the almost-cryptic skills needed to play. These issues are draining the life right out of the game, they say.

Hogwash, I say.

Here in America, we are just playing hurling for the fun of it. Someday, we might have clubs to rival the greats. But until then, we just play because it’s an incredible way to spend an afternoon.

We may not have even a sliver of the skills of the Kilkenny Cats or Tip’s Blue and Gold squad, but as long as we’re having a good time, we’re gonna keep having a go at it.

I would suggest the Irish naysayers do the same. Just get out there. Get better at the game and keep the sport alive.

You don’t need to win a championship to play a sport.

You just need to be willing to walk out on the field.

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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: http://www.independent.ie/sport/hurling/evolution-of-drive-for-five-2319500.html

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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