Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hurling in Newry

I had an opportunity to take in a Gaelic football and hurling game before the family came and had been talking about it since we arrived.  We tried unsuccessfully to watch an Antrim GAA Football match earlier in July but weren't able to get in and ended up watching it on T.V.

Saturday, after visiting Hillsborough Castle, Elliot, Gavin and I headed out to Newry to watch the GAA All Ireland under 21 Hurling Semifinal between Dublin and Antrim.  Unfortunately both Kyra and Jenn were feeling under the weather and didn't join us.  After nearly firing my replacement navigator for the half hour fifty five minute trip, we finally arrived at Páirc Esler just before halftime.

We were able to get fantastic seats about five rows up from the field near centre and were in awe at the speed and bravery of the players.  They were slashing and swinging their hurling sticks wildly, with deliberate "incidental"contact without the benefit of any padding.  I think our foreigner status was quickly revealed as we cringed and gasped as the players clashed for position of the ball with hands, feet and sticks. 

Antim held the score close but in the end Dublin's power was too much and won the game 3-23 to 0-06 (32-6).  I was impressed that Gavin was able to follow the game and enjoyed watching the players hit the ball.

It was after the game that made the trip truly worthwhile.  The fans are allowed to walk on the field with the players.  It was apparent that every child and teen watching the game had also brought hurling sticks and balls with them to the park and impromptu games of pass and shots at goal broke out all over the field.  With a little coaxing shoving Elliot was encouraged to talk to a few teens and try his hand at actually picking up a stick and seeing how far (once he finally made contact) he could hit the ball.  His seventeen year old confidence took a hit as, like every sport, it is actually harder than it looks.  He got the hand of it and had a few good hits.  Gavin seemed to enjoy walking on the field but I didn't actively look for a stick for him thinking he was happy just to watch.  As we were leaving the field big crocodile tears appeared in Gavin's eyes as he really wanted to try too.

*Fast forward a week and after numerous conversations about going to watch hurling and Daddy not letting him play and after declaring that what he REALLY wanted for his birthday next month was a hurling stick, the little guy got his wish.

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