Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dark Days of Autumn, Hot and Hurling 28.10.2007

6pm and dark already. The clocks went back last night so Winter is on her way.

Went to go to bed yesterday (or rather 4am this morning). Jim had turned the electric fire up to its most powerful in the morning, thinking he was turning it down. It must have been some sort of tropical heat in there. I sat on the bed for a few seconds, quickly realising life in that room was unsustainable! Jim was mortified. I tried to sleep on the single bed we have downstairs and J rigged up a bed with settee cushions on the snug floor. Neither of us got much sleep. Some time in the early hours, J crept upstairs and the temperature was about back to normal. Thankfully, we both sank into bed and slept like logs for a few hours.

This afternoon, having forgotten to re-set the bedroom clock, we arose and discovered we had an extra hour before we needed to go out. Great. Our local village, Killanena, had reached a hurling championship final. Now, this is not some sort of ritual where they all stand in a line and see how far they can projectile vomit, but a uniquely Irish sport. This is an excerpt from an Irish website, roughly explaining the game.

Hurling is a game similar to hockey, in that it is played with a small ball and a curved wooden stick. It is Europe's oldest field game. When the Celts came to Ireland as the last ice age was receding, they brought with them a unique culture, their own language, music, script and unique pastimes. One of these pastimes was a game now called hurling. It features in Irish folklore to illustrate the deeds of heroic mystical figures and it is chronicled as a distinct Irish pastime for at least 2,000 years.

The stick, or "hurley" (called camán in Irish) is curved outwards at the end, to provide the striking surface. The ball or "sliothar" is similar in size to a hockey ball but has raised ridges.

Hurling is played on a pitch approximately 137m long and 82m wide. The goalposts are the same shape as on a rugby pitch, with the crossbar lower than a rugby one and slightly higher than a soccer one.

You may strike the ball on the ground, or in the air. Unlike hockey, you may pick up the ball with your hurley and carry it for not more than four steps in the hand. After those steps you may bounce the ball on the hurley and back to the hand, but you are forbidden to catch the ball more than twice. To get around this, one of the skills is running with the ball balanced on the hurley To score, you put the ball over the crossbar with the hurley or under the crossbar and into the net by the hurley for a goal, the latter being the equivalent of three points.

It all sounds dreadfully complicated but in reality is not so. Just as the game started, an Irish Coastguard Rescue Helicopter came over the ground. It landed just a short distance from the ground, then took off some 5 minutes later. No doublt we'll read all about it in the 'Irish Champion' on Thursday. I did take a couple of photos (above).

We have never watched a live game and decided this would be just the opportunity so to do. The final was held in Ennis GAA ground, so well within our reach. Kick off, or whatever it's called 'hurl off?' was at 2.30. On the drive to Ennis, flags were flying outside most of the houses and messages painted on boards with 'Good like Mikey and the boys' in varying shapes and sizes were placed by the roadsides. Several old cars were also parked along the route, painted in the blue and yellow colours of Killanena, plus a model of a player on a bike and a leprechaun in team colours sitting on the verge! It must have been heartening for the team on their way to the ground to see so much support. Hurling is HUGE in Ireland.

We managed to find a parking spot not too far from the ground, paid our 10 euros each and squeezed through the ancient turnstiles into the ground. The undercover stand was pretty full, mostly with Killanena supporters, but quite a few of the other teams' supporters were there too, in bright yellow. An Irish pipe band lead the players onto the field and the excitement was tenable. We soon got the hang of the game and what was going on. It's frighteningly fast and the ball can be hit from one end of the pitch to the other in seconds. Players have to be incredibly fit and some of the tackling was pretty violent. Killanena lead at half time, both sides having a goal apiece but Killanena having more of the 'through the post' hits. Sadly, in the second half, the opposing team gradually drew level and in the last few minutes, took the lead. The boys from Killanena were very small by comparison and simply seemed to run out of steam. I think they lost by 2 points but it was a bit hard to tell as the score keepers mixed up the scores on the board in the last 10 minutes! However, the whole event was great fun, we enjoyed it immensely. I look forward to watching a professional game in the future.

Back home and Stanley was duly set into action. He did belch out a bit of black smoke, but seems to have settled down now to getting on with his job.

1 comment:

Kat said...

cor - how exciting! :-)