This week’s listmaker: Megan Bennett. Megan is an unrepentant Anglophile–and, in her off hours, a writer/producer at Well Done Marketing.
About five years ago I had the crazy idea that I would play roller derby. And I did. Three years later, my knees hated me and I retired from that crazy, obscure sport only to find true love in another even more obscure sport. Of course, it’s only obscure in middle America. In Ireland it’s the national sport and kids as young as three run around lifting and pulling sliotars in the same way that kids from Indiana dribble basketballs.
Hurling. At first, I made all the jokes, just like everyone else. I giggled at the tee shirts (“We Hurl Then We Drink”). I laughed out loud when I heard the phase, “If you can’t get it up, pull on it!” And somewhere along the way, I got a little obsessed with the game. So here are the top five reasons that you should fall in love with hurling, too.
1. It’s fast. Known as the “fastest game on grass,” the sport plays a little like soccer, a little like baseball, and a little like lacrosse. Spend five minutes watching the ball whiz across the pitch from player to player and you’ll understand why. The action doesn’t slow for the entire 70 minutes of each match and the players seemingly never rest. It’s probably a good idea to have incredible stamina and love to run if you want to play anything other than goalkeeper.
2. You use a long-handled hatchet-shaped stick, called a hurley, as an extension of your own body. It’s a tool (and/or a weapon) for both the offense and defense, made from ash trees. Since you can’t pick up the ball off the ground with your hands, you use the flat end of the hurley, the bas, to lift the ball off the grass and send it flying down the pitch. The hurley is also used to block or “hook” shots being made by opponents. In some cases, the hurley is used to commit inadvertent fouls on opponents that may or may not leave a mark.
3. It’s co-ed. Well, at least it is at the lower, just-for-fun levels. For summer exercise and fun, budding Indianapolis hurlers play on co-ed teams (sponsored by local businesses) against other league teams. And, just so there is something fun to play for, there’s a beautiful trophy awarded at the end of the summer league. The sport has grown in North America to the point where a tournament is played each year with leagues from all over the continent vying for tournament cups. These are not co-ed games, but women-only teams (playing a version of hurling called camogie that has only slight variations to the rules) are in the running for titles just the same as the men.
4. It’s Irish and it’s 3,000 years old. Until you’ve spent a summer running, sweating, cursing, playing, and drinking with a whole bunch of Irish men and women, then you really can’t claim to have lived a full life. Would you like a little history with your extracurricular activity? Hurling dates back to the Irish warrior Churchillian who allegedly invented the sport as a way to keep his warriors in good shape between battles. It’s a far cry from beer-league softball.
5. There’s only one referee on a pitch larger than a soccer field, monitoring up to 30 players at once. The action moves so fast it’s hard to keep up and it’s very physical. (See #1 and #2.) Did I mention there’s just one guy keeping an eye on every pass, over the back, and cheap shot taking place over the whole field for 70 minutes? Fewer refs and fewer rules than roller derby? Yeah, it’s awesome.
Looking for love? In Indianapolis we have a great league called the Indy Hurling Club. You can learn more about the sport at indyhurling.com.