That’s right, hurling – not puking into a bucket, not slinging a rock along the ice for accuracy with silly little brooms (that’s curling), but HURLING.
The Irish pastime of Hurling is a magnificently brutal/brutally magnificent contest that is perhaps best described as part lacrosse, part rugby and part full-contact chainsaw juggling. The sport is steeped in Irish history, reported to have been played in some form or another over the last 3,000 years. While legend has it that the game’s origins stem from Celtic warriors knocking around the severed heads of vanquished foes, a tamer version of the game is played today… but only slightly tamer.
Just this week, Loren Berlin wrote a rather graphic article for Slate.com titled “The Craziest Men in Sports,” dedicated to the jaw-dropping ruggedness of Hurling and its athletes. Needless to say, these are some interesting guys to have a pint with…
This Saturday, April 16, the newly formed Hoboken Guards Hurling Club (HGHC) will take to the pubs in an effort to raise awareness of their endeavors, as they prepare to launch their inaugural season and knock hurleys with other squads in the area. Starting at 3 p.m. at Trinity (306 Sinatra Drive), the lads will take the show on the road—hitting top-notch Hoboken Irish venues such as The Nag’s Head (359 1st Street), Mulligan’s (159 1st Street), The Shannon (106 1st Street), Cork City (239 Bloomfield Street) and Moran’s (501 Garden Street).
Despite its fearsome reputation, Hurling has a substantial appeal to both Irish immigrants and Irish-Americans alike.
The GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) is the governing body for Hurling worldwide. Simon Gillespie, New York GAA Games Development Officer, is obviously excited by the development of a team in Hoboken. “It’s fast spreading all over the world, from Dubai to Australia and now back to Hoboken,” says Gillespie. “The GAA presents a way for members of the Irish diaspora to meet socially, providing an irreplaceable community link between ex-pats. For Irish-Americans, they play the game as a way of preserving their heritage.”
“I grew up in an Irish household,” says Brendan Lyons, 23. “My dad was born in Roscommon and my mother is of Irish descent. We used to go back to Ireland a lot when I was young, and one year we brought back some hurleys.” Lyons’ interest stayed with him over the years, as he literally goes the extra mile to play. “I got in touch with the New York GAA asking if there were any teams close to Princeton,” where he’s studying for his Ph.D. “Three days later I drove up to Hoboken for my first practice—after that I was hooked.”
Hoboken resident Michael Kennelly, 34, explains, “My cousins in Ireland all played, but I never got a chance when I visited. My older brother joined a league in Seattle about 4 years ago, I practiced with his team when I visited him and I caught the bug. I looked for a team when I got back to Hoboken and happened upon the Hoboken Hurling Facebook page.” Kennelly adds, “I love hurling because it’s a link to my heritage, it’s challenging as hell, it’s a great group of guys and it beats going to a gym to get in shape.”
Lyons concurs, stating, “I also really enjoy the connection to my heritage. In addition, while the Guards are first and foremost a team, we’re also a social club. Nearly every practice ends with a couple pints and some good conversation at a local pub.”
Want to start Hurling?
“My main advice to new or aspiring players,” says the GAA’s Gillespie, “is to stick at the game and do plenty of practice at home. Hurling is the most skillful and most technically difficult sport in the world to master. To hone your skills takes countless hours of individual practice.”
“Watch and listen to the experienced guys and run, run, run,” says Kennelly. “Practice hitting the sliotar (ball) as much as possible—it’s a bit of a learning curve, but a lot of the guys are in the same boat.”
“Definitely get in shape,” says Lyons. “I’m still trying to get my fitness to an appropriate level. Take things slowly and learn how to play the right way from the beginning—it will serve you well later.”
“That is not to deter anyone from picking up hurling or giving it a go,” adds Gillespie. “[The GAA] caters to all ability levels and age groups regarding hurling, so newcomers are more than welcome to get in touch and give it a go.”
But your best bet—the one LEAST likely to result in bodily harm—is to join the Hoboken Guards Hurling Club on their pubcrawl this Saturday. In addition to drink specials, several raffles and Hurling paraphernalia will be given out throughout the day
“We wanted to host a fun season kick-off event, allowing area residents to meet our team, watch matches on pub flatscreens to gain an understanding of the game and start to learn what hurling is all about,” said Conor Costigan, Treasurer and Assistant Coach of the HGHC. Costigan, 29, hails from County Tipperary, Ireland and has lived in Hoboken since 2004. “It’ll be great craic, you don’t want to miss it! Come out and show town pride by meeting and supporting your hometown Hoboken Guards.”
For more on the Hoboken Guards Hurling Club, visit hobokenhurling.com. And for more on the definition of “craic,” catch up with the lads on Saturday.