Sunday, September 21, 2008

What is hurling?

If you're curious about that exciting game, here's a set of three video clips that lay out the sport's basic rules and tactics.

And here's my gobsmacked account of my first hurling match. Not every game will feature a performance as swift and skillful as Kilkenny's against Waterford that day, just as not every short, bossy guy is Napoleon. But I did see enough to convince me that hurling is faster and potentially more accessible to the uninitiated than soccer. And don't get me started on NFL football, which can be exciting during late-game drives or when viewed on television but which, seen in person, is best regarded as a mild form of torture.

xxx

And a (possibly) final what-I-did-on-my-vacation note: Among the companionable crowd at the Books 2008 Crime Writing Series was Stuart Neville, whose first novel, The Ghosts of Belfast, is due out in 2009. I mention this because he's an intelligent chap, a nice fellow, and surprisingly well-adjusted for someone whose book drew a rave from James Ellroy.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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17 Comments:

Blogger Loren Eaton said...

Ireland and Britain have all the most brutal sports, don't they?

September 21, 2008  
Blogger The Clandestine Samurai said...

I have you on my RSS Reader, and when I seen the title of that post, I thought you were asking "What is throwing up?"

September 21, 2008  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

All right, I'm completely sold on hurling.

Peter, there's a story that when the Victoria Bridge was being built in Montreal in the 1850's the workers were Irish and Mohawk who played hurling and lacrosse. When the St. Lawrence froze they combined the games and came up with hockey.

September 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

CS, I know what that kind of hurling is. I did it once when I was 16.

I have a good hurling headline up my sleeve that would make sly reference to that meaning of the word. I just I hope I get the opportunity to use the headline.

September 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, the lack of violence surprised me at the match I attended. I suppose part of that is that the players don't want to mess around with violence in an important game. But one of the clips I posted makes clear how skilled players avoid getting hurt when executing potentially dangerous moves. And a friend who knows the game points out that the tough man-to-man defense good players use is also protection. If you're bumping up against your man, you're a lot less likely to get smacked when he swings his hurley in a wide arc to hit the ball.

And, as I pointed out in my post about the All-Ireland final, I saw not the slightest trace of violence among fans before, during or after the game. I can't say that for soccer matches I've attended.

September 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, I just noticed this laconic reference in an article I had opened to check the spelling of hurley:

"No matter how well crafted the hurley is, a hurler may well expect to use several hurleys over the course of the hurling season. The hurleys often break if two collide in the course of a game, or occasionally they break off on the other players (arms, legs, etc.)."

September 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John, that origin story would make sense and is one of several such stories. These may not be mutually exclusive, since games like hockey probably have been around almost forever and may have originated in several places.

I just read a brief history of hockey that places its origins in Nova Scotia, in a game played by Micmac Indians and influencd by hurling. And in seventeenth-century Dutch paintings of winter scenes on frozen rivers, for example, you'll see figures playing something that looks decidedly like hockey.

September 21, 2008  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

Wow. That hurley stuff is ... I mean, wow. Some tough blokes there.

I was standing in Piccadilly Circus when England beat (I think was) Germany in soccer. Things got rowdy pretty darn quickly. To be fair, though, it was mostly boisterous drunken revelry, not violence of any kind.

September 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The aftermath of the hurling match was pure happiness, not even boisterous, drunken revelry. I was in Spain when France beat Brazil to win the World Cup in 1998. A small group of Frenchmen ran through a little square waiving the French flag and singing La Marseillaise. I remember that the flag waver was a black man, which was nice to see, considering some of the news that comes out of France on matters of race.

Those videos did a good job of highlighting some of the dangerous situations the hurling players get themselves into and the speed and seeming ease with which they avoid the danger.

September 21, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Stuart V Peter

Who wins the beard war? Oh McFetridge can play too.

September 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Arlene Hunt said nothing about Stuart's beard. Does that answer your question?

September 21, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

the new world is triumphant

September 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I may actually shave the beard. But I'll grow it back before I return to Ireland.

September 22, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

No wait you have to beat McF. in a beard war and he is coming to Bouchercon. Just pray that Rick Rubin doesnt show up.

September 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

McF. and Declan are stopping off in Philadelphia before Bouchercon to do a reading in a crime-fiction series I run. I know people in this town. I can make a few calls, and his chin will be as smooth as a baby's when he gets to Baltimore.

September 22, 2008  
Blogger Declan Burke said...

Peter - A real man would let a hurler slice off his beard with three swift chops of the hurl ... Henry Shefflin could probably do it in two. Cheers, Dec

September 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Reminds me of the narrator's proud declaration on the second video that a sideline cut, when properly executed, "matches a golf nine-iron shot any day." A slice like that could probably separate a man from his beard with great efficiency.

I just hope that having declared me "terrifically bearded," Arlene Hunt does not go all Salome on me and demand my beard on a plate. Actually, that would not be a bad reason to shave.

September 22, 2008  

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