Flag of Cork, Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This Sunday Cork will play Clare in the All Ireland Hurling Final. Hurling is one of two gaelic sports in Ireland. For those unfamiliar with hurling it is the fastest field sport in the world and probably the closest American sport to hurling is lacrosse. The object of the game is to pass the ball (slioter) on hurleys down the field to score one point by sending it over the bar between two uprights or to score three points by getting the ball into the goal. The players, called hurlers wear no protective padding with the exception of a helmet which were only made mandatory in 2010.
- MS Paint image to show Clare GAA colours (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For most countries across, sport is a significant part of culture. Ireland is no different. Hurling is believed to have been played in Ireland for over 2000 years having been brought to the island by the Celts. During the times of occupation by England, while the Irish language was nearly lost, the gaelic games of hurling and gaelic football continued to thrive. Hurling and gaelic football continue to gain popularity among Irish diaspora across the world with international GAA clubs across the world.
The Irish games of hurling, the women’s equivalent camogie and gaelic football are played in schools and at local clubs within each county. Within Ireland there are over 2000 local GAA clubs (with Cork having the most clubs of any county and over 260). Although both hurling and gaelic football clubs exist in Cork, the county is for the most part known as a hurling county. However, the Cork footballers have been very successful in their own All-Ireland campaign in recent years.
Children start playing young and often dream of the honor and esteem of playing for their own county one day. Even my own held her first hurley before she could walk. There are families throughout the country that are associated with the sport having produced multiple county players across several generations.
This week, as the hurling season draws to a close with the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final the men of the Cork and Clare teams are preparing to battle. They are not professional players, most hold full-time jobs in addition to their commitment to the sport. They have trained hard since childhood. They continue to play for their club teams as well as being included on the county panel for selection. Over the years their families, wives and girlfriends have made many sacrifices for the GAA. The senior players are heroes and icons within their county. They are often seen making charitable appearances at schools, clubs and other community events. They are held in great esteem and have undoubtedly accepted this esteem with dignity and respect.
Across Cork people’s homes, businesses, even towns are decorated in the red and white county colours. Undoubtedly Clare is a sea of blue and yellow this week. Tickets to the match are like gold dust. While the entire country will be watching, this Sunday’s match will mean more to the people of Cork and Clare as it is the country you are born in that you will support for your lifetime.
And as an expat married to a Cork man we live the tradition. The house is decorated, we watch the match all our Cork jerseys are ready to be worn and we’ll be watching together on Sunday.
(Photo credit: just4you.ie)