Friday, 14 September 2012

The other sport I watch

While I am only obsessive about gymnastics, I do watch one other sport and have gone to quite a few matches. It is called hurling and it is the fastest field sport in the world- worth checking out on youtube. The two main sports in Ireland are Gaelic football and hurling. Both are under the auspices of the GAA, Gaelic Athletics Association. Gaelic football is a bit like an adaptation of soccer- except that the ball can be picked up and kicked, and that it's not all about goals- points can be scored by kicking the ball between the uprights. Hurling uses the same set-up, it might look like some sort of hockey game or lacrosse but it is really neither. What really makes them special is that they are both amateur- no player or coach is paid, and the only real income the GAA get is from ticket sales and merchandise. Players therefore cannot be bought or sold- they play for their county and that is it. (There are 26 counties in the republic of Ireland, and 6 in Northern Ireland which is part of the UK. All 32 have GAA teams) It means that there is a lot of local passion for both sports- and it also translates to friendly rivalry. GAA has no hooliganism or violence. No stadium is divided up into home or away fans or anything like that. Nor is the main stadium, Croke Park. It's perfectly possible to sit beside a bunch of rival fans and have a laugh with them. That is really the beauty of the sport. They are also very important on a local level- every single town and village no matter how rural- has its own GAA club. Most are kept going by local fundraising, though lots of licenses for a bar which helps with funds. Matches are always really exciting too because of the amount of scores. Hurling always has more. It wouldn't be uncommon for a hurling match to have a final score of 6-13 to 3-21 or something like that. The atmosphere is always unbelievable.
Hurling explained more

Of course, the biggest counties and Dublin which is where the capital city is of course- have a population and therefore talent advantage. Galway, Mayo, Cork and Tipperary as well as Dublin are all extremely successful. But, lots of much smaller counties have been able to take the all-Ireland title too. Anyway, here's a video of what hurling is like. Interestingly the stadium shown here seats 83,500 people. It's something like the third biggest stadium in Europe- quite a feat for one which only showcases amateur sport- and when it's not even a 'full' stadium as one end remains as a terraced end, not allowed to be built up because it would block out natural light for hundreds of houses.
(Match starts at 2:41)
Anyway, bit of a sports lesson maybe as although there are LOADS of GAA clubs in the UK, America and Australia in particular they are pretty much dominated by emigrants from Ireland and have not made the transfer over to the rest of those populations. 


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