Trip to Croke Park

Séamus brought me to this exciting hurling game!

Hurling is a team sport. Hurling is played on a pitch that is a small bit bigger than a soccer pitch. There are fifteen players on a team and they line out like this…

2      3      4
5       6       7
8       9
10     11     12
13     14     15

When you get the Slither (ball) into the Goal you get a goal or 3 points and when you get it over the crossbar between the posts you get a 1 point. 
A Slither is about the size of a Baseball. If you put the ball wide of the goal it is a puck-out for the other team. There is a referee and two linesmen. There are two umpires at each goal. They say if it was a goal or a point. They wave a white flag when it is a point and wave a green flag when it’s a goal. 
There is a small rectangle around the goal called the square. You can not pick the ball of the ground with your hand, you lift the ball with the hurl. If you are inside the square when the ball is hit into the square it is a free for the other team this is called a square ball. 
You hit the slitter with a hurl. Hurling is a very fast just as fast as ice hockey skilful and physical game. Our local team Athenry recently won the All-Ireland club final in Croke Park for the third time in five years which makes them the best team ever! Wow! 
Croke Park is where all the big matches are played and it is in Dublin.

The hurling Match!
Athenry v Graigue Ballycallan
All Ireland Club Hurling Final 2001

It’s the day every Parish looks forward too each year. Everybody is excited. The flags are up. Maroon and white everywhere, yes it’s the all Ireland club final again and Athenry are looking to reclaim the Tommy Moore cup when they face Graig Ballgcannon from Killkeny. By the way it’s hurling. It’s to long to explain but I’ll tell one think it’s one hell of a game. Everybody is off to Croke Park. You walk down O’Connell Street, in Dublin to the sound of street traders shouting “flags; hats, head bands, flags, hats, head bands” in your ear. There’s Eircel or Linskeys (Advertising) on the fans’ jerseys heading to Croke Park. Walk in the big gates to Croke Park. There is Children selling programs for two pound. The players are in buses from the city west hotel. Everybody gets to his or her seats. 
After about an hour the players came out for a warm up and go back in for the match talk. Pat Nally the manger “psyches” up the players and out came Nally and the team. Joe Rabbit captain, Eugene Cloonan full forward and Brain Fenney back from Italy goes into centre- back with his brother, John, in full back. Blue and white – Graig-Ballgcannon are out. The ball is thrown in with the clash of the ash and a hurl already broke. The ball is driven down to the full forwards but is cleared out by Athenry and Brain Higgins collects the ball and hits it with a mighty blow to score a great point. 
At half time Athenry are up by a few points but who knows what lies ahead. Five minutes from time Graigue are up by about a goal. Athenry keep getting a few scores but Graigue reply with some of their own. It’s getting tense! My hands are sweating! Teeth rattling! Knees shattering! One minute left and it looks like Graigue have it but star full-forward Eugene Cloonan basically walks the ball into the net and there was a roar from the crowed like a bomb “Yahoo, up ya boy ya, good boy Cloonan”. 
The match goes into extra-time and seven of the Graigue players go down with cramps but no Athenry players go down. It’s close and tense. Cloonan and Rabbitt switch and big Joe Rabbitt gets the winning goal. Its point for point and then the referee blows the final whistle and Athenry are champions again. 
The fans are singing “The fields of Athenry” and the subs and supporters invade the pitch. Joe Rabbitt holds “The Tommy Moore Cup” aloft and there’s a huge roar out of the crowd. For some people it’s a sad day but for some it’s the best day of their life. 
Brian Higgins got man of the match. 
Final score: Athenry 3-24 Graigue ballycallan 2-19 
Boy! Was I glad to be an Athenry Man for that day! 
                                                                                                                                Buzz, “The Blue Ridge Bumble Bee” reporting from the Irish Capital, Dublin 27.04.2001, for Glade Creek School, North Carolina