The two main games of the GAA (gahhhhh) are "football" and "hurling", the chief difference being that in football, the fights are unarmed. There is also "camogie," which is like hurling, except that in fights the hair may be pulled as well.
HURLING FOR FOREIGN DUMMIES.
Howryez! Welcome to the The O'Byrne Files © easy-to-follow, comprehensive online cut-out-and-keep guide on how to follow the sport called "hurling". It's full of handy advice to make even the most clueless person into an avid hurling fan in only a few centuaries. I should let you know first that hurling had a major role in the legend of Cuchulainn, who was a sort of Herculean or O'Byrne -type hero in early Irish politics and was apparently related to the country's latter day greatest villain, C. J. Haughey. I should also mention that in Scotland the natives practised "shinty", the Scottish form of hurling, alone in the hills of the Highlands (it was a solo game there for obvious reasons) and around St Andrews. This led to the creation of golf. Hurling also reached Nova Scotia in the early 1800s and was picked up by the Micmac Indians, to create the multimillion-dollar sport known today as "Ice Hockey". Now, where were we? Oh yeah, the lessons.
"What the feck is Hurling?"
Hurling is an ancient game from the Ice Age, but it didn't get official recognition until approximately 1889 or thereabouts. As Liam Griffin, the former Wexford hurling manager and amateur poet, once described it: "Hurling is the Riverdance of sport."
NB: This doesn't mean that it involves loads of tap-dancing by poncy blokes in black mini-skirts (or girls either). Hurling is actually a venerable outdoor activity, a traditional game of immense skill in which people of all ages beat the crap out of each other with quite big sticks. It also involves a ball (called a "Sliotar"), two goalposts (shaped like a "H", or a "h" if they need repairing), and a very muddy field named after a dodgy bishop.
The ball is about the same size as a tennis ball, only much heavier if you get whacked with one. If you get the ball over the bar but between the posts (as if they extended infinitely into the air), you get one point.
When you do this, you get a damn big cheer and people slap you on the back and say "Fair play". If you get it under the H, you get a goal. This is worth three points. So you get three times as much cheers. More about cheering techniques in lesson six or seven.
There are 15 players in each team, until several of them are sent off. The players' sticks are called "hurleys" (after which Elizabeth Hurley's family gets its name). These sticks have a broad bit at one end called the bas (boss). The rest is called "the rest".
Incidentally, one of Ireland's former taoisigh (but not Jack Lynch) was also known as The Bas, and also sometimes called The Crook.
Fair play to ya! You've reached the end of lesson one! Now turn off your PC and memorise all this until the next lesson.... ...and we are outta here. Remember: In case of doubt, just make what you think you know sound convincing.
"GETTING A STICK"
A hurling stick or "hurley" is essential for every hurling fan. They are available at your local sports shop, usually next to the Liverpool and Chelsea shirts, for a very modest sum. But if you're from abroad you can easily make one yourself. All it takes are the following readily available items:
* 1 large ash tree
* 1 axe/saw
* 1 plane
* 2-3 other tools
* 1 good carpenter (or "chippy")
Well done! Now that you have a hurley, it's time to pick your team. This is normally not required, because you are simply stuck with the parish/town/county you were born in. You are also stuck with a geansai (jumper or jersey) of a particular colour and shape. But for The O'Byrne Files many overseas readers this may not be an option. So you will have to plump for either Wexford or Kilkenny - because these are good hurling counties but brutal at football (let's keep it simple) - or Cork if the worst comes to the worst.
Fair play to ya! You've reached the end of lesson 2! Now turn off your PC and memorise all this until taking the next lesson.
Welcome back to the The O'Byrne Files © easy-to-follow, comprehensive online cut-out-and-keep guide on how to follow the sport called "hurling".
"Going to your first match"
For this you will need the following equipment:
# A decent coat
# 1 umbrella
# Several wire coathangers
# 4 washing up liquid bottles
# An assortment of beer-mats
# 1 roll of Sellotape
# 1 pair of wellies
# 1 cap
# A good bit of cash (at least £30-£40*)
(* It is often necessary to bring more money than this of course, e.g. you might have to survive for a week in a strange town if you are up for a big match such as a provincial final, or if you go on something called an "All Ireland Almight Bender".)
On arrival at the ground, make a rough assessment of the players' ages. If they look like they're under 18, you're at a "Minors" match. Any older and you're probably at a "Seniors". Unless, that is, they are Under 21s. To complicate things, though, some players could be playing both Senior and Under 21. Then again, others simply give up playing. And sometimes they are actually picked for an important game and though they are on the pitch they aren't actually playing. Seasoned match-goers often refer to this condition by its old Irish terms (either "Arafeck yalayzee bollicsya" or "Getuptha fieldya cunchya").
For the first few matches, keep as quiet as possible: listen to the other fans nearby, and if asked a question, answer as briefly as possible and never smile. It is always better to communicate with a quick nod or shrug of the shoulders rather than actually talking. Remember to clap when everyone else claps or jumps in the air.
Then in the pub afterwards, you might be asked to re-create the finer moments of the game you have just witnessed. The Fairy Liquid bottles make an ideal bottom of the goalposts, and construct the rest of the posts with the coat hangers and sticky-back plastic. Get a sharp Stanley knife (always ask an adult to help you) and cut the beer-mats into the shapes of each member of both teams, in order to create that vivid action replay in full colour.
Fair play to ya! You've reached the end of lesson 3! Now turn off your PC and memorise all this until the next lesson....
The most important part of hurling is knowing how to cheer. All cheering phrases begin with a "Grrrr" sound, and almost all end in a "yahh!" sound. You will also need to lower your voice as far as it will go. Practise this voice in the bath and on your kids/little sister/pet dog. Remember that even if your team scores a point or three, your voice must always sound a bit angry and growly.
Next you have to get the accent right. The accent can be easily picked up at a local pub or Spar supermarket. To cheer properly you will also need one of the following multi-purpose phrases so you can fit in properly.
* Come on ya!
* JAYssis yafeckya!
* Come on now yaboya!
* Clatter dafecker!
* That's the ball yafeckineejitya!
* Take him down!
* Oh Noooooooooooo!
Fair play! You've reached the end of lesson 4! Now turn off your PC and memorise all this until the next lesson....
Lesson # 5:
In English premiership football, due to the inclement weather you will find many teams togged out in shorts that stretch down to their knees, and in the style of Accrington Stanley circa 1880. But in hurling (and Gaelic football too), there's no mucking about: shorts live up to their name. They are much shorter. In fact the shorter your shorts are when playing hurling, the more you will distract your opposition, and the more likely you are to win. Who needs skill!
Fair play! You've reached the end of lesson 5! Now turn off your PC and memorise all this until I find out more and get around to telling ye....
"Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh"
This is probably the most difficult lesson in the entire series, particularly if you're from abroad. There is probably no more famous name in Gaelic Games than Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh. Well, apart perhaps from Tommy Semple, Jason Sherlock, Master McGrath, Cusack Park, Bibi Baskin and Lana Bus.
"Micheál" is Irish for, well, "Micheál". A rough translation into other European languages is "Mikhail" or "Michelle". All of Ireland's greatest broadcasters have the first name of Micheál, with two notable exceptions: Gay Byrne and Gabriel Byrne. And Ó Muircheartaigh is a good South Kerry name. In English it roughly translates as Moriarty.
Broadcaster Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh became famous from Ireland to Timbuktu for the special language he developed for people to talk about Hurling in all its glory. Micheál also covers major greyhound meetings, and beneath that genial exterior is a man of steel and a fierce competitor on the golf course.
Fair play! You're a junior hurler, and you've reached the end of lesson seven! Now turn off your PC and memorise all this until we have our next lesson....
"Heroes Of Hurling History"
The first hero of hurling history was Cuchulainn, who was a sort of Herculean hero in early Irish politics and was apparently related to C. J. Haughey. We also forgot to mention in Lesson 1 that clansmen practised "shinty", the Scottish form of hurling, alone in the hills of the Highlands (it was a solo game there for obvious reasons) and around St Andrews Golf Course. This led to the creation of golf.
Hurling also reached Nova Scotia in the early 1800s and was picked up by the Micmac Indians, to create the multimillion-dollar sport known today as "Ice Hockey". Hence the famous ballad "Micmac Paddywhack Give A Dog A Bone".
Fair play! You're a junior hurler, and you've reached the end of lesson eight! Now turn off your PC and memorise all this until we have our next lesson....