Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Irish Show How Sport Should Be Played; the Armchair View from Callahan's Bar

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Irish Show How Sport Should Be Played; the Armchair View from Callahan's Bar

Article excerpt

Byline: PETE CLARK

THE significant fact that strikes me about hurling is that the players are entirely unhindered by any notion of physical fear.

There are 30 players on the field at any one time, and all of them are brandishing sticks. With these sticks, or hurleys as they are properly known, the players pulverise each other in an attempt to set the ball - itself a solid piece of work into which no air has been admitted - in tremendous motion.

Some of the players get away without wearing a helmet, and clearly the notion of shinpads is widely derided as everyone wears their socks around their ankles.

I thought Australian Rules football looked like a roughhouse sort of activity, but this puts that into tutu territory.

Never having seen a game before, I decided to watch the first one with Gerry, a local publican in whose establishment I fell under the spell of this demented activity.

With some of his friends, we went to Callahan's Bar in Marble Arch to observe the All Ireland Hurling final, contested between Gerry's team Clare, and Kilkenny, the favourites.

He explained the rules of the game to me, and I shall attempt to paraphrase these for the uninitiated.

You can wallop the ball with the stick, kick it, or run around with it in your hand for a while, after which you must run around with it on the stick.

Amputation of a limb is classified as a minor misdemeanour, but aside from that, pretty much any form of physical contact is seemingly allowed. What is not allowed is to pick the ball up from the ground with one's hand.

The goals in hurling are a combination of those found in football, ice hockey and rugby.

The football part is guarded by a goalkeeper who is in possession of a stick and some attitude. Should a goal be scored past him, it is worth three points. Alternatively, the ball can be woofed over the bar and between the sticks which are extensions of the goalposts for one point. …

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