Monday, July 19, 2010

The Poc Fada and the Stormont estate

The legend goes that Setanta as a young boy wanted more than anything else to become a warrior and join the Red Branch Knights of Ulster.

These were renowned warriors who defended Ireland. Their leader was Conor Mac Nessa the High King.

When he was 10 Setanta told his anxious parents that he was going off to Eamhain Macha (near Armagh) to join the Red Branch Knights. They tried to dissuade him but he was determined. And one sunny morning in May he headed off with his sliothar (ball) and his caman (stick).

As he made his way across the Cooley mountains he would strike his sliothar with his caman and then chase after it catching it before it hit the ground.

Eventually he reached Eamhain Macha. He joined in a game of hurley with the Kings son and others much older than himself and impressed everyone with his skill; slayed the hound of Cullan, the Kings blacksmith, by hitting his sliothar down its throat as it attacked him; and earned himself the name by which he is best remembered - Cuchullain – the Hound of Cullan.

50 years ago a Catholic priest Fr. Pól Mac Sheáin and the Naomh Moninne club in the Cooley’s used this story as the basis for the first Poc Fada – long puck. The purpose was simple – to test the mettle of hurlers by mapping out a set distance in which hurlers hit their sliothar as hard and a s far as they could. The winner is the person who covers the course in the least number of pucks.

Some years ago this blog persuaded Féile an Phobail to hold the west Belfast equivalent of the Poc Fada. It is very popular and it has been run every year since then by Rossa GAC.

It has been held in GAA grounds, the Falls Park and on the Black Mountain above the city.

Its great craic and all of the participants enjoy the camaraderie and the competition.

Last November this blog hosted a tree dedication ceremony in the grounds of the Stormont estate to mark 125 years of An Cumann Luthchleas Gael.
That event was to celebrate the positive impact the GAA has had on society in Ireland.

In the course of it I pointed across to the statue of Edward Carson who is identified with militant unionism, but who as a student at Trinity College in Dublin was a member of their hurling team.

In Montgomery Hyde’s biography of Carson it is recorded that ‘on one occasion he was mentioned by a local sporting journal, The Irish Sportsman, as having distinguished himself on the field.’

Many other leading protestant figures were also involved in gaelic games.

They include Roger Casement, who was executed in 1916 by the British; Douglas Hyde who was the first President of Ireland and a founder of Conradh na Gaeilge and Sam Maguire, a leading GAA figure after whom the all-Ireland Senior Mens football trophy is named.

So, when we came to discuss this years programme for Féile and the arrangements for the Poc Fada, I suggested that this blog would host the Poc Fada in the grounds of the Stormont estate. Hence the Poc ar an Chnoc – the Puck on the Hill.

And from that came the idea of a celebrity Poc Fada and trophy to commemorate the fact that Carson was a hurley player. And that was agreed.

So August 7th will see a full day of events on the grounds of the Stormont estate. A day in which young and old, all stars and first timers can exhibit their sporting prowess.

As well as the Carson competition and trophy the Poc Fada will also include senior men and women's competitions and an under 10 camogie and hurling Blitz which will be held on the top lawn in front of Parliament Buildings.

The senior women's and men's competition will have invited competitors.

What money is raised will be given to the 'The City of the Angels Foundation'.

This Foundation is run by Fr Pat Clarke, originally from Co. Clare. A month ago he visited Parliament Buildings and we talked for an hour about his work. The Foundation does amazing work in very difficult and dangerous conditions. It comprises a Centre for Art and Culture in a major shanty town (favela) in the Brazilian City of Sao Paulo, as well as a Centre for Art, Ecology and Spirituality situated in the Atlantic Forest two hours distant from the City.

Through the medium of the arts, the Foundation tries to prevent children of the shanty towns from falling victim to the drug culture, to violence and organized crime. Their website is

A worthy cause. So if you want to help good people trying to save children from the scourge of drugs and crime, or if you just want a great day out – then come along to the Stormont estate on August 7th.

Finally, a word of thanks to all of those who have helped make this possible: Maire Grogan, Catherine Murphy, Pat Maginn, Niall Maginn, Gerry McClory, Sean McGuinness, Denis Rocks, , Mary Herald, Bridgeen Heenan, and Martin Donnelly from M Donnelly & Co Ltd Dublin, specialising in Power tools and Accessories who are the main sponsor for the event.


Timothy Dougherty said...

Good cause,the Poc ar an Cnoc – the Puck on the Hill. Interesting the truth behind the tells, or the Celtic Folklore,Celtic legends and sagas.Like the Discovery of Troy . Like the nine cities of Troy, each one on top of the earlier one's ruins,Celtic legends are facts.The with finding of Troy of the Iliad by Schliemann, or the finding the rich Celtic mythopoetic heritage. On the ancient Hill of Tara, from whose heights the High Kings once ruled,Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race. The retellings of Irish mythology and folklore. The truth is the hills, its heroes of the various Saga cycles of Ireland.
Like the Iliad we find a truth in fact. Good post Gerry my friend

Micheal said...

Interesting facts and story and a good idea to hold the puc fada at Stormont.

I wonder if there is a way of harnessing the energy of the hurling action and creating electricity out of it.

I hope some of the unionist polititians take part in the event this year.

Linda Coleman said...

What a great organization! Glad the event is happening at Stormont this year.