I love hurling. The beauty of it. The skill. The magic. The rootedness. The Irishness of it. Even as a little boy on my own hitting a sliotar off a gable wall. I loved that. Up and back. Up and back. Pull on it. Sliotar up on the bos of the hurl. It’s all in the wrists. Flick the sliotar up. Pull on it. Catch it coming back. Pull on it again. Or better still catch it on the hurl and blarge it off the wall again without touching it with your hand. It’s all in the stick work.
Pull on the ground. First touch. Two hands on the hurl. Pull again. Don’t hesitate. Sliotar finding the bos of the hurl. Pull on it. Keep your eye on the ball! Don’t hesitate. Pull first time. Mighty! Pull again.
Brother Aloysius told us that the hurley should be an extension of our arms. Keep the hurl with you at all times boys he told us. Practice. Practice. Practice. Hurling is part of us. We have played it for centuries. The fastest field game in the world. Keep your eye on the ball. Pull on it. The sweet thunk sound of the ash stick hitting the leather sliotar and the reassuring vibration up your arm when you puck the sliothar the way it deserves.
Always keep your eye on the sliotar. Keep your hurl up. Don’t stand off your man. Mark him. How many times do I have to tell you that? Get in tight to him. Don’t stand back. Use your shoulder. What are you afraid of? Give him a dunt. Hurl up. Hook him. That’s your ball. Do you not want it? Hurl up! What a mighty block! That’s great hurling wee buck! Now don’t make a mess of it. That’s it. Get rid of it. Drive it up the field.
Pull on it on the ground. Is there a hole in your hurley? Pull on it first time. Pull on it! Pass it. Get rid of it. Does anyone want the ball? Show for it. Don’t leave him on his own. Get tore in lads. Help him. Clear your lines. Let the sliotar do the running. Good job lads. Well done.
It’s all in the wrists. Hold your hurl at arms length. Make a figure eight on its side. Again and again and again. Get the stick work right. Build your skills. The camán isn’t a sledge hammer. It’s a wand. It only needs a wee touch. A flick. It’s all in the wrists.
Hit the ball. Get rid of it. Don't take the sliotar into your hand. Hit it off your hurl. Practice! Practice! Practice! I love a Saturday or Sunday morning watching young camógs or their wee male club mates learning their hurling skills from older mentors.
That skill which in time will empower a decent hurler or a camóg to strike a sliotar while running at speed so that it finds a team mate sixty yards away across the playing field. Imagine? How do they do it? How does a side line cut happen? How do high fielders pluck a sliothar from the sky from within a forest of hurls? How do they notch up points from the most impossible angles? Or from their own half of the field? Practice!
How do goalkeepers prevent certain goals? How do they snatch or block or catch sliotars fired at them like cannon balls? What would we be without hurling? What would we do? Where would we be? It’s part of what we are. We have been doing it for thousands of years. Practice! Keep your eye on the ball. Both hands on the hurl. Practice.
That’s how Limerick won the All Ireland. Belief! A young lad pucking a ball of a gable wall. On his own. Emulating his heroes. Playing for his county. A camóg! Rising to the challenge. Being herself. Pulling on the ball. The sweet thunk sound when she hits the sliotar the way it deserves. The satisfying vibration of the ash stick up your wrist as it strikes the sliotar exactly right. That’s how it starts. Belief.
That’s what wins. We did it when those who ruled us declared it to be illegal. When carrying a hurling stick, a camán, was deemed by them to be an offence. We refused to stop. And we got better at not stopping. We kept going. Sliotar up on the hurl. Run like a deer. Puck it forward. Rise like a salmon for a high ball. Do your best. Get there first. Block. Hook. Puck. Pull on it.
Or watch and encourage others doing it. When we’re not able to hurl does that mean we can’t enable others? To keep it going. To do it better. To give them the means. The supports. The resources. The example. To play for our club. Our county. To be the All Ireland Champions of the world. Believe. That’s what has kept us going for thousands of years. It’s part of what we are. That’s hurling. As old as Ireland. And as young as tomorrow.
I love wee lads and wee girls getting used to their first hurl. Only four or five years old. Doing what we have been doing for thousands of years. Just starting. That’s what it is about. Always starting. No matter what. Decades after we were prohibited from hurling. I love that. The beauty of it. The skill. The magic. Young ones showing us how to hurl. Doing it all again. Doing it better. Keeping it going.
Or an oul lad pucking a sliotar for his dog to chase and retrieve. I love that. Especially on a sea shore. Pucking the sliothar at the sea. Aiming to hit Balor on his one good eye. Soaring ithe sliotar above the tide. The dog charging into the waves. His head bobbing above the water. The sliotar beyond his reach. But he finds it. Then back to shore to drop it at my feet for me and him to do it all over again. We have been doing it for thousands of years. Emulating our heroes. Cú Chullan lives. And we get better at it every year we do it. Well done Galway. Comhghairdeas Limerick. C’mon Antrim.
I love hurling.