Several Island high school phys-ed teachers were hurling on a fine November day in Charlottetown.
By hurling is meant the Irish sport using a ball the size of a baseball (and sometimes a softball) and a stick that resembles a flipper attached to an axe handle.
It’s played on a field the same size as a rugby pitch and like its cousin gaelic football, the P.E.I. Gaelic Athletic Association recently introduced the sport to P.E.I. physical education teachers and donated equipment to their schools.
Last year Shane O’Neill, president of the PEIGAA, put gaelic football on the menu. This year at Colonel Gray High School it was hurling and the Souris resident said the sports are perfect for schools because anyone can play.
“It’s not just competition-based. Because they have elements of every sport across the spectrum it leaves kids open to a variety. Ideally we would love to see the schools using the equipment on a regular basis and hopefully some competition based games in the next three to five years, with the proper coaching and development,” said O’Neill, who lives in Souris but hails from Ireland’s County Clare.
In hurling, the ball can be carried by the stick, picked up with the stick, batted with the stick like a baseball. Players can also hand pass the ball, bounce and kick it. The only thing they can’t do is carry the ball for along period of time without moving it much like how travelling is disallowed in basketball.
Hurling and gaelic football in Ireland carry a status like hockey in Canada.
The athletes are amateurs so every hamlet, town and city have clubs playing at several levels. League finals for draw thousands of spectators. Both sports have long-established men’s, women’s and children’s teams
The PEIGAA’s team, the Celts, made it to the final of last year’s Eastern Canadian gaelic football championship and host the 2018 tourney in September. Gaelic football combines parts of soccer, football, rugby and volleyball.
Peter Connaughton, the PEIGAA’s development officer, sees the hurling as a natural fit on P.E.I. given is strong Irish heritage and Canada’s love of hockey.
“What Canadian kid doesn’t like playing with a stick in their hand?” said Connaughton, a carpentry teacher at Montague Regional High School. “The dream is to have every school on P.E.I. playing it in their phys-ed programs. It’s something new for the kids. (It’s good for them) to experience new things. There’s a lot of Irish culture (here).”
The PEIGAA offers coaching and gaelic football and hurling programs.
Contact the club at firstname.lastname@example.org.