Be Gentle, It’s My First Time… Hurling.

I was extremely fortunate to further my ‘Irish Education’ by attending my first hurling game last month. It wasn’t just any game either, it was the replay of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championships Semi-Final between local rivals Galway and my adopted County Clare.

I took along my Leica M6 and the Lomography Minitar Art Lens, a set-up so small I could carry it in a pocket, and snapped a few shots of the day.

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The first game had been played in Croke Park, Dublin a couple of week previously and been an epic , hard-fought encounter. The replay promised to be a massive occasion with a place in the final against Limerick at stake. The sun was out and the supporters in high spirits.

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A crowd of 45,000 descended on Thurles, a town with a population of 7,900. I’m not entirely sure why such a small town would have the country’s second largest GAA stadium (although it is home to Tipperary GAA), but guess that it’s position in the middle of the country offers this opportunity to host important games where a neutral venue is needed.

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Tickets on sale before the game – in the UK, this couldn’t be done so openly.

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The GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) is an Irish international amateur sporting and cultural organisation, focused primarily on promoting indigenous Gaelic games and pastimes, which include the traditional Irish sports of hurling, camogie, Gaelic football, Gaelic handball and rounders. The association also promotes Irish music and dance, and the Irish language.

A pre-game parade by the teams behind a marching band and post-game speech by the winning captain are examples of the GAA actively celebrating its traditions, unlike sports in the UK.

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I enjoyed the game too much to snap a picture on film, so I hope you’ll excuse on digital picture.

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Hurling is a crazy sport. As someone who’d only seen a couple of previous games on TV, keeping track of the ball was difficult, especially against the massed ranks of Clare fans on the opposite terrace. There are rules in hurling, but most of them seem to loosely applied, which brings an unpredictability and excitement of its own to the game.

The first half was all Galway and they had a seven point half-time lead. The second half saw a terrific fight back by Clare, but after a post was hit late in the game, it just wasn’t to be.

At the end of the game, tradition dictates that the supporters flood from the terraces and invade the pitch to congratulate their winning team.

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Hurling is a terrific sport and I’m not sure why it isn’t massive across the globe. The athleticism is incredible; because the ball can travel to any part of the field at any moment, all players are involved throughout. Aerial passes are caught one-handed by players leaping high into the air, being challenged with hurleys and elbows as they do so. The risk of injury as they come back to the ground seems great.

I very much hope to get involved with my local GAA club and see if I can take pictures of their activities as I find both the sport and the celebration of Irishness fascinating.

Finally, I like the look produced by the M6 and Minitar lens, especially when combined with Portra. It’s a combination that might get a run-out again in the future.

One thought on “Be Gentle, It’s My First Time… Hurling.

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