Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Irish Sports and Day 9

This is Croke Park in Dublin-seats 80,000 for big Gaelic football or hurling games or U2 concerts

Sports of Ireland
Part of the issue with the struggles of Irish basketball is the fact that is about 5 on the list of sports in that country. Some of these sports are very interesting and since the country is actually sports crazy I figured a brief description of the uniquely Irish sports is appropriate.

Gaelic Football
Like here in the states, FOOTBALL IS KING. Theirs is Gaelic football. It is a mix of soccer and rugby and I actually loved watching it. It is 15 on 15 with one goalie per team played on a field a little larger than a soccer pitch. There are American football-like uprights and a goal below the cross bar. If you put the ball in the goal you get three points and if you kick or punch the ball over the cross bar and between the uprights you get one point. You can run with the ball, but after four steps you either have to pass, bounce it or kick it to yourself. You can’t bounce it to yourself twice in a row, so the guys who can kick it to themselves without losing speed are very valuable. Watching me try to do this was quite comical. I have very good eye-hand coordination, but repulsive foot-eye coordination. When you pass, it has to be like a volleyball serve, punching the ball to a teammate. Grabbing and tackling are illegal, but you can use your shoulder to level a guy. Players in this league aren’t paid even though the big games have 80,000 fans paying at least 30 euro. Someone is getting rich. All 32 counties (even the 6 N. Ireland counties) have a team and they are now in the semis for the All-Ireland Championship. The best game I saw involved County Mayo and County Galway. Matches are two 35 minute halves and most end about 19 to 17 so a seven point lead is pretty secure. Not Mayo’s seven point lead. With only three minutes left, Galway scored four straight points, got a steal with 30 seconds left, kicked a hail mary, caught it and scored a goal to tie it. Sadly for them Mayo came right back with a goal during injury time.

Hurling was my favorite. It is like hockey mixed with baseball played on a huge Gaelic football sized pitch. Again 15 on 15 with the same goal and uprights. Three for a goal and one for “over the bar.” Each player has a sliotar, which they use to whack a really hard ball at over 100 mph from one end to the other. You can only run with the ball by balancing it on your weapon/sliotar. They hold their sliotar opposite of how we hold a baseball bat. This brought much laughter when I played a little. But then I vowed I could hit it farther with my “backwards” grip than anyone else there. AND I DID. Ignore the fact they were all 12 or younger. I did America proud.

Interestingly, these first two are a part of the Gaelic Athletic Association. This has surprisingly important political and historical implications. The GAA was formed in 1884 when the strong push for Irish independence was brewing. These games were seen as a way to promote the Gaelic culture and stick their thumbs at the English games of soccer and cricket. Thank God, cause those games suck. Anyway, to this day, football and hurling are the very Irish and Catholic games, while the protestants in N. Ireland stick to soccer.
The ancestor to American football. I like it for the most part, I just hate how often play slows down for scrums. Also, the throw in where the guy is hoisted high in the air has to be the most dangerous play (outside of Mike Vick’s backyard) in sports. It’s like a cheerleader pyramid in the middle of a football play. Plus a lot of players get this revolting looking cauliflower ear. It is appropriately named, since your ear ceases to look like an ear and now looks like a mutant piece of…well…cauliflower.

Just as repulsively boring in Europe as it is over here. Sorry.
Somehow the natives find four hours of tolerable weather to get a round in.
I do like the European pass first attitude, but not enough people play here for the level of play to be great.

9:00 am I don’t really know what jet lag is, but maybe it is never really getting a great night’s rest. Now I’m not exhausted or anything, but I keep giving myself a good 8 hours to sleep, but I keep waking up early and not really going back to bed. My body clock is more screwed up than Favre playing for the Vikings. So I lack full energy, but I’ll make it.

12:30 pm Thank God I love sandwiches, specifically Subway sandwiches, because I have had a sandwich everyday I’ve been on this beautiful island. Each camp gives you one for lunch and both days in Ballina I had one. Not complaining, just very thankful I am the type of person who can have oatmeal for breakfast for 8 straight months.

4:30 pm Left camp and toured the really old convent. There are headstones from the 1200’s. Joe, the driver and manager of the camp is an expert on the area, since he sings for the local parish. Again, he is hilarious and loves to tell Joe Foxworthy’s “You might be a hillbilly” jokes (didn't have the heart to correct him). “Oh those country and western Americans are so funny."

5:00 pm Now, instead of not being able to lock the door, I can’t even get out now. It ends up being you have to hold one latch while you pull another. So I spend an hour and half updating my blog entries. All is not lost. So far my only downfall in this county are doors, showers and “baby Guinessi” or is the plural of Guiness just Guiness. I’ll ask tonight.

7:00 pm We eat…. Traditional Irish…. Burritos. With of course taco fries, meaning fries with taco sauce doused on them. Fries come with EVERYTHING in this country. You know they are really good and fresh potatoes because they are not salty or greasy and they still taste excellent. Of course I am a connoisseur of all things potato. And do not fear they have Heinz 57!!!

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