2015 western canadian gaelic football & hurling championship
Hurling Match reports
Game 1: Vs Calgary
The Calgary boys decided to take nothing for granted and came out flying. First minute of the game, and after a loose ball in our full back line, a Calgary man came in swinging his stick Happy Gilmore style. Poor Brian Skehill got his foot in the way - a painful one no doubt. Skehill had to take off his boots in every break between games for the rest of the weekend. Incidentally, he also managed to lose his boots in every break between games for the rest of the weekend.
Having never really played in goals before, I was apprehensive enough about the one job you’re expected not to make a balls of; pucking the ball out. Calgary lashed over points for fun. The hardest working men on the field didn’t wear Calgary red or Regina white though; the two Edmonton lads in behind my goal were taking turns at running into the back field retrieving the sliotars being relentlessly pounded over. I have to say, they done a tremendous job at not dropping the head when I continued to puck balls to Calgary forwards who sent them straight back into the field
In the second half, Calgary had total control of this game and decided it would be even better craic to start hammering balls past the helpless Regina goalkeeper. Early on in the first half, I somehow managed to save one, and I think I earned the respect of my legendary umpires. A respect short-lived! Like a soccer or Gaelic Football goalkeeper, when called into action, you see the ball coming at the goal, you react and dive in its general direction, hoping for the best. The difference with hurling is that half way through your dive you realise that its long since passed you. So you kind of give up then, and just land on your arse. To anyone watching, I suppose it just looks like you’ve fallen on your arse.
No luck for the Gaels in Game 1 so, as Calgary ran up a score, including an epic sideline cut from the tightest of angles. “Ah Jayzus!”, I heard coming from Mark Landers after the ball sailed over – one of those pleasure/pain reactions I think. None of us expected the competition to be quite that strong, but there were some consoling words from Mark Savage after the final whistle as he listed the honours of the man he marked, as well as where he was from, who his childhood heroes were and who his sister used to go out with.
Game 2: Vs. Vancouver
With the Calgary thumping fresh in the mind, before the start of this one, I advised the lone umpire behind my goal that he might want to find a buddy to help him out. I felt a bit bad for barking out an order at this poor volunteer that was likely in for fifteen minutes of shuttle sprints, but he passed it off, said he’d be grand, and then came forward for a chat. “You should have no problem winning here anyway – think this team are fairly shite”. Confused, I ask “What team?” “These boys in the white here”, he says. Poor guy – the look on his face when I explained that my green jersey was the goalkeeper’s jersey for the white-shirted Regina Gaels.
Ball in, and Mark Landers collects and points within a couple of seconds. I couldn’t help but turn to the umpire and give him a wink. He had gone quiet, but he made up for his blooper a few minutes later, awarding a point for Vancouver after I fumbled the ball up into the roof of the goal.
It felt great to have caught them on the hop as they looked like a group of natural hurlers, having narrowly lost to Edmonton in their game beforehand. That game also involved a ferocious row with sticks swinging; the giant Vancouver No.9 having taken a few serious hits and looking none the weaker. Landers continued his great scoring form, and we went in at half time with only a few points separating the teams one way or another. Unfortunately, the opposition caught on to my discreet ploy of hitting just about every puck out to Landers and started grouping lads around him.
Vancouver came into fine scoring form in the second half. For one of the puck outs, I heard Paddy Shannon shout over to me suggesting I hit a ball to Murph. Denise Murphy is the Ronda Rousey of Western Canadian hurling, being in no way out of her depth as the only participating girl in the competition. I looked over though and was just about able to spot her standing in the shadow of the giant No.9. Another puck out to Landers it was so.
Some reason to be cheerful after this seven point defeat at the end of a long day. Spirits, and the standard of our play were both up. Colan McCrum, a Canadian who only picked up a stick for the first time about a month before the tournament, recorded the finest, most accurate chop that I’ve certainly ever witnessed on a hurling field. Unfortunately, unknown to Colan, the chop is illegal, and Vancouver pointed the free.
Game 3: Vs. Edmonton
Sunday morning, and we picked it up another level at times in Game 3. For the first time, we were able to find our beastly full forward Evan Quinn with a few balls to the hand. We failed to score a goal in the previous two games, but early on in this one, Evan fielded nicely and found himself at point blank range.
He struck it lovely, the lovely striker that he is, but the keeper somehow blocked it after turning his back to it. More depressing than any goal that I let in the day before was seeing this ‘shite the tights’ Edmonton keeper save one after turning his back to it.
Edmonton felt they needed to put up a score in the fear that Vancouver might beat Calgary later on that day and qualify for the Senior Final via a better score difference. As usual, I spent a good chunk of my time looking directly up at balls sailing over my crossbar. In one such case though, my trusted umpire waved it wide. When the commotion died down and the ball was back in play, I ever so discretely suggested that it might have gone over. “Ah sure ya can’t give them everything!”, he says. Fair play to him.
Quinn ended up burying a goal in each half, and Colm Moloney stuck one too, so more promise shown by the Gaels as we were facing into a Junior Final. Brian Fagan volunteered to try his hand as goalkeeper for the second half. He must have thought it would be a bit of craic or something – God knows why.
Final: Vs. Vancouver
Schedules were tight on the day, and so straight after winning the Junior Gaelic Football final, we had to grab sticks and head across to Field 2 for the Hurling final. I was wrecked. I think my mind sent the message to the body at the final whistle of the football; that’ll do now, you’ve won one, fancy calling it a day? Quinn was goalkeeper for the footballers, but was suffering with an injury all day Sunday. I looked over and asked him if he’s able to play this game. “Sure I’m absolutely buzzing now after that win, I’ll be flying it!” Funny how the mind works I suppose.
The Vancouver guys were a desolate bunch, disappointed not be have qualified for the senior final, and had no problem in agreeing to play eight minutes per half as opposed to the usual 15. A desolate bunch, but a bunch of natural hurlers nonetheless.
We knew it was a massive task but decided to go hell for leather from the off. I let Fagan continue his strange wish to stand in goals and took up a half-forward slot instead. Mark Landers and Colm Moloney started magnificently, pointing from range, and led us to a three point lead at half-time. Unlike the roll on, roll off substitution technique we used in all other previous games, with only eight minutes each half, little or no subs were made. Despite this, we were welcomed in at half-time by Sean Walsh who decided to swap his navy football jersey for a white hurling one, and throw the helmet on at that. Couple of balls go over the bar, and the Sligo man sniffs the medal!
The next eight minutes were truly a heroic effort as Landers drove us on with some great scores. Quinn kicked a goal at the beginning of the second half to put some distance in the scores, but a frantic ebb and flow meant most players lost track of the score. Denise ‘Armbar’ Murphy tussled with another Vancouver giant of a man, who eventually found the deck. Later on that night, Murph, all dolled up but still with that recognizable Murphness about her, was spotted at the after party by some Vancouver hurlers who proceeded to reunite the fallen giant with her. You can’t say they weren’t good craic anyway.
Vancouver rallied in their ‘goals only’ second half mission. A goal half way through the half closed the gap, and Paddy Shannon displayed a heroic diving block to prevent another late on. With no more than a minute left, a sweet strike from the Vancouver full forward found the corner of the net. Disaster. Final whistle goes. Bollocks. So close.
Then I look over and see substitute Peter McGloin let out one of them McGloin roars that only Peter McGloin can do. And only after winning. We look at the referee who eventually throws over his shoulder that Regina had won by a point. It was a great moment, kick starting the celebrations that went long into the night. Is there another team out there that have won two Championships within a half hour? Wonderful achievement by Regina Gaels in the most successful day and year of the club’s short history.