Penn State Players Try Hurling And Gaelic Football With Mixed Results
DUBLIN, Aug. 29-
After a sunny Thursday practice in Dublin, Penn State got a training session from a local Gaelic Athletic Association club on the rules of the sports of hurling and Gaelic Football.
It was a humorous sight as the Nittany Lions took part in a series of exercises well out of their usual set of skills. Half the team learned the rules of hurling before learning the skills and techniques needed to succeed at Gaelic Football.
Hurling is in many ways like field hockey combined with the aggressive edge of lacrosse. A large wooden stick is used to pick up and smack a ball toward a goalie and a soccer-sized net. With the ball said to be moving at top speeds of 150 MPH it makes for a high-intensity game. With a goalie in net it makes things even more dramatic as each side looks to stop opposing offenses without taking a hit from a ball nearly as tough as a baseball.
Gaelic Football is an even more interesting sport. It combines the skills of soccer and in some ways basketball -- players can run with the ball for four steps before a single bounce or dribble of the ball. Goals are scored in a net by a soccer dropkick that requires an impressive degree of accuracy.
What makes Gaelic Football a unique sport on a national level in Ireland is that teams are divided up by counties and players born in that county are only eligible to play for their respective hometowns. That means no trading between teams and even more impressive, the entire league is played by amateurs who hold full-time jobs during the regular work week. A far cry from the "amateurs" of college football.
It's would be accurate to say that Penn State's interaction with the game was spirited but succeeded at a very minimal level. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg rocketed a ball over the uprights out of the park in impressive but not accurate fashion in terms of the rules of the game of hurling.
"I think you guys should take up baseball," one instructor laughed.
Overall though Penn State was able to end the last day of practice before the season opener with a bit of fun and a lesson on the local culture. Even if the players weren't all that good at giving it a go.
Keep track of Ben Jones as he navigates Dublin by reading his Penn State Football/Ireland Travel Blog.