By Michael McMullan
BALLINSCREEN will host Derry Social Hurling’s second tournament on Saturday with 10 teams on board, over double the field of their first event.
Following on from social hurling in Dublin and Belfast, it began in Claudy with Paul Brady who has since moved to Belfast.
Social Hurling is the closest thing to jumpers for goalposts in sport, with former players mixing up with total beginners.
Players turn up for an hour, play hurling, have and laugh and return the following week, much in the mould of five-aside soccer.
“Myself, Gregory (Brunton) and James Walsh help organise it,” said Joe McCallion.
“We turn up, have a mess around for five or ten minutes to warm up, pick a couple of teams and away we go.”
A waterbreak breaks up the hour with a “next goal is the winner” shout bellowed out as hometime beckons.
“It started up with word of mouth and Twitter and it began to grow,” McCallion added.
Players roll up and any newcomers introduce themselves. For players never having lifted a hurl before, there is an unwritten rule of them being exempt from being challenged until they can get the ball under control.
“There is a lad, Aidan McIvor, who hasn’t missed a session from the start, “ McCallion points out. “He wasn’t able to lift the ball, but has never missed a Monday night and has now got the hang of it…that’s the beauty of it all.”
Enjoyment goes arm in arm with exercise. On a visit to a tournament in Belfast this summer, the Derry players ended up dancing away at a Human League concert with the hurling bliz twinned with the West Belfast Féíle.
There is a trip in the pipeline to hurl at Naomh Olaf’s tournament with a night of craic planned in Belfast on the runup to Christmas.
But Saturday comes first on an event billed as “12 ‘til late” and including teams from Belfast, Down and Armagh.
No medals will be given out, but the play the ball not the man and no hard tackling mantras tell you all you need to know. It’s all about hurling and enjoyment – both in equal measure.
For more information contact @DoireSocial on Twitter.
Conor McKenna (Ballinascreen)
THE introduction of social hurling in Derry has been a very welcome initiative. Competitive hurling was a very large part of my life and this has given myself and others a second chance to rekindle the feeling of lifting the hurl in a team environment.
Coupled with its ability to help combat mental health issues that unashamedly myself and many others who attend social hurling deal with, for that hour we are at trainings us that chance to forget and feel a sense of freedom.
I cannot speak highly enough of social hurling Derry and would advise everyone, of all abilities, to experience Monday nights with us.
James Walsh (Na Magha)
ARRIVING from North London 15 years ago, proudly of Cork heritage, I gradually got involved with Na Magha hurling and camogie club in Derry City.
It wasn’t long before watching, became coaching and being a member of the committee. One day I was complaining about having broken my hurling stick and was told: “Shur you only need it for pointing at children”… even in jest, it was a fair critique.
Well that had to change. Monday evenings in Claudy let that happen.
As the saying goes, to lads who have hurled all their days, they aren’t as good as they once were, but they are as good once as they ever were. For me, I’m living the dream. That hour is a Munster final in Thurles or an All-Ireland final in Croke Park. If I manage to do anything at all well I’ll make sure and tell the kids at training…. The many things that don’t go well… well, nobody needs to hear about that.
The truth is, it’s about far more than what goes on out on the field. In a lot of ways, that doesn’t matter much at all. Hurling is a tough game and I regularly come home from Claudy with sore sides.
Eugene O’Kane (Faughanvale)
THE best thing about social hurling is it doesn’t matter if you played county or never played before. It’s about getting out and enjoying yourself. It has to be the best hour of the week that regular slot on a Monday night
Stephen McKenna (South Belfast)
I TOOK up hurling last year and play socially at South Belfast Social Hurling. The club provides a relaxed and fun environment to come together in the shared love of hurling. The lads have been incredibly welcoming and the banter is great! Weekly games help me to decompress and maintain fitness. Social tournaments are a fantastic idea and demonstrate the desire to reach wider audiences.
Kevin Kearney (South Belfast)
SOCIAL hurling has given me the chance to learn a new skill, meet new people and play a sport I have always enjoyed watching.