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Sports

Akron Celtic Guards Hurling Club celebrates national sport of Ireland

8/7/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

Shown is Akron Celtic Guards Hurling Club player Adam Behm, at right, outrunning a player from the Pittsburgh Hurling Club during a past game.
Photo courtesy of Beth Rimmel
GREATER AKRON — Hurling remains an unfamiliar game to most Americans, but a local group, the Akron Celtic Guards Hurling Club, is doing its part to help the game gain prominence.

Pat Taylor Jr., the club’s games development officer, said hurling is the national sport of Ireland, in addition to “being one of three Gaelic sports in Ireland.”

“It’s a variation of a stick and ball sport that requires the player to use their stick (hurley) to handle the ball (sliotar) and attempt to score for three points on the other team’s goal, similar to a soccer goal, or over the goal, similar to American football for a single point,” he explained. “Games usually last around an hour and a half, depending how long the halves are. Usually, [there are] 35-minute halves with a 15-minute halftime.”

According to Beth Rimmel, the club’s public relations officer, most members of the club live in the Akron area, but there also are a few members who live in the Cleveland area.

“We have 30 registered traveling members, and we have another 15 to 20 social members,” she said. “It’s a blend of men and women from ages 20 to 55. We have a wide variety of people and the main thing is that everybody looks forward to seeing each other — whether you come every week or every once in a while. And that’s true even if you just come to watch. I was here for seven years before I started to play. It’s just a comfortable, fun environment.”

Many of the club’s players get together to practice every Sunday at 1 p.m. at the field by Goodyear Middle School, 50 N. Johns Ave. in Akron, Taylor said, and then meet up again on Tuesdays at 6 p.m.

“We usually have a stick toss [pick up game] after practice if there’s not a City Series game,” he said.

The players in the club are split into teams to play games against other members of the club, Taylor said, and sometimes the club will take on other Gaelic Athletic Association clubs.

“Our full name is the Akron Celtic Guards Hurling Club, but we’re comprised of several ‘teams’ — that being the Camogie team, which is the women’s version of Hurling, and our co-ed intramural City Series that we play in the spring and the fall,” he said. “The hurling club travels a few times during the year. Each year, we go to Orlando and Indianapolis for yearly tournaments, as well as Pittsburgh for a match, and, finally, wherever nationals are being held, which is Boston this year.”

The local club started in 2002, Taylor said, and new players are always welcome.

“Anyone can join the hurling club; they just have to show up to a practice, sign some forms and pick up a stick,” he said. “New players actually don’t need any equipment, since the club has plenty to loan out during practice. The essentials needed are a hurley, a helmet and a sliotar. In terms of skills, hand-eye coordination is handy, but more important is the player’s willingness to learn.”

Rimmel said the club fosters a “fun, light-hearted, competitive” atmosphere.

“There’s a definite social aspect to the team,” she said. “It’s not just about going to a game and going home. We try to pepper in cookouts and picnics and things like that.”

In addition, Rimmel said, the club currently is teaching the game to a new generation through the Akron Celtic Youth Guards Clinic, which is taking place this month.

These clinics are specifically aimed at teaching the fundamentals of hurling to players from the ages of 7 to 18. The cost is $30 for five weeks and the practice lasts one hour per week. Parents/guardians will have to sign waivers.

For additional information about the club or the youth clinic, go to akronhurling.com or facebook.com/hurling.

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