Pittsburgh Gaelic Athletic Association Hosts Hurling; Midwestern Gaelic Football Finals This Week In Indiana Township

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In Gaelic, the motto on the crest of Pittsburgh Hurling Club reads “Near agus Misneach”.

Or, in English, “Strength and Courage”.

If you have seen what the sport of the howling seems at full speed, you understand why this is suitable.

If you haven’t, you can see it at the championship level this weekend in Indiana Township. It was then that the Pittsburgh Gaelic Athletic Association hosts its Midwest finals Saturday and Sunday at Founders Field, with action starting at 10 a.m. on both days.

Regional hurling and Gaelic football finals will take place. For pitchers, a national offer is on the line against teams from Rochester, Akron and Cleveland, with homestead Pittsburgh Pucas holding the seed after winning their four games this season and the previous championship in 2019, ahead of the coronavirus pandemic. .

If the Pucas defend their title, they will play for the national championship in Massachusetts on the weekend of August 19-22.

The Pittsburgh Hurling Club has been in existence since 2007 and operates out of Panther Hollow, near the Pitt campus. On their website, the Pucas say they typically have 25 members, this year aged 18 to 52, with Pitt acting as a solid power system for the team.

“It’s a chance for us,” said club president Sean Stayduhar. “The ones (the Pitt students) also play with us, the ones who stay for the summer. So every year we have young blood. … It’s really good for us to grow the club.

Hurling in the US typically has 13 players on the pitch (that’s 15 in Ireland, usually on slightly larger pitches). In the United States, fields are 140 to 160 meters long and 90 to 100 meters wide.

As in all sports, the rules are nuanced, but it is mainly a question of use a wooden stick (a hurley) with a wider flat front face to hit a hard ball into a goal for three runs or through the uprights above the goal for a run.

You can move the ball forward (sliotar) by dribbling it over the hurley while running, catching it with your hands, or throwing the ball with a baseball or tennis swing across the court to a teammate.

And there are a lot of contacts along the way.

“People who play lacrosse tend to always say it’s like playing lacrosse,” said team treasurer Cory Schemm. “But the baseball swing is interesting. In hurling, your hands are reversed. In baseball, your dominant hand is on the top. But when throwing your dominant hand is at the bottom.

At first glance, it seems the most difficult tactic to master would be to hurley dribble the ball or pick the ball up off the ground at full speed. But Schemm says you’d be surprised how quickly you learn these skills. For him, even though he played baseball growing up, the hardest part of the game to perfect is swinging the hurley in motion.

“For me it’s hitting with the left hand while running,” Schemm said. “I can hit right-handed by running in the right direction. But when you’re almost hitting while running, it’s pretty hard. Especially when you are also hit from behind. “

Or maybe the hardest thing could be playing on goal. Because howlers don’t wear a lot of gear – as Stayduhar describes it, basically a street hockey style helmet and cage. And goalkeepers don’t wear much more other than maybe shin guards trying to stop a ball that sometimes travels over 100mph.

“We were lucky,” Stayduhar said of the hiring of goalkeepers. “But usually the person who’s the goalie is a bit… on the sidelines. “

The unique nature of the game – something different to do – seemed to be the draw for Schemm and Stayduhar. Schemm says he was recruited by a friend a few years ago. Stayduhar says he stumbled upon the game simply while attending the annual Irish Festival in Pittsburgh, where the GAA still sets up a booth.

Despite the sport’s native roots and Pittsburgh’s Irish populace, Stayduhar says the team are surprisingly thin when it comes to Irish-born players.

“We actually have more Italian players than anything else,” said Stayduhar.

Stayduhar says when they meet teams with a more densely populated roster of Irish players, it’s a whole different level.

“New York, Boston, Philly, there’s a ton of Irish. Chicago too. These are the hotbeds, ”Stayduhar said.

And the Pucas are hoping Pittsburgh will be in that mix soon, too, with events like this weekend’s tournament acting as a large local stage for the game to recruit.

Tim Benz is an editor for Tribune-Review. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication, unless otherwise specified.

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