We Irish love a good game.
Just witness our passion for that hold-onto-your-teeth national sport of . In 1921, a stunned Daily Mail reported:
The Irish national game is the fastest and probably the most dangerous of sports. It is a combination of hockey, football, golf, baseball, battle and sudden death.
And that’s just the tip of the hurl. See, there are a few more Irish sports we’ve kept quiet about – until now. Inspired by those ‘games’ across the Irish Sea, we’ve decided to wheel out a few of our own. If there’s a gold medal for quirkiest sports, we’d be practicing our proud winner face now.
Give it a hurl
(Irish for ‘long puck’) is an eccentric cousin of the game of hurling. Contestants take turns hitting the sliothar (the ball) as far as they can with their hurl through 5 kms of mountains and valleys. In fact, it might actually be the coolest form of golf that never was. There is great technique involved, and the sport offers not only a peek into Irish history (hurling and camogie have been around for 3,000 years) but a flimsy excuse to follow the players into mountains for some imaginative heckling.
On 5 August, the All Ireland Poc Fada Championships take place. We say, doit.
Back on the road
Team Ireland have been put out on the street – for the odd little sport of road bowling. Sorry did we say odd? We meant long. Entrenched in Irish history, road bowling courses can stretch for over four kilometers, which when you’re throwing a ball (called a ‘bowl’ or ‘bullet’) of 28 ounces, can feel quite far indeed. It’s most popular in Counties and .
There’s been a spike in international interest recently, and road bowling courses have begun to crop up all over the world. I’d explain it, but the name really says it all.
The ‘shuck’ of the draw
Well this is handy – Team Ireland has worked up quite the appetite, and look what’s up next. Our delectable oysters have festivals thrown in their honour, but in fact they are a great example of our competitive spirit. We’ve had the boys from the Guinness World Records round for years now, because – if you don’t mind us sayin’ – we gots skills.
‘Shucking’ is the weird verb for opening oysters, and the Galway Oyster Festival throws the World Oyster Opening Championships every year. Festival manager Suzanne Meade says the competition is fierce.
We have competitors traveling from 20 countries this year. I believe some are already in training since January and the Nordic competitors are particularly determined to have a winner this year.
At County Down’s Hillsborough Oyster Festival swallowing the little critters is the record-breaking business. The Guinness World Record for eating the most oysters was made at the 2009 festival; at a whopping 233 in three minutes.
It’s a bog’s life
Less from the history books and more from the swamp comes the sport of . Yes it’s kind of people covered in mud and choking on bog weeds sprouting from the end of a snorkel. But we hear once you embrace it, it’s great craic altogether. Bog athelete and writer of the Year of Festivals blog Mark Graham captured the tension in the minutes before it began.
Masks down, neoprene body armour donned, an army of eejits waddling through the fields of Monaghan in their flippers to vie for the title of Bog Snorkelling Champion 2011.
Contestants wear wetsuits with flippers, and must snorkel (without resorting to any conventional swimming strokes,) two consecutive times down a 60-yard canal cut through a peat bog and filled with water. Any eccentric bog-snorkeller who branches out from the suit and dons wacky swimwear is highly rewarded.
“You’re normally in bed at this time on a Saturday – and look at all this”, comes the faint praise from one participant in the video. Yep, just a bog standard Saturday…
Then the stag weekend arrived…
“What if we made karting more… more… blokey” we imagine someone must have said somewhere.
How else would you explain blokarting? This is a sport harnessing the mighty powers of the wind and man’s eternal love for sticking an oversized sail on things. Blokarters sit in a little kart that rests on three wheels and with a giant sail (think windsurfing rather than sailboat) on top. Then they zip about the beach being blown by the wind. The Irish wind is a creature that knows no rest, and as an island, we’ve got plenty of beaches for zipping. Billy Butler, activity manager for Freedom Surf School & Adventure, said ‘harnessing the wind and sailing along a deserted beach is a pretty amazing feeling.’
In fact, we expect to be sitting proudly in our team colours when it’s included in the 2016 Rio games. That leaves plenty of time for practice too.
For the love of the game
The truth is, you can keep your bogs and your karts and your hurls, because we Irish know the most important game to be a winner at is the game of love.
So for our last trick, we will grab our significant other and carry her off to the sunset… and the finish line. Yes it’s a wife-carrying competition, but we use the term wife loosely – contestants aren’t required to be married and same-gender contestants are welcomed. In fact, we can’t think of a better way to spend a first date.
Wife-carrying competitions were started in 2008 in County Kerry (kind of explains some Kerryman jokes), and have spread around the island into quirky events involving technique, strength and of course, love. Costumes are encouraged and hilarity guaranteed. Ciara Crossan, of WeddingDates and an experienced carried-wife herself and winner of ‘Most Entertaining Couple’ at the 2009 World Wife-Carrying Competition says it’s in a class of its own.
It is so funny to watch! There is no other sport like it, it is a race between two couples and you have to go over hurdles and through a water obstacle. It is hilarious for spectators.
Hilarious for spectators indeed – we know you lads are the real winners here at the Irish Games.
And now for the closing ceremony – we’ll see you in the pub.
This is just one example of the gentle, quirky madness that happens around here every day. But we know all madness is not made equal. So if you have the urge to escape the madness of your town or city – we have some suggestions.
Read more from Erica on her blog.