The University of Montana's hurling team took on the Missoula club team, The Thomas Meagher Hurling Club, for a celebratory St. Patrick's Day match in the late-afternoon sunshine in Washington-Grizzly Stadium on March 16, 2019.
The UM Grizzlies, with assistance from members of the Butte club team, played well but were ultimately defeated by the Thomas Meagher hurlers. Thomas Meagher hurler Donncha Ó Murchú dominated the first half, scoring most of the points.
The game is played on a field similar to a rugby or football field. A point is scored when the sliotar (ball) goes over the bar. Getting it in the goal earns 3 points.
During the game, two players broke their wooden bats, known as hurleys. A hurley is used to hit the ball downfield. Players may only hold the ball in their hands for four steps before either dropping it or passing it with their hurley. They may also slap or kick it for short-range passing.
Hurling is an ancient Gaelic sport, originating 4,000 years ago. It's physical—players may shoulder check each other during battles for the ball. They wear no protective padding, save a helmet.
The Grizzlies scored the first point, sending the sliotar over the bar. However, the Thomas Meagher hurlers quickly scored several in succession. They also put up the first goal, earning 3 points.
The second half was more fair, once star Donncha Ó Murchú came off for the Thomas Meagher team. The Grizzlies began to catch up, but didn't quite close the gap, losing 28-21.
The celebrations continued onto St. Patrick's day (Sunday) as the two teams traveled back to Butte to play a match there.
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The University of Montana hurling team battle against their Thomas Meagher Hurling Club opponents for control over the sliotar (ball) late in the first half of the match on March 16, 2019. The Thomas Meagher hurlers won the match 28-21 after completely dominating the first half.
A Thomas Meagher Hurling Club team member holds the sliotar (ball), dashing toward the goal. Hurlers may hold the sliotar for up to four steps before they must drop or hit it with their hurley. It's about the size of a tennis ball, but more dense, similar to a lacrosse ball.
Hurlers from both teams stand as the Irish national anthem is performed before the game in Washington-Grizzly Stadium in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. The UM Grizzlies hurling team was assisted by some hurlers from Butte.
Matt Moore, a Butte hurling athlete who joined the team for the day, grabs helmet and hurley (playing stick) before heading onto the field for the second half of the match.
Hurlers battle for control of the sliotar early in the second half of the match. Hurling is a physical sport—opponents may shoulder charge any opponent in possession, playing, or racing them to the sliotar.
A Thomas Meagher Hurling Club team member throws the ball into the air to prepare to hit it with his hurley—a good strike with a hurley can move the sliotar at speeds of up to 93 miles per hour and over 350 feet.
Katie Wahler, UM Grizzlies Hurling team member, watches as the starting lineup is decided for the second half. The hurling team is open to men and women.
A hurler leaps for control of the sliotar while opponents and teammates brace to assist or defend during the second half. In official hurling matches, each team is made up of 15 players. Players must all wear helmets, as of a 2010 regulation.
A effigy of St. Patrick stands on the sideline, with a hurley and a medal from the UM Grizzlies national victory in 2015. University of Montana hurlers have been national champions four of the last five years: 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018.
A UM Grizzlies hurler swings to whack the sliotar downfield toward the goal near the beginning of the second half.
The second half of the game kicks off in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. The Griz did better in the second half, after Thomas Meagher Hurling Club's star player Donncha Ó Murchú switched to referee-ing.