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Kinvara Road Hurling 2010

posted 8 Feb 2011, 05:39 by Garret Byrne
Kinvara GAA had a one page feature on this years Galway GAA Annual.
Here it is....

Kinvara Road Hurling


If you want road hurling then head for the south shores of Galway Bay, and head for Kinvara. This year’s event took place on Sunday 11th July, but for weeks beforehand, the side roads, back roads and high roads were busy with locals practicing and sharpening up their road skills. Sliotars were being sent shuttling down between the ditches, with the odd cow dodging the odd stray shot!

But what are the origins of this road hurling? Well, in Kinvara it goes back to the last century and was a common event right up to the early sixties. Back then and more so at the turn of the century, gaels from all over the parish used come together for hurling matches. As they walked the miles to the field where the match was to be played, the men used to shorten the road by hitting stones, balls or whatever they had along the road. They used to have their own competitions to see how many shots they could take to go from one townland to the other. And so down through the years this sport developed. Often the men from different townlands met up as they went along to the matches, and competed against each other. This all continued in some varying degree until the sixties, when fewer lads walked and bikes were more abundant.

So about 4 years ago three local lads, Garret Byrne, Michael Bermingham and Sean O’Hanrahan decided to start a revival. The Kinvara Road Hurling Championships were born and event has grown from strength to strength since. In common with other similar events held in other parts of the country, the competition is all about a team of three players, taking alternative shots on the sliotar, and trying to take the least number of shots around a road course circa 3 miles long.

This year’s event was opened on the Friday 9th July when it started 9 miles from Kinvara village in Aughinish, Co. Clare. Although in Co. Clare, Aughinish is a former island that is now connected by causeway to Doorus in Kinvara. So we decided to re-enact what the men from “Horse Island” would have done a 100 years ago as they walked to Kinvara for a hurling match. Club President Kevin Sexton hit the first shot in the shadow of the Martello Tower, and so we were on our way. Along the route we travelled up through the townlands of Doorus, while also being encouraged along the way by our other club president John O’Connor. At Mountscribe, the men from Crushoa joined up and so we played the whole way into Kinvara village. Although it was pouring rain, the sight of 30 lads playing road hurling, bonfires to keep us company, with ten drummers announcing our arrival must have been some sight for any tourists passing by. When we reached the pier down at the quay, three sliotars were symbolically hit into the bay. No better men to do that than three local stalwarts in John Connolly, Leo Finn and Frank Quinn.

And so to the main event on Sunday. This year we had over 30 teams with players from all over county Galway, Ireland and local lads. The weather itself was superb and conditions were perfect for the road hurling. Our course runs three and a half miles from Cahermore cross, down through Northampton and finishing in Kinvara village (not far from Sextons pub!). It is a great sight to see lads enjoying themselves hitting the ball along the road, as locals cheer them on from their front walls. And the great thing about this event is that the older lads can play at a competitive level on the road, although in some cases it might be nearly 20 years since they hit a ball in the pitch! In saying that some of them might need a bit of extra training for next year! However, you can sometimes find that the older the hurler, the cuter his shots are, and what he may have lost in power, he more than makes up for it in accuracy between the ditches.

The overall winning team was lead by local Alan Leech, and they came in with an incredible score of 59 shots.

Rose O’Connor afterwards presented the Poulnagan Cup to the wining team. This cup is based on the pewter chalice found in Kinvara by the O’Connor family in 1980. It dates back to Penal times and was found in Poulnagan townland, meaning “the hole of the heads”, referring to the deaths of many Christians persecuted for their faith.

Also, as part of the Road Hurling weekend, there was a horse-shoe throwing competition held down in the quay. For the second year in a row this was won by local Jack O’Donoghue. On his way he beat the best of local talent, but what is most amazing about this man is that he is of the youthful age of 84!

So watch out for next year’s event and come along for the sport, the competition and the craic. Be you a junior or a senior, current player or retired, male or female, road hurling is for you! And oh ya, you can also take on an 85 year old at the horseshoes!