This morning we took a two hour drive south from Belfast to Dublin. We all were able to catch a few minutes (or hours) of shut eye before we arrived at our cultural sports clinic for lessons in Gaelic football (which uses kicking, hand passes, and bouncing of a volleyball-type ball) and Hurling (a combination of field hockey and paddle ball of sorts).
Even though we stepped inside for a little as shown above, we definitely had our share of intense weather. During our Gaelic football lesson, we were about to start a scrimming and it started downpouring with very strong winds but being the competitive team that we are, we prevailed.. even though we were setting ourselves up to be soaked and damp for the rest of the day!
After our lesson, we headed to Croke Park which is where the best amateur teams in Ireland play. There are no professional hurling or Gaelic football teams in Ireland. All players play for the love of the game. We also learned that there is no picking the team you play on. So if you are born in Dublin, you play for the Dublin hurling or Gaelic football team. Further, you only root from the team of your hometown. To put it in USA terms, if you grew up in San Francisco, it is unacceptable to root for anyone for the Giants (shout out to Rachel Baskin because she is the biggest homegrown Giants fan around)! Hometown pride is clearly seen in this display of loyalty.
At Croke Park, we were given a tour of the stadium which can hold up to 82,500 fans. The tour guide showed us the locker rooms, celebration rooms, and the field itself which is composed of three types of Irish grass. Words from the tour guide when asked if the field was turf: “We don’t grow many things well in Ireland, but grass is definitely one of them!”
Gaelic football and Hurling has also been influential in bridging the relations between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The nation’s love of the game includes competitors from all counties and even the Queen (monarch of Northern Ireland) was recently at Croke Park (in Dublin, Ireland) to learn more about the sport.
After our tour, we headed to our new hotel right in heart of Dublin. A little livelier than the town of Belfast, Dublin is without a doubt going to be a great end to our trip. After relaxing for a bit, we headed out for dinner where we ate at different pubs in the Temple Bar area. We enjoyed some live Irish music before calling it a night!