By Gerry Moran
You win some, you lose some. That said, there are some you really don’t want to lose, hate to lose – not least to a team who are frothing at the bit to emulate your precious record of having won four All Ireland Hurling finals in a row (along with Cork I should add).
But Limerick did just that and I don’t believe any Kilkenny hurling fan will deny them their mighty, and well deserved, feat. We were well and truly beaten; a consolation perhaps is that we weren’t pipped at the post by a point, the worst possible defeat and the hardest to swallow.
Be that as it may, I have no wish to focus on hurling this week but on the hurl itself which was never just a hurl for us children growing up in Ireland of the Fifties and early Sixties when our parents were put to the pin of their collars to get by and toys were a luxury that we only received at Christmas. And so, the hurl, and our children’s creativity, came into play, if you’ll pardon the pun.
First off, the hurl frequently became a rifle which we, as children, used to shoot Indians, or enemy cowboys, on the vast prairies that were Daly’s Hill and Murphy’s Field at the back of our houses. The same ‘prairies’ where cows morphed into buffalos and nettles became spiky, prickly cacti. And, when we weren’t shooting Indians, we were soldiers, our trusty hurls, masquerading as machine guns as we gunned down the enemy: Germans, Japs or Russians.
Come Wimbledon, and although we knew little about it, our hurls became tennis rackets as we batted a simple rubber ball across a chalk line, our imaginary net, on the road outside our houses; an actual tennis ball was hard to come by, ironic then that tennis balls would later be manufactured here in Kilkenny (remember Tex Tech, which closed down 20 year ago this year).
Come the Carrolls Irish Open Golf Tournament, our hurls transformed into golf clubs while the green outside our houses was punctured with small holes to resemble a miniature golf course. The hurl lent itself better to a golf club than to a tennis racket. And it’s no surprise, I suppose, that hurlers, not least former All Ireland hurlers, are dab hands, as they say, at the game of golf.
And then there was baseball which we knew absolutely nothing about but played wholeheartedly with our hurls which had now become baseball bats. We knew the sport as Rounders and a hurl lent itself perfectly to the game, there being no great difference between a baseball bat and a hurl, apart from the hurl’s flat boss.
How all these sports were introduced to us kids I have no idea there, what with there being no television at the time. I can only assume that they were introduced to us by our more knowledgeable siblings who were aware of them and who played alongside us.
Finally, there was, of all things, cricket which I don’t think any of us, not even our older, wiser siblings knew much about. But played it we did; once again a hurl becoming a cricket bat, and not a bad substitute, all considered, while the wicket was the butt of Mrs. Hogan’s sycamore tree. We called it Mrs. Hogan’s tree as it was in the green directly opposite her house. Mrs. Hogan was not overly enamoured with us using the butt of ‘her’ tree as a cricket wicket as the Sycamore was in its infancy, so to speak, but she was a gentle, understanding soul and allowed play to carry on.
Fast forward to the present day and my four-year-old grandson, domiciled in Wales, who was over here recently on a visit. He has a plastic miniature golf set, a tennis racket (plastic also) and a rugby ball, a gift from me, his granddad, something I sincerely hope does not come back to haunt me should he ever line out for a winning Welsh team against Ireland. He also has a hurl, of course, another gift, from his granddad which I hope he’ll put to good use, not as a rifle, machine gun, tennis racket or baseball bat but simply as a hurl.
And who knows maybe he might line out for Kilkenny someday should my son and his family ever relocate to ‘Cat Country’.