Three members of the New Hampshire National Guard have made a pact to bring hurling with them on their deployment to the Middle East.
Sergeant 1st Class Eddie Clements, 1st Lieutenant David DeVoy and Captain Adam Burritt are the three men determined to continuing playing the sport played by Celtic warriors while they are in service in Kuwait.
Speaking to the “Boston Herald” from Kuwait Clements said, “They call it the fastest game on grass. For us, it is the fastest game on sand.”
It was six years ago that the New Hampshire National Guard’s Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry was deployed to Iraq and passed through Shannon Airport on St. Patrick’s Day.
Lt. Col. Ray Valas, 37, said, “That was a lucky occurrence for us…It was a long, pretty rough year. We had 14 guys get wounded, but everyone was alive from our company.”
On their way home they stopped again in Shannon and they saw their first hurling match. The men, feeling lucky to be alive, took this as a sign. And so their team, the Barley House Wolves, was born.
Valas said, “When you come back, it takes time to readjust and get back to whatever normal was before you spent a year in a combat zone. The path that gets you there is different for everyone. Some of my soldiers turned to art, some turned to writing, some to the gym. There are good directions you can turn and not-so-good directions. The more options we can offer, the better we will be as a unit.”
The GAA in Boston has embraced the new team, and they now compete in league games.
The team’s coach Ruairi O’Mahony, who played hurling as a child in Cork, said, “What’s amazing is the guys up here, they are actually good and developing all the time. There are six or seven guys who could get on a junior A team back in Ireland.”
However, the game is not just something to unite the men while they are at home. It has also become a dedication that they bring with them in to the Middle East.
Burritt said “It’s been important to the three of us that hurling remain a part of our lives even while deployed to Kuwait.”
The soldiers insist on practicing whenever they have time and are constantly trying to recruit new players. However, they need more equipment to play.
DeVoy said, “It’s a great thing for the soldiers to get together and be away from work to just practice and play. We are hoping we can play one game while we’re here. It will be the first and only (hurling) game played on Kuwaiti soil.”
For more information visit hurlingnh.com.