The greatest Irish experience of all, watching the All Ireland hurling final
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|All-Ireland GAA hurling final, Cork v Clare|
There are about 200,000 native Irish living in the United States and a couple of hundred showed up at the Irish Center in Mineola, Long Island for the All-Ireland hurling final of 2013 between Cork and Clare on Sunday last.
It was a scene that was replicated in hundreds of Irish Centers and bars across America, Britain, Australia and wherever Irish gathered.
From early in the morning on Long Island they came, young and old alike, the younger ones mostly bedecked in Cork jerseys though a fair smattering of Clare colors too.
Some looked like they had spent a long night waiting for this moment when their team would take to the field (about 10.15 New York time) and vie for the title of All Ireland champion.
The older contingent was definitely more Cork than Clare, a nod to the fact that emigration from Ireland’s largest county was among the most numerous from Ireland.
The fact that Cobh or Queenstown as it was known then, was the great port of embarkation and located in Cork probably helped ensure that many there left.
What brought the modern day emigrant fans together on a sunny new York morning was arguably Ireland’s greatest sporting occasion.
While Gaelic football is more popular and played in more counties it is still an indescribable thrill to watch a game described in the old annals as being played by the legendary warrior Cu Chulainn among others, still taking center stage in Ireland.
A thousand years ago the first hurlers were mentioned in the Irish annals and the game still thrives.
There is something about Croke Park on hurling all Ireland day, the 82,000 spectators, the playing of the national anthem before the ball is thrown in, that is deeply, utterly tribal and Irish.
To know hurling is to know Ireland, a passionate, skilful and hard-hitting game of the tribe that astonishes those foreigners who see it for the first time with all its speed and grace.
The players are all amateurs, many farmers and rural folk who go back to work right after the game.
No million dollar salaries or golden contracts, just the pride of the village, the town, the county.
One of the Cork players was from a tiny club and village that had never had a player on a Cork All Ireland team before. The local excitement was immense. Where else would you get such community pride?
On Sunday the men of Clare and Cork played out a titanic struggle and the excitement was palpable at the Irish Center as the teams entered the final few minutes locked in close combat.
Clare were the better team but conceded three goals and were unable to score any themselves which allowed Cork to come thundering back.
The final few moments as Cork sneaked a single point leader only to falter as Clare equalized with practically the last puck of the game amazingly from a corner back, the rough equivalent of a linebacker scoring a touchdown in football.
So, wonderfully they will all get to do it again. The Irish Center will be even more packed I bet as a result of this titanic first game. Something to look forward to on September 28th!
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