Kilkenny won the 2019 New York Hurling Classic when they defeated Limerick on Saturday on a brutally cold afternoon at Citi Field in Queens in front of a crowd of 11,214 hurling enthusiasts. 

Okay, first things first. The format: four teams (Limerick vs. Wexford and Kilkenny vs. Tipperary) competed in two semifinals with the winners of each tie vying for the Players Champions Cup.  The Super 11 format: 11-a-side teams togged out instead of the more traditional 15-a side. 

The modified rules included a shot clock, a sin bin, a yellow luminous sliothar, a short corner, a one handpass rule, a tap to go possession and soccer goals. Just think hurling on a soccer field for goals only, and let’s move on. 

Promotion of the New York Hurling Classic, organized by the Gaelic Players Association (GPA), the GAA and Aer Lingus, was strong on both sides of the ocean.  One representative from each team, clad in full county colors, posed for promotional photos at Dublin Airport last week (the Kilkenny lad was convinced to hop on a mini trampoline to look like he was floating in the air, like a flying cat, of sorts). 

Great day out at @CitiField yesterday for the Hurling Classic. Congrats to Kilkenny on their win: an amazing display of skill during an incredible tournament!

— Irish Consulate NYC (@IrelandinNY) November 17, 2019

After the teams landed in the Big Apple, several players and reps from the GPA showed NY1’s Roger Clark the finer points of the ancient game of hurling. By the end of the segment, Clark was trading passes with eight-time All-Ireland medal winner Richie Hogan and looking like a natural. 

More importantly, though, players from the Tipperary and Kilkenny teams visited Gaelic Park on Friday night to meet the next generation of stateside hurlers.  The Limerick team went to Rockland GAA Club on the same night to meet young players there.  The competition was held at Fenway Park for the past couple of years, so this was a rare opportunity for young hurlers in the New York area to meet some of the stars of the game.

On Saturday morning, the 7 train was packed with Irish heads on the way out to either support their county or countrymen as some of hurling’s most popular princes got ready to duke it out against each other in Queens.  It was 40 degrees and sunny for the first game, but strong winds made the temperature feel 10-15 degrees colder. 

WATCH: British Pathe footage shows hurling match at Yankee Stadium in 1936

It was hot toddy weather, but there was a good atmosphere among the fans of all teams who mingled together. New Yorker Fiona Ward, whose mother hails from Waterford and whose paternal grandparent also came from the Emerald Isle, made the trip to Citi Field. 

“This is my second game; I’ve been to a game in Dublin,” she told the Irish Voice.  “I think it’s great that it [hurling] is coming to New York so all Irish Americans can experience the game here.”

Limerick and Wexford got things started, but you could tell the Treaty lads weren't quite warmed up as they missed two penalties at the start of the game. The scores soon started to fly, and even the Mets’ Home Run Apple got in on the action when it rose to mark a particularly good score. 

Limerick got off to a fast start and dominated the game en route to a 52-20 win. The second semifinal was even more one-sided, with Kilkenny doling out a 50-point walloping to Tipperary, 86-36. 

The final itself was a good game, with Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy the star player, making many key saves early in the game.  The Cats went into the break with a 16-point lead. Limerick could not peg their opponents back, and Kilkenny eventually ran out 64-40 winners. 

At the press conference after the game, Limerick manager John Kiely, who guided his team to success in the 2018 edition of this event at Fenway Park, explained what he and his team have learned from their experience in Boston and New York and playing in front of fans who may not get back to Ireland frequently. 

“Last year, when we came over, we got an understanding of what it means to be an Irish person living in America and maybe who doesn’t get home that often and how much it meant to them when we got over last year; people from Limerick being able to get together and celebrate the fact that their team is in town and they can go watch them play,” he said.

“There are a lot of second-generation Irish if you like who are playing the game here and who have never been to Ireland and never been to see a game of hurling in Ireland.  It makes it an awful lot easier when they’ve got matches like this that they can bring their kids to and for them to have their stars and heroes here. It means an awful lot to those people, and we got a lot better understanding of that in the last 12 months,” he added. 

“It’s been great; we’ve made a lot of new friends, a lot of new faces, and it’s been a really good 12 months for people in Limerick at home and here in New York.” That seemed to be the overall vibe from all the teams who came to New York. They were happy to be here, and we were happy to have them visit.

Read more: Roscommon’s 2016 New York agony

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