The hurlers of Cork, Clare, Wexford, and Limerick will take to the field at Boston's Fenway Park on the November 18 where they will do battle in a super 11's format for the Players Champions Cup.
This annual event sees the famous Boston venue turn into a cauldron of Gaelic athleticism as baseball bats are replaced with hurleys and the humble baseball is trumped by the sliotar. Hurling in Fenway Park is not a new concept, back in 1954 the Cork hurling team took to the famous baseball field where legendary Christy Ring stole the show.
Apart from Irish sporting activities, the hallowed turf of Fenway Park also hosted Irish political activities.
The Irish roots of Fenway Park can be found in its very foundations. Derry native Charles Logue was tasked with building the cathedral of Boston baseball in 1912. Seven years later the home of the Red Sox staged a mass rally for Irish independence.
On the 29th of June 1919, Eamonn De Valera addressed an Irish freedom rally in Fenway Park. The baseball ground burst with over 60,000 people and the Boston Globe of June 30th reported: "To say it was thrilling is putting it mildly - it was electric!" The newspaper goes on to describe the atmosphere: " it was an inspiring assemblage......the audience appreciated the eloquent prayer with which Rev. Fr Philip O'Donnell opened the meeting - a prayer so thrilling in its appeal that it was frequently applauded."
The large crowds proved to be a headache for organizers as the Boston Globe reported "There were thousands on the street outside....the jam became so great between the platform and the grandstand that several women fainted and had to be carried on the speaker’s platform where they were attended by Dr James F. Gallagher. The crowd surged around the reporter's table that was on the ground in front of the speaker’s platform and one of those tables was crumpled up but fortunately, nobody injured."
Another Irish independence rally was held in Fenway Park three years later which saw the formidable Countess Markiewicz take to the platform to speak for the Irish Republic
On the 22nd of May 1922, the Boston Globe reported how thousands packed into the baseball ground to hear Markiewicz and Kathleen Barry, sister of the martyred Kevin, and Captain Cornelius Conroy of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. The Globe reported that "the meeting was held under the auspices of the American Association for the recognition of the Irish Republic and the women's auxiliary. At least half of those present were women. The countess and her party were escorted on the field by the Brian Boru pipers of Worcester and a group of ex-servicemen - the De Valera guard - carrying the American and Irish flags."
In 1954 a Cork team fresh from winning a third All Ireland title in a row appeared at Fenway to take on the New England exiles. Christy Ring was described in the press as 'Irelands Babe Ruth' and he played up to such a comparison when he donned a baseball uniform for a photo shoot in Fenway Park. An article appeared in the November 8th edition of Sports Illustrated which described the Cork star as 'a balding 33-year-old Irishman with a broad back, strong legs, and hands that could choke a bear.'
When today's hurling teams take to Fenway Park this November, they do so in the steps of giants of the game and ghosts of the past.
Want to know what to expect? Check out the highlights of the Hurling Classic at Fenway in 2017:
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