Duchess shows hurling promise as royals sign off on Irish visit

William and Kate go head-to-head in GAA shoot-out in Salthill

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Knocknacarra GAA Club in Galway during day-three of their visit to Ireland. Video: Reuters

 

Tensions were high at the Salthill Knocknacarra GAA club in Galway on Thursday, as onlookers waited to see whether Team William or Team Catherine would be crowned winner of a hurling shoot-out.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge concluded their three-day visit to Ireland with a trip to the Galway GAA club, where they received lessons on how to play the world’s fastest field sport.

Fresh from a walk around Galway city where they celebrated its status as 2020 European Capital of Culture, the couple kicked, punched and hand-passed footballs during drills, in preparation for the royal rumble.

Two teams of three were set up to see who could score the most points with a hurl and sliotar. Each player had two shots in the girls versus boys contest.

Team William comprised the Duke, Devon Burke (10) and Oisín Morrissey (10), while Team Catherine featured the Duchess, Niamh McGauran (10) and Neasa Garvey (10).

Prince William looked nervous as he sized up the hurl, moving it from hand to hand, as if measuring its weight.

“Are you guys really good?” he asked his teammates. “Yes,” they both replied, unashamedly.

“I’ve never done this before, I might need you to show me. I’ve played hockey but never this,” the prince replied, looking between the boys and the goal.

The two boys said they wanted to win and the Prince laughed in response. “If I can hit one, it would be good,” he replied with a smile.

The Duchess also received advice from her teammates. “Keep your eye on the ball,” the kids shouted out to her, after she missed the sliotar.

Their advice worked, too, as she quickly hit the next shot, with the sliotar soaring just above the crossbar.

Final score

It was a close game, with both teams performing admirably, but ultimately Team Catherine came out on top with 4-1 to 3-1.

The intensity wasn’t quite Davy Fitzgerald levels as both Cambridges cheered each other on when goals were scored. The Duchess put a hand of solidarity on her husband’s shoulder when he hit the post.

Speaking after the couple had left, Devon said he was “disappointed” his team had lost but that it was “so much fun” to play.

Niamh, who was on Team Catherine, said she would “love” if Kate Middleton was really on her team one day.

“She asked me what my name was, and what age I was and she asked me how to hit the sliotar. We guided her through it and she got it right,” she said.

The royal couple received a warm welcome in Galway, but particularly from the members of the club.

The children formed a guard of honour for the pair, as they began to leave the club grounds, shaking hands with people as they went.

Club secretary Conor McGauran said: “This is more than just symbolic, this is them playing our national sport, this is them getting involved in a community-based organisation that’s completely run by volunteerism, so to me it’s a huge message of support for Irish-British relations.”

The excitement got too much for some of the children who had to be held back to prevent them from running after the royal couple.

“Bring me,” one child called out. “Bring me with you.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge instead brought home three club jerseys for their children, a sliotar, a hurl and a football to commemorate the first time they played GAA.

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