It's a funny old game


Conor Lally finds himself watching a UEFA version of hurling: The UEFA delegation who visited Croke Park yesterday spent less than 15 minutes on the pristine new pitch and seemed much more interested in learning about how our "crazy" game of hurling is played.

This eavesdropper was in Croke Park yesterday on unrelated business to the UEFA trip. But leaving the stadium I met the delegation as they waited on an elevator.

At some stage on their tour of Croker, a child-size hurl and two sliothars had been produced.

The ensuing banter from the UEFA blazer brigade was more reminiscent of RTE's Après Match than something you might expect from a delegation here on the ever-so-serious business of assessing the stadium's suitability for the 2008 European Championships.

"Where can you hit? Can you hit here?," enthuses one of the UEFA officials, grabbing the hurl and guiding a mock wallop at a colleague's head.

"This would not be good. I think it would hurt, really I think it would hurt," he adds, answering his own question.

Another in the party adds to the amusement: "They would not let me take this home on the plane, it would be offensive, an offensive weapon I mean".

"It all seems a little crazy," offers another as he handles a rock-hard sliothar.

"I mean if this were to come at you in the head (guides the ball towards his own eye) it would be painful. Do they wear helmets?"

"Oh yes, yes," responds one of the Irish tour guides.

"But sometimes, you know, in the last 10 minutes of a game or whatever they might fling them off just to show that they're about to get stuck in, like."

Guffaws of laughter all round from our continental friends.

"You know what I am thinking?," ventures one.

"The Irish really could have done with some of these hurleys in Moscow last week."