An enticing mix of lacrosse, rugby, soccer, hockey and baseball – but with a history going back thousands of years – the Gaelic sport of hurling is still relatively unfamiliar in Oklahoma. But there’s a small group of men in Tulsa who are trying to change that.
Jim Herron grew up in New Jersey with an Irish mother. So, when a hurling team started up two blocks from his apartment, he figured it would be a good fit for him.
“It was a great way to stay in shape, but it was also a great way to have a social element and get to know people,” he says.
After a move to Tulsa that saw his hurling equipment gather dust for a couple years, his wife suggested he pick up the sport again. Thus, the Gaelic Athletic Club of Tulsa began … with a very specific mission.
“We’re trying to showcase a bit of what it means to play Irish sports within the Tulsa and Oklahoma area,” says Herron.
Herron recruited a few guys to play, including Oklahoma-born-and-raised Jeffrey Scott. Scott was familiar with the more common sports of football, baseball and basketball, he says, but hurling was completely foreign. Herron showed him some videos and Scott was immediately drawn to the fitness of the game.
“The great thing about hurling is that it’s so fast-paced; there’s no breaks – you are running constantly,” he says.
For those who’ve never heard of hurling, here’s a quick primer. Players use various parts of their bodies and a wooden stick, called a hurl, to transport a baseball-like object down a field toward a goal that is equal parts soccer goal and football uprights. Get the ball through the goal posts or into the goal (and past a goalie) to score points. Players can catch, scoop, run with, strike in the air/or on the ground, and kick or slap the ball, but each action comes with specific rules. Players can also go shoulder to shoulder with others during the action, and everyone is wearing a lacrosse-like helmet.
The club got started in October of 2018 with just a few men, but by April of last year, they had hosted their first Tulsa tournament, Hurling in the Heartland. Herron says the club’s goal with that first tournament was to show off the sport they had been trying to describe, and to offer a free opportunity to watch teams from across the U.S. play in Tulsa.
The final goal was to show the fun and camaraderie of the sport.
“It’s really a brotherhood/sisterhood,” says Scott. “When we go up against teams that have been [in existence] for 10 years, obviously we’re an inferior team to that, but they are out there on the field teaching us while we’re playing, helping us, giving us pointers. So it’s really cool to see.”
And anyone can play with the club – men or women, Gaelic ancestry or not; they are always looking for new players.
Anyone interested in hurling might benefit from Scott’s summation.
“It’s a great sport, it’s a fun sport [and it] keeps you active,” he says. “Anybody who is willing to try something different, I promise they’ll have a great time with it.”