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NEWS

Hurley men

The Orlando Hurling Club celebrates a true Irish pastime

Photo: Jason Greene, License: N/A

Jason Greene

Photo: Jason Greene, License: N/A

Jason Greene


The effort grew from one guy to about 30 players today. In 2010, the team officially registered with the North American Gaelic Athletic Association. Games and practices are usually held at Soldier's Creek Park in Winter Springs, but the team will practice at the Emery Hamilton Sports Complex on West Colonial Drive in Orlando on the Sunday after St. Patrick's Day. Newcomers are welcome.

Discoverers of the sport often have the equivalent of a conversion story to tell. For Graves, it was the trip to the Lucky Leprechaun. For 33-year-old Mike Conley, who lives in downtown Orlando, it was a sports discussion in the living room of a friend. They were sitting on the couch, and Conley said he missed playing softball where he used to live in Cocoa Beach.

His friend asked if he ever tried to pick up hurling.

"And I said, ‘What's that?'" Conley remembers. "And he said, ‘It's an Irish sport that involves aspects of softball and every other sport.'"

Intrigued, he came to practice that Sunday and has been going back ever since.

Any sport that has been around for a few millennia is bound to accumulate folklore over the centuries, so in addition to playing hurling, Conley enjoys reading about its history and sharing some of the hard-to-prove legends.

One of them allegedly took place circa World War II, when Hitler sent spies into Ireland to gather intelligence in advance of a German invasion.

As Conley tells it, "The spies came back and said: ‘These guys play a sport with wooden sticks and hit each other. We're not taking this island.'"

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