This Thursday at Falls Park sees the beginning of an interesting initiative that will see an enthusiastic group of veterans dust off the old hurls and helmets and head to Falls Park to relive the battles of yesteryear.
With the Gaelfast wave about to lift the tide of the GAA in Belfast, the more mature custodians of the game are determined not to be left on the shore.
Organsier and former Rossa hurler Brendan Murray is spearheading the idea and he has enlisted the assistance of many former peers from his neighbouring clubs.
“Through Twitter and Facebook there’s been about 12 clubs have shown an interest in it, so we’ve four or five from each, so I think we should have good numbers,” the former Antrim U21 hurler explains.
“We’ve had a good bit of feedback so far, fellas between 40 and 50 that are still looking a bit of craic and a bit of banter.”
Brendan's idea is based on a programme currently running in Cork, Back on the Pitch (@SocialGAACork) that provides recreational hurling for the Over 30s. The focus of the sessions is very much on the social aspect of the game, something many players state that they miss when they finally retire from playing Gaelic games.
In an era in which male mental health is a huge talking point, anything that gets men socially involved and doing something they love is to be both welcomed and supported.
Murray is keen to emphasise the social aspect of the hurling sessions.
“It’s a social thing as well, there’s fellas there you’ll just be pucking the ball about with for maybe twenty minutes before you play a match. It’s boys you’ve had a good bit of banter with over the years too."
“It’s the first week, I think there will be a good appetite for it. Fellas can turn up and have a bit of a puck about and then we’ll go into a bit of a game with rolling subs. There’s nothing too heavy about it, two teams, bibs and just keep changing around.”
In cities across the world, the five-a-side soccer scene is thriving, and Belfast is no exception. The recreational side to any game is what gives it such a wide appeal and the development of schemes like this one give an extra dimension to the GAA.
Although billed as an Over 40s event, Murray points out that this idea encompasses a broad church, and that no one will be turned away.
“There are boys there in their late 30s that have retired too, so everyone is welcome! Everyone’s very passionate about hurling and they still want to whack a ball about and see what they can do."
"Obviously everybody’s all shapes and sizes at this stage of their lives but if someone wants to give it ten or fifteen minutes to play a bit of hurling and have a bit of craic they’re more than welcome.”
While the idea of social hurling is in its relative infancy, it is comforting that some old traditions seem to perpetually stand the test of time, and Murray chuckles as he explains how the teams will be picked on Thursday evening.
“We’ll mix up the teams, throw the sticks in the middle in the old style!”
Hurls in, lads.
The first #HalfPaceHurling session will take place on Thursday 15th November, meeting at 6:30pm at Falls Park 4G (Entry via Whiterock Leisure Centre). Contact Brendan Murray for more details via his Twitter account @brendymurray80 or by phone on 07950968773.