Image Courtesy Catholic University Hurling Team
By Caroline Morris
Despite having only been founded three years ago, Catholic U’s hurling team has made great strides in creating a name for itself both on campus and on the national scale.
For those who are not familiar with the sport, hurling is a traditional Irish stick and ball game in which players use long flat sticks called “hurleys” or “camáns” to move the ball or “sliotar” across the pitch to score in H-shaped goalposts at the ends of the field, to either gain one or three points if they score above or below the goal post, respectively.
On Saturday, April 9, Catholic U’s hurling team traveled to Orlando, Florida to play in the National Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association’s (NCGAA) 2022 Hurling and Gaelic Football National Championship Tournament.
The road to get to this tournament was long, and the Catholic U team had to work hard to get there. Up until the nationals, the team had participated in three separate tournaments this academic year. The first took place in September, hosted by the Baltimore USGAA team, which allowed the team to size up the high-level competition and figure out what skills to hone. In October, they participated in the Philadelphia GAA’s “Hurl-O-Ween” tournament, and took third place, winning the “Shield Cup.” The final tournament that prepared them for nationals was the NCGAA Southeast Regional tournament, which they hosted at Catholic on the football field in November, in which they beat their conference rivals.
Team captain Michael Ryan said, “After all these matches and practices in preparation, we knew we were a competitive team but we also knew that we would face stiff competition in Nationals.”
Despite all their gameplay experience, there was an element the team could not control: the weather. Due to storms along the east coast, the team’s flights to Orlando were canceled at the last minute. Rather than pull out of the tournament, the team acquired rental cars and drove 14 hours through the night to make it down to Florida on Thursday, giving themselves time to prepare for the tournament on Saturday.
The team played five games in total throughout the tournament. They dominated in the first match against UCONN with a final score of 7-5 (totaling 26 points total according to hurling’s scoring system) to 0-2 (2 points), this enormous lead gained by senior forwards Michael Dotzler and Armen Chubukian.
The second match-up was against Notre Dame, which the team ultimately lost at 0-2 to 4-12 despite graduate student John Develin’s great efforts in goal. Develin’s performance was a standout among the team considering that he had only had three weeks to practice in goal after the usual starting goalie, Matthew Haigwood, was injured.
They were up against a conglomerate team of three universities next: Colorado, Montana, and California. The team won this game 3-2 to 0-3, led by strong plays made by center midfielder, senior Scott Sander.
Next up was the game against conference rivals, the Citadel. Ryan described it as “the most physical matchup of the day,” but in the end the team won with a score of 4-3 to 2-2, led by senior defensive midfielder Dom Fedorchak.
With a record of 3-1 for the day, the hurling team qualified for the “Shield Match” against Purdue, which meant that if they won they would claim third place. Sadly, the team lost after a strong fight, ending at 3-3 to 1-1.
When asked about the tournament over, Ryan thanked then-team captains John Harrison and Ryan Wong and treasurer Michael Brophy for their tireless efforts. He continued, “Overall, the team was proud with how the weekend turned out… Despite not winning the tournament there was a lot to be proud of and lifelong memories made.”
Ryan also disclosed that they are looking to rebuild the team for Nationals next year in Las Vegas, as 10 of their players are graduating. If anyone is interested, he encourages them to reach out to him via email at [email protected] (no experience necessary).
He finished out with a reflection on his experience with the sport: “I have made so many incredible memories and great friends on this team and I highly encourage everyone who is considering joining to at least come out for a practice.”