The University of Notre Dame in Indiana opened its arms to embrace hurling on Saturday when the Arlotta Lacrosse Stadium staged a thrilling Super Hurling 11s clash, sponsored by Aer Lingus, which saw Leinster claim the Celtic Champions Classic.
With 100,000 American football fans on campus for the Notre Dame v USC College football showdown, spectators packed in to watch Jackie Tyrrell’s Leinster side, backboned by four Kilkenny aces, turn the tables on Munster, captained by Donal O’Grady, in game three of the Super 11s series.
The short-form of hurling is designed to introduce the game to a new audience and a fiercely contested clash thrilled the Fighting Irish fans who were bowled over by the skills and pace of hurling.
Leinster, managed by Kilkenny’s Martin Fogarty, who had lost on the previous two outings, set their stall out from the first quarter and lead from start to finish running out 51-41 winners in the end.
Goals can range in value from three points to six depending on where and how the strike is taken (extra points are awarded for first-time striking). Three points is awarded for a goal scored within the defensive zone (16 metres), five for a goal scored from outside the zone. A bonus point is awarded for a goal struck on the volley (4 from within zone, 6 from outside).
Trailing 31-9 at the interval following four first-half goals from Offaly’s Shane Dooley, Munster then staged a storming second-half comeback which, at one point, cut the deficit to eight.
Players had prepared for the game over the past two months and a fiercely contested clash threatened to boil over in the third quarter when referee Alan Kelly had to issue three yellow cards to ensure order was restored.
A superb first-time flicked goal by Tipp’s Lar Corbett in the third quarter appeared to set up Munster to overtake their provincial opponents but a five-point goal from Richie Hogan from 25 metres shortly afterwards stemmed the tide for Leinster who lost Liam Rushe early in the game to a nasty shoulder injury.
A string of point-blank saves by Galway’s James Skehill was pivotal in Leinster’s victory while Tyrrell, Dooley, Lee Chin and Hogan all excelled. Munster manager’s namesake, Donal O’Grady, was outstanding while Tipp duo Corbett and Paul Curran, along with Graeme Mulcahy also shone.
Speaking afterwards Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Liam Ó Néill commented: “The players and management involved in yesterday’s game deserve huge praise for spectacle served up for the Notre Dame fans. It was genuinely a brilliant contest and it generated excellent feedback from spectators, many of whom were seeing hurling for the first time.
“This was a special day for hurling; the GAA and GPA are looking to introduce the county game to a new audience in the US and this was a significant step in that direction.
“We received a very special welcome by the Notre Dame community, particularly from the sports team on campus and members of the Keough-Naughton Centre and I would like to thank everyone who helped make the event happen.”
GPA chairman Donal Og Cusack, who helped devise the new format of the game, added: “Super Hurling 11s is designed to overcome the obstacle of pitch-size when showcasing our games. However, watching yesterday, we could not have hoped for a better contest to exhibit everything good about hurling and we are thrilled with the response including the huge crowd that turned up.
“The players were asked by their respective management teams to take the game as seriously as any important inter-county contest and this is exactly what they delivered. They were exceptionally disciplined in their preparation and I would like to pay tribute to both teams and managements in this regard. Thanks to our sponsors Aer Lingus who played a hands-on role in the project and to Glanbia’s Optimum Nutrition who supported the visit.
“The University of Notre Dame was the centre of American sport yesterday and hurling was an integral part of the game-day build-up. I would like to pay tribute to the team on campus, and in particular Athletics Director John Heisler, who helped make it happen and hopefully we can continue to build on the relationship now forged by this event.
“A very special thanks to Don Keough and Martin Naughton who helped bring life to a dream conceived at a meeting in Dublin last year on the occasion of Notre Dame’s clash with Navy.”
LEINSTER: J Skehill, J Tyrrell, JJ Delaney, T Walsh, L Rushe, L Chin, A Harte, C Parlon, D O’Callaghan, R Hogan, N Healy, N McManus, J Guiney S Dooley. Management: M Fogarty, M Kenny.
MUNSTER: N Quaid, D O’Grady, J Ryan, G O’Mahony, G Mulcahy, P O’Brien, T Condon, D Hannon, W McNamara, E Kelly, L Corbett, P Maher, P Curran, S O’Sullivan. Management: D O’Grady, T Barry.
Refs: A Kelly, C Browne (Galway)