Balls will fly again this fall at Fenway Park when the stadium hosts the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic and Irish Festival on Nov. 19, a day of thrilling hurling competitions — and lots of Irish pride.
Billed as the “world’s fastest field sport,” hurling can be best described as a mix of lacrosse, field hockey, and Gaelic football. It’s played with a sliotar (or hurling ball) and a hurley (a wooden stick). Players do not wear protective clothing, just a helmet and face mask.
This isn’t the first time Fenway has hosted Ireland’s ancient warrior sport. In 1916 the stadium hosted an Irish Field Day with the Galway Men’s Association, and in 1954, an exhibition between Cork’s All-Ireland Hurling Team and the New England All-Stars took place at Fenway.
More recently, in 2015, almost 28,000 fans gathered to witness a pair of exciting rain-soaked games and a post-game performance by the Dropkick Murphys. This time around, even more fans are expected, including plenty of locals, like Dr. Jack Kierans, originally from Ireland, now living in Newbury. Keirans was formerly the District Medical Officer in Holycross, in County Tipperary, Ireland, celebrated for producing several legendary hurling icons, including John Doyle in the 1970s.
“Hurling embodies all of the best qualities in Irish people — courage, passion, flair, dash, agility and consummate skill,” says Kierans. “I actually prefer hurling to Gaelic football; it is a much more exciting game.”
This year, a third match has been added (in 2015 there were only two), with four teams competing. The most anticipated match will take place at 12:30 when Galway (the 2017 League and All-Ireland Champion team) will square off with Dublin — a rematch of their 2015 game. Tipperary and Clare will also battle it out in a preliminary match up, and the winners of the two preliminary games face off in a championship match at 3 p.m.
“Along with the championship trophy, there will be an intense Irish pride for counties competing in the final match,” says GPA chief executive officer Dermot Earley.
The event is a partnership with Fenway Sports Management, the American International Group, the Gaelic Players Association, and the Gaelic Athletic Association.
The festivities will also include an Irish Festival with Irish food and live music in the Gate C concourse and on Yawkey Way, as well as pipe and drum bands and Irish Step Dancers.
Tickets for the tournament and festivities begin at $25 per person. A VIP Hurling package is also available — it includes a breakfast reception at Fenway with select Hurling players from Ireland and the Boston area, and pre-match access inside the iconic Green Monster scoreboard, as well as Green Monster or Pavilion Box match ticket add-ons. The VIP tickets begin at $149 per person. For tickets and info, visit www.redsox.com/hurling.
And why not have a proper top o’ the morning with an Irish breakfast at one of Boston’s pubs and taverns? The Black Rose in Quincy Market serves a proper Irish breakfast — eggs, Irish sausage, rashers of bacon, traditional black and white pudding, tater tots, grilled tomato, and toast. www.blackroseboston.com
McGreevy’s, located 1,200 steps from Fenway, will open an hour earlier on the 19th at 9 a.m. for fans to fuel up with their Irish breakfast — two eggs, Irish bacon, banger, bourbon baked beans, grilled tomato, home fries, and soda bread. Come later to raise a pint to the hurling champs. www. mcgreevysboston.com
Several area hotels that are located within walking distance to Fenway are offering discounted rates for the event. The Boston Marriott Copley Place has a $279 per night rate and The Hotel Commonwealth is offering a $299 per night rate. The rates are available at both properties Nov. 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20. Visit www.redsox.com/hurling for more information.Laurie Wilson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.