The hurling and the horses are two quintessential Irish pastimes — but the fastest field game on the planet got some serious horsepower when the sports were combined for the first time.
Limerick hurling stars Declan Hannon and David Reidy are set to feature on Sky’s Irish TV this weekend in the world’s first game of hurling on horseback, to help raise funds for fellow Limerick sportsman Robbie McNamara.
The jockey was left paralysed after falling from a horse during a race in April.
Following life-saving surgery, McNamara spent five months in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoighaire, and now intends to begin a career as a trainer.
The Limerick hurlers are known for their speed on the hallowed grounds of Croke Park, but they went up a few gears when they were put astride thoroughbreds.
The game was dreamed up as part of the Dromin Athlacca Horses for Courses Festival in the east Limerick, which is raising funds for McNamara and local community projects.
Organiser and former European Showjumping Champion Brian McMahon said he was surprised at the level of skill from the mounted hurlers.
“Limerick is famous for hurling and famous for horses so we thought why not try to combine the two,” he said.
“It was all great fun and we were amazed at the level of skill from the hurlers on board horses.
“They managed to bat the ball to each other, catch it and solo up the field and score. They used a big sliotar and normal hurleys.”
The Limerick hurlers, who lined up with Dromin Athlacca club players David Breen and Jason Linehan, showed remarkable skill in batting the sliotar to each other and soloing up the pitch when they helped to combine the traditional Irish sports.
Irish TV’s Limerick County Matters is set to show spectacular footage of the clash of the ash and the clatter of hooves at the Michael Collins Equestrian Centre in Limerick.
Star forward Hannon said playing hurling on horseback had given him a newfound respect for jockeys.
He said: “It was very exciting. You would have to have great respect for flat and jump jockeys after doing it in how they control the horse. It’s definitely something I’d try again.
“It’s a totally new concept similar to the polo you’d see on TV. It’s for a great cause for Robbie McNamara and anything you could do to help Robbie is great.”
Organiser of the Horses for Courses festival Brian McMahon said local hurlers will be playing the new equestrian-style hurling at the charity event on the October bank holiday weekend.
He said: “This was a world first. We’re running the Horses for Courses festival in Dromin Athlacca where both sports are huge, so we thought it would be bit of crack to combine them.
“We will be having local hurlers saddling up for the festival for a game which will see up to five players on each side
“It’s one of the equestrian events we will be running at the two-day festival in aid of the Robbie McNamara Trust and local projects so it’s all in a good cause.”
Mr McMahon hopes the festival will be a hugely entertaining spectacle.
“It’s very different. It is cross-country challenges aimed to be fun, fair, and competitive,” he said.
“It’s all in aid of the Robbie McNamara Trust and local community causes which are great causes.
“We still have a few slots available but they are going fast. Anyone interested in signing up can go on the Facebook page or the website or ring me.
“It’s something the whole family can come to watch and be entertained by.”
Hurling on horseback will feature on Limerick County Matters on Irish TV Channel on Sky tomorrow at 5.30pm.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved