HURLING returns to Huddersfield on Sunday – stirring happy memories for older members of the town’s Irish Centre.
That’s the base for thriving Gaelic football club Brothers Pearse, who play their third match of the new season against Hugh O’Neill’s in Leeds tonight (7.30).
Brothers, whose player Andrew Kitterick is Gaelic football development officer for Yorkshire, are hosting a special tournament to mark the 125th anniversary of the Dublin-based Gaelic Athletics Association.
Football teams from across the county will converge on All Saints Catholic High School, with matches taking place at Under 10, 12 and 14 as well as open-age level.
They will be followed by a hurling exhibition match, only the second to take place in Huddersfield since the demise of the sport in the North of England in the early seventies.
Played with sticks called hurleys and a ball called a sliotar, it was the dominant game in Ireland when the GAA was formed in 1884.
Brothers Pearse secretary Ollie Walsh was a member of the Huddersfield side who clinched nine Yorkshire titles up to 1970 and recalls: “The sport was strong in this area, with teams from Leeds, Bradford, Barnsley and Middlesbrough as well as ourselves.
“It was a great game to play, but the cost of equipment, a lack of coaches and a drop in the number of players led to it falling by the wayside.
“We staged an exhibition match to mark the Brothers Pearse golden jubilee in 2004, but these days, the only places in England where hurling is played regularly are Manchester, Warwickshire and London, but it remains strong back in Ireland.
“Kilkenny, who are the dominant side, and in some people’s view, too powerful, have just beaten Tipperary in the All-Ireland final, while an exhibition match between Dublin and Tyrone earlier this year drew 83,000 to Croke Park.”
Brothers Pearse gained their first football win this year when Leeds side St Benedict’s were beaten 2-12 to 1-11 at All Saints in the Pennine League.
Tonight’s clash with O’Neill’s is in the Yorkshire League.