Posted at: 10/07/2013 8:41 PM
Updated at: 10/09/2013 10:57 PM
By: Laura Kennedy
The sport of hurling may be a foreign concept to most Northlanders, but for Julian Leonard, it brings him back to his roots.
"I grew up playing hurling in Ireland from age seven to about age eighteen," Leonard said. "It's the most popular sport in Ireland. Thousands of kids play it across all the towns and counties in Ireland."
Even the weather felt familiar during the second annual Twin Ports Hurling Exhibition.
"You know it's not too far removed from what it's like in the west of Ireland," Leonard said. "I'd prefer a drier, calmer day but we'll make it work."
Matt Kearns started the Duluth Hurling Club last year. In that time, it's grown from three members to about twenty.
"I had seen it once when I was traveling in Ireland and liked it," Kearns said. "It's got baseball, lacrosse, golf, hockey, a little bit of all those aspects are incorporated into hurling. A lot of the skills look familiar to most Americans."
Hurling is played with 15 people per side, using a stick, or "hurley" to move a ball downfield in a variety of ways.
"You get one point for going over the bar between the uprights and three points for going in the net," Kearns said.
"I like the physical aspect of it," Leonard said. "You get to use your shoulder, use your body to obstruct players and maintain possession."
The basic skills and hand-eye coordination can take some time to master, but the Duluth hurlers are quick studies.
"The improvement of the skills here over the last year has been phenomenal," Leonard said. "Everyone is picking it up quickly and getting the hang of it really fast."
And newcomers are more than welcome.
"The sport really caters to that. There are good positions for everybody to play at," Kearns said. "A lot of people, a lot of action."