A Look Behind the Ancient Irish Sport of Hurling

It’s a little like lacrosse, a bit like field hockey, and even has a smidgeon in common with baseball. It’s ancient, it’s Irish, and it’s one of the fastest-moving games—and at times incredibly physical—in all of sports.

It’s called hurling. I arrived at Mander Playground in Fairmount Park one warm spring night to learn what I could about the game.

Out on the field, about 20 members of the Philly team, Na Toraidhe—Irish Gaelic for “the pursuers”—are running back and forth in organized drills. They’re smacking a small ball called a “sliotar”—about the size of an American baseball—with flat-bladed bats called “hurleys.” They’re tossing the ball back and forth to each other. They’re almost effortlessly picking up the ball with the front edges of their hurleys.

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How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

Summer’s here. Time for dancing in the streets. Or in the pubs. Wherever the spirit moves you. All you need is music. 

There’s plenty of that this week and in coming weeks, so strap on your dancing shoes. And maybe that tacky Hawaiian shirt. 

Here’s what’s on. 

Friday, July 9

Jamison Celtic Rock continues its residency at the Shore. You can see the band at North Shore Bar and Kitchen, 301-303 New York Avenue, in North Wildwood, starting at 6 p.m. $3 beers!

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How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

You might want to pack your sunscreen and head down the shore. Plenty of live tunes there. Or you can stick closer to home and check out some traditional Irish music in Bucks County. Plus, more excitement to come.

Here’s what’s on:

Friday, June 25

Jamison Celtic Rock will rock the house at Seaport Pier in North Wildwood, starting at 6 p.m. You’ll find Seaport Pier at 2201 Boardwalk. You could hardly ask for a more summer-y location, down along the Irish Riviera.

Saturday, June 26

Jamison Celtic Rock is back, this time at The Inlet, 101 East Walnut Avenue, North Wildwood. The show begins at 6 p.m. 

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Food & Drink

Here’s an Easy Supper, With Roots in County Cork

If the idea of a one-dish meal with Irish roots is appealing, then this recipe will definitely please. I enjoyed it as the “catch of the day” many years ago at Aherne’s Seafood Bar in Youghal, County Cork. There it featured locally caught cod fillets cooked in a “parcel” with wine, fresh herbs, and wild mushrooms, but you can easily adapt it to whatever thick white fish is available.

You can also substitute cherry tomatoes for the mushrooms if you wish. Make your own herb butter, or for an easier approach, use Kerrygold’s Garlic and Herb Butter. Both butters are delicious additions to grilled, broiled, or poached fish.

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News, Travel

It’s Back to the West with Trad Tours

The tourism industry was one of many industries badly affected by the COVID pandemic. As travel restrictions begin to lift this summer, though, many people will be eager to book trips and start traveling again. On July 19, Ireland will start easing border restrictions for tourists from the United States. 

The lifted restrictions came as great news for Marianne MacDonald, who has been running group trips to Ireland called Trad Tours since 1998.

“I had been on a couple of tours and I branched out from a tour I was on and took on some people in the group in a taxi to go out and do dancing in County Mayo,” MacDonald says, “and one of the couples said, ‘You know, you should really do your own tour because now we’re getting to see the real Ireland and getting to meet Irish people.” 

The primary goal of these tours is to experience a connection to Ireland through the people, traditional music and dance.

This is the kind of authentic experience of Ireland that MacDonald has been providing for years with Trad Tours. MacDonald is able to give these authentic experiences because she has done a lot of traveling herself, but she has also made some unique connections. 

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How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

Several ways to celebrate your heritage this week, from live Irish tunes to an event honoring the literature of Irish author James Joyce. 

But we begin with a bittersweet remembrance.

Friday, June 18

Philadelphia-area Gaelic athletes will be honoring the memory of one of their own tonight as the Young Irelands play the Kevin Barrys at the Philly Gaelic Athletic Association field, 485 Longview Road in Limerick.

Sean Hughes, 27, who recently passed away after being hospitalized several months ago for injuries sustained in a job site accident, was a native of County Armagh, a beloved member of the Young Irelands Gaelic Football Club and a former member of the Kevin Barrys. He leaves behind wife Emily O’Neill and young son Sean-Paul. 

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The Rosenbach’s Joyce Celebration Goes Virtual Again With a New Film

Every year all around the world on June 16, fans of James Joyce’s landmark novel Ulysses celebrate Bloomsday, the day on which the author’s 1904 novel takes place. On that particular day, The Rosenbach, an iconic Philadelphia museum and library on Delancey Place, hosts live readings of the novel, among many other events. It’s a tradition spanning 25 years. However, the pandemic threw a wrench in The Rosenbach’s live activities. 

“The Bloomsday Festival planning has to start in January to get everything in place for June,” says Ed Pettit, a program manager at The Rosenbach. “And there was no way to tell in January how open everything would be. So we figured we would just go all-virtual again this year.” 

This is the second year in a row that the Bloomsday Festival goes online—a change of pace for an outdoor street festival that typically attracts around 2,000 people. In addition to celebrating on the web, The Rosenbach offers yet another twist for its 2021 celebration.

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How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

It’s a relatively short week, but expect more opportunities to get out there and be Irish in weeks to come—a lot of it down at the beaches.

For now:

Friday, June 11

Down the shore? While you’re there catching rays (OK, yeah, we know it’s rainy, but still), take the opportunity to catch Jamison Celtic Rock at North Shore, 301-303 New York Ave., Wildwood, starting at 6 p.m.

Saturday, June 12

Enjoy a good cocktail? Interested in James Joyce’s “Ulysses?” (Bear with us, there’s a connection.) Head to The Rosenbach, 2008-2010 Delancey Place in Philadelphia, for “The Spirit of Bloom Cocktail Mixing Workshop.” It takes place in The Rosenbach Garden. 

A mixologist from “Art in the Age” will be on hand to help you learn the fundamentals of creating a special Bloomsday cocktail, using a bottle of Tamworth Garden Gin. (You can take it home with you!)

The event includes an opportunity to check out Joyce’s manuscript of “Ulysses,” which is in The Rosenbach’s collection. Space is limited in each one-hour workshop time slot. It all takes place at 4, 5:30 and 7 p.m. $85 per couple. Learn more and register here.

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