BUTTE — Players from across the USA, Canada and even Ireland descended on Butte to participate in the Wolfe Tones Hurling Club's third annual draft tournament this weekend at the Jeremy Bullock Soccer Complex.
"Hurling is an ancient Irish sport. It’s like 3,000 years old, a massive heritage and folklore to it. So, we’re just keeping the dream alive here," says Jimmy Doyle, a member of a Canadian hurling club.
Originally from Northern Ireland, Doyle is one of 10 players who made the trip down from Canada to attend the Butte hurling tournament that welcomed 44 hurlers.
"It is a very fast, some say brutal, game on grass. It’s the fastest game on grass," says event organizer Ryan Mulcahy of the Wolfe Tones Hurling Club in Butte.
Mulcahy says the sport originated as a way to train warriors and it is played with a stick and a ball with the goal to get the ball into the net or over the uprights to score points—but, he says, perhaps, the most important element of the sport is its ties to Irish culture.
"We brag every year on the 17th that we are the most Irish city in Montana; for us not to embrace and learn about this sport, it’s a little sad if we don’t," says Mulcahy.
Most of the players on the field this past weekend were US athletes, and some have no ties to Ireland. But Steve Power, a referee from Arizona who is originally from southeast Ireland says tournaments like this make him feel closer to home.
"It’s got a massive, massive history and it’s really like the backbone of Ireland. You know, the heart and soul of Ireland is hurling," says Power.
"I mean. I’m what? Three-and-a-half thousand miles away from Ireland but I’m only a couple of feet away from hurling. I mean, it’s amazing."
Power says he travels the US refereeing for the sport and while the game has deep roots in Irish culture and tradition, he says you don't have to be Irish to love the sport.
Robert Brown of Tennessee traveled to the tournament with his eleven-year-old son Bash and he says he doesn't have Irish ancestry or any ties to Ireland but he and his family love the sport.
"It really is the funnest sport in the world. I grew up playing basketball but when I started playing hurling it just changed everything," says Brown.
To learn more about hurling or to join the Butte hurling club you can visit the Wolfe Tones Hurling Club's website, or you can show up to a practice on Sunday And Thursday evenings at 6 p.m. at Jeremy Bullock Memorial Soccer Complex in Butte.