Naperville club hoping to make old Irish sport stick
Hurling might be a 3,000-year-old sport, but it's new to Naperville.
Kevin Pearson got hooked on the sport in 1997 while on vacation with his wife in County Clare, Ireland, where a game was playing on television in a bar they were at.
“We were both just watching, mouth agape,” Pearson said. “It was a final between County Clare and County Tipperary. The bar was near the border of the two counties, and half the bar was for Clare, and half was for Tipp. It was just electric.”
Despite his fascination, Pearson said he didn't start thinking about playing until 2012, after another trip to Ireland. He bought a hurley (stick) and a sliotar (ball) and found a club in Chicago to play for.
Pearson is now the president of the Naperville Hurling Club, hoping to introduce the sport to younger generations in the area.
“The club is a non-profit organization," Pearson said. “We are really trying to get the sport into high schools and to get younger people into the game. I’d love Naperville to become a hub of hurling.”
The club offers free clinics to school-age children and Cub Scouts in the area, and volunteers offer to teach the basics of hurling to local physical education classes, bringing all of the equipment with them.
“We pick up people every time we go out," Pearson said. “I would love to see another club from down in Joliet. There is enough interest down there to do it.”
Pearson said a number of ex-rugby players have joined the club.
“People who play rugby sometimes quit because they get hurt,” he said. “But we find they love hurling because it’s still really aggressive but it’s a lot less injury-prone and has a lot less physical contact.”
One attractive aspect of hurling is that it's relatively inexpensive, Pearson said. An annual club membership costs $100 for adults and $50 for juniors. Sticks run between $37 and $45, and a sliotar is $6. Registered members can purchase equipment through the club.
“The club is very open and welcoming to anyone of any skill level,” Pearson said. “We were all beginners, and the skills are so unusual in the game, we were all terrible when we started. No one is going to make fun of you if you’re not good because we all have been not good."
More information is available on the club’s website at www.naperhurling.com.