Saturday, September 14, 2013

Aer Lingus Hurling Festival - Barley House Wolves Heading Home

The Aer Lingus International Hurling Festival takes place the from September 18 – 21st as part of The Gathering – a drive to attract Irish exiles and descendants back to the homeland for at least a few days this year.  Teams from all over the world were invited to take part in the tournament.  The Barley House Wolves, from Concord New Hampshire, are joining forces with Allentown Gaels from Pennsylvania to compete in the Non-Irish section where they will play for the title of World Champions in their category.

2012 NACB Junior C Champions Heading to Ireland
By now the story of the Barley House Wolves has been well told.  In 2005 a group of New Hampshire National Guardsmen returning from a one year tour of duty in Iraq stopped at Shannon Airport in Ireland on their way back to the U.S. and saw a game of hurling on the television.  The idea of starting a hurling club to keep the lads together came up.  Many had played either ice hockey or lacrosse and hurling allowed the soldiers who had spent a year in the line of fire to stay together with a game that combined the skills of the other 2 games.

The Wolves started out in the junior C section of the Northeast division of the Gaelic Athletic Association.  After reaching the national final in 2011, the Wolves won the championship in 2012 after beating their allies for the trip to Ireland, Allentown.  The Wolves have now moved up to compete in the junior B division for the North American Championship.  The Concord men also still field a junior C team that competes with 3 other clubs in the region, Portland Maine, Worcester Mass, and Hartford Connecticut. 

A traveling party of 20, including players, coaches, and supporters will depart for Ireland to play in the festival tournament.  The players and traveling supporters are extremely excited to be going says manager and club secretary, Alan Mangan.  Mangan, a native of Cork who moved to New Hampshire 2 years ago after spending 18 years in the Boston area is hoping to come back with a trophy to add to last season’s Northeast and NACB championships. 

The New Englanders will face teams from Buenos Aires Aergentina, a Denver/Indianapolis combination team, and a European team.  Their division will feature non-Irish players only.  Games will be played at pitches that feature prominently in the hurling heartland of Galway.  First will be Castlegar to play Europe, next stop is Pearse Stadium to meet Buenos Aires, and then it is off to Tonabrucky to meet their fellow Americans, Denver/Indy.  The top two teams will then meet in the final at the famed Pearse Stadium in Galway city on Saturday.  Mangan is familiar with the other United States based opponents, Denver/Indy, and has done some research on the Argentinians, many of whom have played Rugby at a high level.  The Europeans will be the biggest unknowns for the team from the Northeastern United States.

The Wolves are bringing with them Olympic trainer, Stuart Kremzner.  Kremzner is a professional trainer and has coached over 300 elite and professional athletes.  The Barley House Wolves are listed on his Web site amongst Olympic, NBA, and NFL athletes.   With a physical trainer of these credentials, and a band of extremely enthusiastic players from the towns of Concord NH and Allentown PA, how could you bet against these fellas coming back to the United States as the top team of non-Irish players worldwide? 

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