MISSOULA – The University of Montana hurling team will defend its championship title as the Grizzlies host the National Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association Hurling Championship of America on Saturday and Sunday, May 23-24, at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula.
Hurling, the national sport of Ireland, is often described as a mix of lacrosse, field hockey and baseball. Said to be the world’s fastest field game, hurling is over 3,000 years old, but the Montana Grizzlies hurling team was only recently founded when Naoise Waldron from Kilkenny, Ireland, came to Missoula in fall 2013 to teach Irish as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant.
In May 2014, less than a year later, the Montana Grizzlies participated in the National Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association Hurling Championship in Gaelic Park, New York, and beat the other seven American hurling teams to bring the title home to Missoula.
This national hurling event promises to be a special tournament as the local champions attempt to become the first club to win two national titles back-to-back, and better yet, to do it on home turf. The Grizzlies will take on teams from across the United States including the University of California, Berkeley Hurling Club; Stanford University Hurling Club; Indiana University Hurling Club - Purdue University; and the University of Connecticut’s Husky Hurling Team.
“It’s not often you have the opportunity to see national hurling champions defending their title at home, so we know it will be an epic few days at the University of Montana,” said Waldron, who serves as coach and captain of the team he co-founded. “Anyone proud to be Irish or a Griz fan will want to support the Montana Grizzlies Hurling Team by cheering us on at the National Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association Hurling Championship in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.”
Thanks to sponsorship from Missoula’s KettleHouse Brewing Company, admission to the games costs $10 per day for adults, $15 for a two-day pass, and $5 for young adults between the ages of 13 and 17. Admission for children age 12 and under is free.
The first games of the 2015 NCGAA Hurling Championship will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 23, and run through 5 p.m. The finals will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 24. At 6:30 p.m. Saturday, a dinner will be provided in St. Anthony’s Parish Life Center at 217 Tremont St. Dinner costs $5 for players and $10 for all others.
Organizers anticipate attendance at this year’s NCGAA Hurling Championship will exceed a couple thousand people, with families and friends of the teams traveling from California, Louisiana and Ireland for the matches. Both the mayor of Missoula and UM’s mascot, Monte, will be among those in the crowd cheering on the Montana Grizzly hurlers.