Girls Who Like to Run Around and Hit Things with Sticks
I’m not good at relaxing and doing nothing. I think it’s one of those inevitable things in a marriage. One person is an annoyingly high-strung, rise-and-shine-go-get-em-Tiger sort of a person (e.g. me) and the other is more of a laid-back, stay-up-late-and-sleep-until-noon sort of person (e.g. Peter). To make sure that Peter didn’t strangle me with my own hair after getting woken up at 7 am on a Saturday, I quickly figured out that I needed activities to keep me occupied and happy.
Giving up my activities, namely barn work, horseback riding and taking care of our dogs, has been one of the most difficult parts of my transition to Dublin. I haven’t been the happiest camper because I haven’t found an outlet for my extra energy. We can’t have a dog right now and there aren’t really any conveniently located horse barns. At least not any to which I could ride my bike. So it was time to find a new activity.
Starting new things is VERY difficult for me. I am pathologically shy and go to great lengths to avoid social situations that might be uncomfortable, particularly the meeting-new-people kind of social situations. But being miserable and moping around the house isn’t doing me any favours either, so I finally decided to hunt out an appropriate activity.
This past Tuesday, I went to my first camogie practice with the local G.A.A. club. I found the club online, got in contact with one of the camogie players and was told when and where to attend practice. When I asked her what I should wear and if I should expect just to observe at first, since I’ve never played camogie or field hockey, she told me to wear a track suit and that they’d give me a hurley to knock things around.
I was unspeakably nervous and excited about going to practice. I had a job interview in the afternoon and I was more nervous about practice than about the interview. Since the practice was held in Dalkey, a little less than 2 miles from the house, I decided to run there so I could loosen up and relax a bit. The sun was just starting to think about setting and there was a pleasant nip in the air. I could pick out a hint of burning peat. It felt very much like autumn in Ireland, which, duh, makes sense since that’s exactly what it was.
I had a lot of fears about the practice. In addition to meeting new people, I was afraid because I had no idea how to play the game. I thought I would be the oldest person there and the only beginner. I was worried people would laugh at me or think that I shouldn’t be there. Peter tried to calm my fears by saying “Look, they’re girls who like to run around and hit things with sticks. You’re a girl who likes to run around and hit things with a stick. You’re going to get along great with them.”
He was, as almost always, right (yes almost always, Sweets, you are not infallible). I was not the oldest person there. The team seems to be split nearly down the middle – half the team are 16-18 year olds and the other half are maybe more in the 25-40 spectrum, definitely in the comfortable “around my age” range. The women who were around my age were very welcoming and encouraging. The teenagers chatted and giggled amongst themselves, which I was told was completely normal for them.
The practice was held indoors, since they’re getting into off-season mode. When the trainer (coach) arrived, we were divided into four teams, each with four players. Two teams played a six-minute long game while the other two teams waited. My team sat out the first game, so I got to watch and try to pick up a few tips.
When my team went out to play, the captain asked me which position I played. I told her I’d never played before and that I’d play wherever she told me to play. Since we only had four players, the setup was one forward, two mid-fielders and one goalie/back-field player. I was assigned to play forward and managed (more by luck than skill) to score two goals in the game. Our team lost though, so we sat out the next game and then played the losers of the first game.
Again, I was assigned to forward and again, I scored two goals and had a couple of decent passes. I was fairly pleased with my performance, given my newbie status. The goalie in the second game was a little dynamo – dashing with great speed and grace. I felt like an oaf trying to keep up with her. Even though I like to think of myself as fit, at the end of six minutes I was gasping for air like a fish out of water.
After practice, I asked someone how you were actually supposed to hold the hurley, since I had the feeling I was doing it wrong, which I was. My impulse was to hold it like a baseball bat, with my dominant hand closer to the business end. It turns out you’re supposed to put your dominant hand right at the end of the stick and put your other hand right next to it. That’s going to take a lot of getting used to, but I think it’s supposed to make it easier to swing from either side.
I had a great time and I’m looking forward to next week’s practice. Today, I did two things to make my involvement official. First, I bought a helmet, which was inexplicably exciting. I told the guy I’d need a large helmet and he looked at me a little dubiously. My head is much larger than it looks. When he brought out the large helmet, it was my turn to look dubious, but I was in luck because the helmet was also much larger than it looked. The guy got it fitted good and snug on my head, then I popped it off and announced I would buy it.
The guy I asked what colour I wanted and I actually had to look at the helmet to see what colour it was. (Blue, which is exactly what I wanted.) Peter later made fun of me for having to look at the helmet. I explained it like this “well it was just a blur of excitement and then the helmet was on my head.”
Peter also asked me if many players wore helmets and I told him “all of the older women do.” I think this is partially a function of the blissful ignorance and invincibility of youth. But I think it’s also partially due to financial reality. If you’re young and you get hurt, someone else pays for it. If you’re old and you get hurt, you have to pay for it. Plus, I really like having all my teeth and both my eyes.
The second thing I did was fill out my paperwork to join the club. One of the players told me I’d have to fill out a form and said that they’d help me with it. I thought to myself “Help me with it? Do I look like I’m illiterate?” Then I downloaded the form off the website and realised that no, I don’t look like an illiterate but I do sound like I am unskilled in the Irish language. Although half the form is in Irish and half is in English, it is the Gaelic Athletic Association, so the Irish cultural thing is very important. All this time, I thought that everyone who played inter-county hurling had really Irish names. Now, I realise that you have to put the Irish form of your name in your membership form.
It took me a lot of detective work to fill in the Irish part of the form so I was very proud when I finished it. I even went the extra mile and put the date in Irish and signed my name in Irish. As long as no one makes the mistake of thinking I’m fluent, I should be okay.
-Áine Ní Scannláinn.