Weird nets, weird scoring and 11-a-side. It may not have been the full shilling but the essence of hurling was still there at the AIG Fenway Classic and, as tends to happen at home in similar circumstances, all anyone's talking about is the scuffle. The punters enjoyed it and, if the initial reaction is anything to go by, so did the local media in attendance.
The city's premier media organisation used a rather familiar word in a rather unfamiliar capacity to describe what they were seeing at Fenway Park. According to the likes of Urban Dictionary, a 'donnybrook' is not a bastion of middle class values in the heart of Dublin 4, instead it is 'an inordinately wild fight or contentious dispute; brawl; free-for-all'.
Essentially, it's a good old fashioned shemozzle and the Globe's Kevin Paul Dupont was extremely enthusiastic about what he was seeing on the field of play.
Aside from the goal scoring and some spectacular (make that, s-p-e-c-t-a-c-u-l-a-r) goalkeeping, the other main highlight was a nasty, at times vicious, melee that broke out midway through the second quarter after Dublin keeper Conor Dooley hit the ground with a knee injury. For the next two minutes, the 21 other players, virtually all with their hurleys in hand, mixed it up in a scene straight out of the NHL, circa early-’70s.
And leaving aside the donnybrooks, Dupont was most effusive in his praise of the goalkeeping on show.
All the goalies, five of whom saw action, made stops that rated somewhere between impossible and something out of the Pixar animation lab. Take the three best goalie saves across the NHL on any given night, none would compare with those which Galway’s Colm Callanan and James Skehill and Dublin’s Dooley, Gary Maguire, and Alan Nolan fashioned across the 60 minutes.
It was the first time Fenway hosted hurling since 1954 but according to the Globe, it certainly won't take that long for the next exhibition if yesterday's action was anything to go by.
The city's other major newspaper, the Boston Herald, went for a slightly more twee introduction to the game.
It’s not every day a Galway hurling fan runs down Lansdowne Street carrying a giant team flag, or men and women wearing authentic Irish hurling jerseys. And, of course, we can’t forget the kilts.
“It’s better than St. Pattie’s Day where basically everyone is drunk,” said Jim Behan of Nahant. “You can see everything else and what Ireland has to bring. That’s what I really enjoy.”
Inside the stadium’s walls, the Brian Boru Pipe Band marched the concourse, bellowing its bagpipes and drums. Fans lined to watch and crowded around to hear a variety of numbers, including “A Nation Once Again.”
That's the last we'll hear of 'St. Pattie's Day' and kilts thank you very much. After that, much of the Herald's exploration of the game focused on the views of the Irish-Americans of Boston but there was still time to mention the shemozzle.
Of course, the game was also a spectacle. Hurling is mostly an unknown sport in America, but you wouldn’t have known it on Sunday. Fans roared and cheered with every goal and hard hit, and seemed completely up to speed with the rules of the game.
In the second quarter, emotions boiled over and a huge fight even broke out in front of one of the goals. You don’t have to ask a Boston crowd twice about getting excited for a scuffle.
With a crowd of 28,000 and enjoyment like that, we're expecting our American cousins to get more and more chances to see these kind of exhibitions over the next few years. We can offer them the 'donnybrooks' that NHL no longer can, the GAA is on to a winner.