I could feel the ground under me shake as my grandfather spun in his grave. A Kilkenny hurler himself, when he moved to Kildare, he took his passion for the world’s fastest field game with him. He loved everything about it – the speed and the skill and the camaraderie. For years, he was an integral part of his local GAA club. I have an abiding memory of him, in his workshop fashioning hurlies from ash. I remember watching with awe his fluid skill in reaching in and extracting the hurl from the pale wood. It was pure sorcery.
Both my girls arrived at the pitch today to give it a bash (literally!). In conversation, I mentioned to the coach that my late grandfather had been a Kilkenny hurler, and that my uncle led his own team to county victory on more than one occasion.
‘Pedigree!’ the coach shouted. ‘Lock the gates!’
I’m pretty sure he was just kidding,
The girls had great fun, and can’t wait to play again next week. I think the Biggest Little One, in particular, has found her sport. She seems to have a greater instinct for hurling than for (Gaelic) football. When she heard that my eldest brother had also hurled in his day, her anticipation of his February visit doubled.
‘Great!’ she said. ‘I can play with him when he gets here.’
I smiled. There was something that just warmed the cockles of my heart seeing my half-Indian baby, with her plait swishing around her bottom, wielding a hurley and getting excited about displaying her skills to her uncle in a few weeks.
There was a tremendous sense of connectedness as I watched both my children clashing ash in pursuit of a sliotar. It was like there was a fine thread connecting them to the generations before them. I remembered something Bishop Eamonn Walsh had said at my late grandfather’s funeral. Specifically addressing the grandchildren he told us:
“Remember this, in each of you there is a part of him.”
As I watched my children play my grandfather’s sport, I realised that there is a part of him in them, too.
Pedigree? Tradition? Culture? Just a bit of fun? Or a mix of all four? Whatever it is, I’m glad the note came home and I’m glad my girls can’t wait to get their helmets on and their hurlies back in their hands next week.