Scotland shocked Ireland with a 3-14 to 2-8 win in the first test of the Senior Hurling/Shinty International Series this weekend. However, the Irish team have won the series for the past four years in a row and remain hopeful ahead of the second test. Goalkeeper Eoin Reilly talks to The City’s Áine Hennessy about this minority sport and what it involves.
“I got involved in hurling/shinty when I was 19 years old back in 2009. I was selected as first-choice goalkeeper for the Irish U21 team ahead of three others from across the country,” he said.
The Laois native is representing Ireland for his sixth year running in the International Series, a game which combines hurling with the traditional Scottish sport of shinty.
The 24 year old, who is the current senior hurling goalkeeper for Laois, explains the basic rules of hurling/shinty.
“The main difference between hurling and shinty is that you can’t catch or kick the ball. A player usually scores goals only, but the International Series uses a scoring system consisting of both goals and points.
“We use hurls and the Scottish boys use shinty sticks. Their game is very skillful on the ground, whereas hurling is more skillful with high balls,” he said.
The International Series is played on a home and away basis. The Irish team travelled to Scotland on Friday October 17, where they had a training session that day, followed by the game in Bught Park in Inverness on Saturday October 18 which was aired live on TG4.
Eoin said that it was a great honour to play for his country, and is hopeful that Ireland will win their home game in Newry on October 25.
“We have a strong team this year and all the lads are very skillful. The Scottish boys take it very seriously too. We’ve won it (the International Series) the past four years in a row but it has always been very close.
“It’s not often that you get to play for Ireland, so it’s a great honour. The series is a date in my calendar that I look forward to every year,” he added.
The Hurling/Shinty International Series gets little publicity in comparison to the Australian Rules Series. Eoin says the reason for this is probably centred around a lack of funding.
“Shinty is a minority sport in Scotland. It’s only played in the Highlands. Aussie Rules on the other hand is a professional sport in Australia, so the funding for it is incredible.
“As well as that the Irish Aussie Rules team is made up of an All-Star selection. In hurling/shinty, the team is made up of players from the so-called weaker hurling counties. Only a few players would come from the likes of Cork, Clare, Kilkenny and Tipperary,” he said,
Around 2,000 spectators attended the first test of last year’s series in Scotland, a big crowd for shinty supporters in Scotland, and up to 3,000 attended the second test in Croke Park before last year’s Aussie Rules game.
This year’s return game will take place in Newry on October 25 and will also be shown live on TG4. It kicks off at 5pm.