Hurling in Helsinki off to a Finn-tastic start
By John Harrington
Green shoots of hurling have been sprouting up all over Europe in the past few years and more new ground was broken last weekend when the first ever hurling match was played in Finland.
It was organised by the vibrant Helskini Harps GAA club as part of a Mini-7’s tournament and caught the imagination of the locals so much that a news crew from national TV station, mtv3, was sent along to capture the action.
"We wanted to organise this game because it has never been done before in Finland to this level," says Helsinki Harps GAA club PRO, Paddy Reynolds.
"I personally feel it's a very accessible sport for Finnish people, with their love of other stick sports such as ice hockey, floorball and pesäpallo [Finnish baseball]. I think we felt that if we didn't try it we would always wonder, 'what if'."
The huge growth in recent years of GAA clubs outside of Ireland is a testament to not just the love of Gaelic Games for all of those involvement, but also their resourcefulness on a very practical level.
We made the Sunday evening news in Finland yesterday. pic.twitter.com/MxIzb0fXnl— Helsinki Harps GAA (@HelsinkiHarps) August 30, 2021
Things we take for granted in Ireland such as the sourcing of pitches and playing equipment can be a huge logistical challenge in other countries.
Helsinki Harps are a great example of a club who have risen to that challenge, and the club’s Youth Development Officer, William O’Gorman, believes real growth is possible if you’re able to adapt to your environment.
"My number one tip for anyone hoping to develop their own culture's sport in Finland is: be flexible," says O’Gorman.
"We have trained by kicking footballs around small gymnasiums. We've used old ice hockey helmets as hurling headgear. We've taped PVC pipes and wooden planks to soccer goals to turn them into the GAA version."
Helsinki’s tournament, which also included Gaelic Football matches and live Irish music, was a resounding success and will surely serve to further accelerate the club’s growth in the Finnish capital.
"It is fantastic that the Harps have been able to put on this event especially after such a challenging year in terms of gatherings and even holding training sessions," said Ireland’s ambassador to Final, Ruth Parkin.
"The GAA is an enormous part of life across Ireland and has been brought around the world by Irish people who are also replicating the sense of community and inclusiveness."