LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Hurling is likely one of the oldest team sports on the planet, dubbed "the fastest game on grass."
An upstart team in Lakewood Ranch is looking to become a leading hurling competitor in the United States. The Tampa Bay Hurling Club, a co-ed group of different ages, from Lakewood Ranch, Tampa, Brandon and Clearwater, is hosting its first-ever Celtic Cornhole Festival Saturday in Lakewood Ranch to help raise money for team uniforms and equipment so they can successful compete in tournaments around the United States in 2015.
The event is an outgrowth of the club's Florida Cup Hurling and Gaelic Football games held for the past several years at Summerfield Park in Lakewood Ranch.
"Our team decided to meld this, our fourth annual Florida Cup, with the Celtic Cornhole Fest in order to make it one full day of Celtic cultural celebration and entertainment,"
said Ed Kelly, team member and festival spokesperson. "For the Florida Cup hurling, invitations have gone out to clubs in Atlanta, Savannah, Greenville, S.C., and Nashville, and we anticipate there will be players coming from these areas," he said, adding that he is hoping the team can raise $1,000 through a combination of the cornhole toss tournament, where 50 percent of the registration fees will go to prizes for the winning teams, and the rest from a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle held afterwards at sponsor Truman's Tap & Grill in Lakewood Ranch off State Road 70,
Bill Quaid Painting of Lakewood Ranch, whose origins date back to County Limerick, Ireland, is the festival's second main sponsor and also a member of the Tampa Bay Hurling Club.
The cornhole tournament (or bean-bag toss, as it's often referred to), will kick off at 1 p.m. on the patio at Truman's. Following the cornhole tourney at 2 p.m., spectators can travel to Summerfield Park, 6402 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., to watch the hurling and Gaelic football games, beginning with a bagpipe and drum performance by the Braden River Pipers.
With Gaelic and Irish origins, the outdoor sport of hurling combines the skills of baseball, hockey, and lacrosse in one high-speed, high-scoring sport.
"Hurling and Gaelic football are the two national sports of Ireland. Hurling is played on a field set up like a soccer field with nets on either end and two goal posts. The game is played with sticks that look like wooden axes and a ball like a baseball, but softer. You can't pick the ball up and you can't throw it with your hand, so it requires a lot of skill and it's a very fast game," said Kelly, who described Gaelic football as being very similar to rugby.
"Women play Gaelic football and hurling, and we have women members so we encourage women to join our club. You don't need prior knowledge or experience with these sports. Ultimately, the aim is to have fun and get some good exercise," Kelly said.
Following the events at Summerfield Park around 4 p.m., Irish stepdancers will perform at Truman's followed by a pub-like jam session with Irish musicians.
Information about the Celtic Cornhole Fest and the Tampa Bay Hurling Club is available on the club's Facebook page at facebook.com/TampaBayHurlingclub.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.