LAKEWOOD RANCH -- They may have skipped the Celtic Cornhole tournament because of the windy conditions Saturday, but it didn't prevent the Tampa Bay Hurling Team from hosting its 4th Florida Cup Gaelic Games on a bright and sunny soccer field Saturday at Summerfield Park in Lakewood Ranch.
The Tampa Bay team, a co-ed and mixed-age group with members as young as 16 from Bradenton and the greater Tampa Bay area, challenged the Orlando Hurling Club to a game of traditional Irish hurling and Gaelic football. The Tampa Bay Hurlers won the hurling match, 22-16, followed by a 21-17 win in overtime by Orlando in the Gaelic Football match.
The Most Valuable Hurling Player was Sean Hanlon, a senior at Lakewood Ranch High School, who also plays ice hockey for the Manatee Admirals.
Money collected from a silent auction and 50/50 raffle held following the game at sponsor Truman's Tap & Grill in Lakewood Ranch was earmarked for team uniforms so the group can compete in tournaments around the United States in 2015.
"We've played the Peach Cup in Atlanta, a match in Charlotte (N.C.) and an Oc
tober game in Akron (Ohio) so we get around a little bit and it's fun. We're not out to kill each other. We all know we have to go back to work on Monday," said Tampa Bay Hurling Team captain John Hanlon.
The sport of hurling combines the skills of ice hockey, soccer and lacrosse in one high-speed game with two nets and goal posts set up on either side of a field. The game is played with sticks that look like wood axes and a soft ball that players can't pick up or throw but can kick and catch with the stick.
Gaelic football is similar to rugby.
Spectator Howard Graves, of Palm Coast, whose son is the Orlando team captain, said the sport has taken off in the last few years.
"A lot of it is just the fun of the game and sports," said Graves, who liked holding the tournament in Lakewood Ranch's Summerfield, which he called "a super area."
Geraldine Demauro, a resident of Ellenton who grew up in County Kerry, Ireland, was another happy spectator sitting on the sidelines with her sister and family. She played hurling as a girl growing up in Ireland.
"As kids, the girls would just get together and do it ourselves. We didn't have the guys around," Demauro said.
Following the two tournaments, the teams, accompanied by family and friends, were treated to an Irish music jam session and a local step-dancing performance at Truman's Pub.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.