Hurling

Historic hurling clash to headline new festival

The hurlers of Kilkenny and Galway will go head to head at Sydney's Olympic Park.

The hurlers of Kilkenny and Galway will go head to head at Sydney's Olympic Park.

SYDNEY’S Olympic Park has hosted many memorable sporting battles but this November it will stage a truly unique event – a hurling game between National League champions Kilkenny and All-Ireland winners Galway.

The game is part of the huge 2018 Magners Sydney Irish Festival and the hurlers will be joined by some stellar musicians including Mary Black, Lúnasa and Damien Dempsey who are performing at a sunset concert.

Events boss Paul Sergeant said the festival wiill be an action-packed two-day celebration of all things Irish at the Sydney Showground.

 “There was so much to build a festival around,” said Mr Sergeant who is organising the event with the GAA.

“There’ve been lots of great things that have taken place around St Patrick’s Day and other Irish festivals. What is unique about this is it is bringing the sporting component at a top level,” he said.

The festival opens on Saturday, November 10 with children’s activities, hurling clinics, Irish dance and music performances, food and drink and carnival rides.

One of the quirkier events is a Guinness World Record attempt for the biggest Irish stew. They’re aiming to make a whopping 20,000 portions.

“The key part of that is when the stew is cooked it would be donated to the homeless,” Mr Sergeant said.

Damien Dempsey is among the confirmed performers for the Sydney Irish Festival.

Damien Dempsey is among the confirmed performers for the Sydney Irish Festival.

At sunset, there’ll be the huge concert with hugely popular homegrown stars Mary Black, Damien Dempsey, Lunasa and Saint Sister.

The second day of the festival will kick off with a Big Irish Brunch before the big hurling game, which has been two years in the planning.

It all came about when Mr Sergeant, who had just set up his own events company, bumped into his friend,  GAA commercial director Peter McKenna, at a conference.

The GAA had just successfully staged a shortened ‘Super-11’ style hurling game between Dublin and Galway in Boston and Mr McKenna suggested it could work in Australia.

During the search for suitable venues they realised that Spotless Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park would allow for a full-size, competitive game rather than just an exhibition match. Mr Sergeant reckons even Aussie spectators will become hurling fans after seeing Galway and Kilkenny compete for the first Wild Swans trophy.

“I think they’ll really take to it,” he said.“Certainly the combative and physical nature of the sport really fits into the Australian psyche.”

The GAA will be picking up the tab for the players’ flights to Australia and the game will be broadcast live on RTÉ. Former Sydney Swan player and current development coach Tadhg Kennelly is one of the festival ambassadors and is, of course, excited about the hurling.

“To have the game I grew up with showcased in Australia at an elite and competitive level is really exciting,” the 2005 Premiership winner said.

He’s planning on bringing his three kids – Maggie, 4, James, 2 and five-month-old Hugh – to the festival to enjoy a taste of Irish culture.

“I’ve already got my four-year-old doing Irish dancing. She loves it,” he told the Irish Echo.

Organisers hope to attract about 40,000 people over the course of the weekend.

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Michael Cusacks double winners at Pearses sevens

Winners: Michael Cusacks ladies football team. PIC: Darken Sportz

Winners: Michael Cusacks ladies football team. PIC: Darken Sportz

MICHAEL Cusacks of Sydney were the big winners of the Padraig Pearses sevens, completing a double victory of both the hurling and ladies football titles. New South Wales took cups in three of the four codes with Sydney’s Cormac McAnallens also coming out on top in the camogie competition while Garryowen made sure the football title remained in Victoria.

Pearses sevens is the biggest club GAA tournament in Australia with participants coming from as far away as Western Australia and this one proved to be the biggest yet. The full day of family fun also included a petting zoo, live entertainment and an exhibition match by Kids GAA Melbourne. Special guests were Conor Nash and Conor Glass, two Hawthorn Irish AFL stars, who presented trophies to the lucky kids.

Michael Cusacks came out on top against Melbourne Shamrocks in the hurling final. Cusacks captain Frankie Culleton, said: “Over the moon, we were. When we start off the season, we try to focus on sevens and that’s our first goal of the season. You need a lot of luck down there as well.

Michael Cusacks men's hurling team winners.  PIC: Darken Sportz

Michael Cusacks men's hurling team winners.  PIC: Darken Sportz

“We had the two buses coming back so we had a cup on each bus but we weren’t long meeting up with each other when we got back. We headed out onto the town. We celebrated well anyway. “We won it two years ago and that was the first time we won it in the history of the club with the hurling. That was big but it was very special to be able to captain the side to win it as well.” Cusacks’ lady footballers had to overcome Cormac McAnallens to take the club’s other crown of the day. Captain Grainne McGread said: “It was an unbelievable day, such a great atmosphere and I think it’s probaby the highlight of the pre-season competitions that all the teams in Australia go to. There’s such a good atmosphere and everyone goes there for the football and the craic as well.

“I think it’s been nearly 10 years since Cusacks have won it so it was really good especially for the older girls who have been there and then the new girls as well, winning it and being successful for their first season. It’s motivated us to continue our success this season and definitely push us forward and start the season as we mean to go on.

” Cormac McAnallens got revenge in another code when they beat Michael Cusacks in the camogie final. Their captain Maria Brody said: “It was fantastic to get it because we have never won the camogie there before. We’re absolutely over the moon. It’s fantastic to get the win.

“A lot of our team this year are new players that are just out this year and they had never experienced the sevens before. I’ve been in Australia five years and I’ve been playing with Cormac McAnallens five years so it was great for me to get the win after five years of losing or getting to finals and getting hammered by other teams like Michael Cusacks but finally it was our turn this year. It was such a pleasure to be captain as well after five years of playing. Cusacks are our big rivals so it was extra sweet to beat them.”