The Ursinus College field hockey team recently spent several days on an international tour to Ireland, taking in some of the Emerald Isle's most iconic sights, leading youth clinics, and competing against a trio of Irish clubs. Rising sophomore Gabriela Howell chronicled the Bears' journey in a blog, which is reproduced here. To view the official blog, with additional photos, click here.
The Bears were most recently abroad in the summer of 2015, when they went to Europe and explored the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium.
Welcome to Dublin (5/15/18)
(2:00am EST, 7:00am Ireland): "Good morning, coffee or water with your breakfast?" After a six hour plane ride from Philadelphia to Dublin and only 2-3 hours or less sleep in us, coffee was a necessity. The Ursinus College field hockey team was prepared to take our first day abroad in Ireland armed with caffeine and excitement. After going through customs and busing to our apartments, we walked into the city to grab brunch. (On a side note, a Traditional Irish Breakfast entails eggs, Irish bacon, tomatoes, toast, and this thing called white pudding, which is in fact not what you would expect; it is a pork meat dish popular in Ireland and Scotland.) After brunch, the team went on a three-hour walking tour of Dublin, learning much about its history dating back to the Viking age. Despite the five-hour time difference, we were ready to play some hockey! We brought enthusiasm and positive energy to our skills clinic to learn more about the game from international coaches, and the rainy weather made the turf perfect for playing. After the clinic, we walked to a team dinner. As we boarded the taxis back to our apartments, we were a bit delirious from lack of sleep. The ride home consisted of nonstop laughter and vlogging. A good night's sleep was much needed as we prepared for a day full of biking in the Wicklow Mountains and playing hockey.
Mountain biking, anyone? (5/16/18)
No pain, no gain…that's what they say, right? Well, there was pain: bruises in places there shouldn't be, blood, sweat, and maybe even a tear or two. Our biking excursion in the Wicklow Mountains, which we generally thought would be a sightseeing casual bike ride, turned out to be legitimate mountain biking up steep hills and through forests with sharp turns and rocks on the narrow paths. The warmup where the guys taught us how to ride mountain bikes properly told the whole story in itself; Devon wiped out only a minute after riding. It didn't look so hot heading into the course…but we made it through with only five wipeouts! Despite the quad-burning uphill challenges, the view at the top was breathtakingly beautiful. After our pregame biking bonus workout, we won our game vs. Mount Temple that afternoon and ended the day with a nice dinner and exploring the city.
Moher where that came from… (5/17/18)
After breakfast, we boarded the bus and began our trek to the Cliffs of Moher. On our way, we stopped in Galway for lunch, which is an adorable city with quaint shops and cafés that are often the setting for novels set in Ireland. As we reboarded the bus to continue our journey, we didn't realize that the ride would take four hours. But the slight motion sickness was well worth every minute. The view from the Cliffs was absolutely breathtaking.
Hurling 101 (5/18/18)
Not what you think it is…the field hockey team is definitely known for its competitive mindset, coaches included. Having the opportunity to learn two new sports that we were completely unfamiliar with was right up our alley. Hurling (called Camogie for women) is the fastest game on grass in the world and is of Gaelic and Irish origin. The objective is for players to use a wooden stick (called a hurley) to hit a small ball (called a sliotar) between the opponents' goalposts - either over the crossbar for one point, or under the crossbar into a net guarded by a goalkeeper for one goal, which is equivalent to three points. The sliotar can be caught in the hand and carried for not more than four steps, struck in the air, or struck on the ground with the hurley. It can be kicked, or slapped with an open hand (the hand pass) for short-range passing. Gaelic football was similar to speedball, a game we play in warmup. Players advance the football, a spherical leather ball, up the field with a combination of carrying, bouncing, kicking, hand-passing, and soloing (dropping the ball and then toe-kicking the ball upward into the hands). Positions in Gaelic football are similar to those in soccer. We had a Hurling and Gaelic football clinic with Irish players and had the chance to scrimmage each other. We picked up Gaelic football very quickly and had a lot of fun with it! Later that afternoon, we won our game vs. Railway Union and wrapped up the day at an exciting Ireland vs. Germany men's field hockey match (Germany won).
The Royal Wedding - Belfast Edition (5/19/18)
After the previous evening of getting rejected from pubs due to footwear selection (leave your Birks at home, lassies), we were still sad to leave Dublin, but were eager to see the new sights in Belfast. In Belfast, we had a clinic with an international coach followed by a film session where we discussed strategy for the game (unfortunately during the time of the Royal Wedding, so we did not have the opportunity to watch it). However, we had a great clinic and learned more about the difference between men's and women's field hockey. That evening, we won our most challenging game of the three vs. Dromore. After the game we headed to our apartments in Belfast and enjoyed a night of eating ice cream and watching movies.
Tots & rocks (5/20/18)
We began our day with "Garvey Tots" where we helped run a clinic for young children and helped them learn more about the skills of the game. After the clinic, we headed on a bus tour of Belfast and its history. Unfortunately, we did not see Loca the special pug who lives in Belfast, Ireland and whose favorite thing is a hug. On our tour, we visited the Peace Wall, Rope Bridge, and The Giant's Causeway. All the sights in Belfast were beautiful.
You'll be missed, Ireland
Overall, our trip to Ireland was an unforgettable experience. We are so lucky that our program provides this opportunity to go abroad and play against international teams. I have always wanted to go to Europe, so to be able to combine that dream with the game we love was incredible. We learned so much about the game, Ireland, ourselves, and each other. That's a wrap, lads and lassies.