Several weeks ago we told you about the University of Montana hurling team, who hosted the first ever hurling games in the state of Montana. Now, a new challenge awaits after their successful regular season.
Hurling is a relatively new thing in Montana. The Irish sport, which combines endurance, hand-eye coordination and physicality is something the Montana Grizzlies have picked up fairly quickly.
"The cool thing about this sport has been being able to start at the bottom and seeing how fast we've been progressing as we practice. The best thing about it is that with our practices we're no longer dealing with those basic things. Now we get disappointed when we make the little mistakes now, so it's cool to see we've progressed that far," says Griz midfielder Sean Blumhardt
The program started with several students in the Irish Studies exchange at the University, and even for those born outside of Montana, the chance to play a home-tournament in Washington Grizzly Stadium was something they cherished.
"It was special. It was a surreal experience, when we put our jerseys on and ran out in the middle of Washington Grizzly Stadium with the Tri-Color and the American flag together, it was an experience of a lifetime, I won't forget it," says Griz Cornerback John Prendergast.
Hurling is exciting to watch, and with the cast of characters on the team, it's gained substantial popularity in town.
"Some woman comes up and says 'Hey you're on the Hurling team' and told us how her son and all her friends got together their old hockey sticks and started taping them up together in the shape of Hurls and were playing out in the streets. We were invited into Hellgate High school one day and we taught the entire afternoon, and we actually have several people from Hellgate out here training today," says Griz fullback Brian Barry.
"I think every single week we've had new people out to practice, and not only that, we walk down the street holding our hurls and people yell out their windows 'go Hurling!'" says Blumhardt.
The next step for the Griz Hurling team is Nationals, where they'll play the best college teams from across the US at historic Gaelic Park in New York, While they haven't faced any of the teams they'll play in New York yet, they are excited for the challenge.
"Basically it's up to us to take a step up. We have to believe in our own abilities, and believe in each other I suppose. Hopefully that will work for us," says Barry.
"I'm from Kerry, Ireland, and I don't think there has been any Kerry man out in Gaelic Park playing hurling for a very long time if ever, so it's a very big deal, so I cant wait to go experience it for myself," Adds Prendergast.