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Hurling Towards Victory

Photo courtesy Wicked Shamrock Photography (

Purdue Hurling Club secured the title of National Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association (NCGAA) champions, dominating in the recent hurling tournament.  
Hurling is one of the two national sports of Ireland. The sport has been around for approximately 3,000 years, which is around the time the oldest prosthetic was discovered. The sport is highly intense, known as being the fastest sport on grass, and combines skills from baseball, lacrosse, golf and more.  

“At its heart it’s a lacrosse-style sport,” says Jonah Peterson, a junior studying nursing and the club’s player wellness chair. “You play with a stick, the hurley, and a baseball-esque ball, also known as a sliotar. Traditionally, it is played on very large fields that can accommodate teams of fifteen. You advance with the ball by running with it in your hand for four steps, then you must bounce it off your stick and back into your hand, allowing you another four steps. Most people who come to the sport come from Irish families, but the club attracts people from all walks of life and different sporting backgrounds.” 

“These clubs are our opponents but also our friends,” adds Reese Kerschner, a junior studying psychology and the president of the club. “We are helping the sport grow in the United States with them." 

Close up shot of a player hitting a ball
Photo courtesy Wicked Shamrock Photography.

Purdue is a part of the NCGAA and holds the honor of being the longest-running member of the organization, predating the NCGAA as the Purdue Hurling Club formed in 2005. The team receives strong support from the community, an example being Nine Irish Brothers, a local Irish restaurant. Though many of the NCGAA teams are small, the sport is rapidly growing.

The Hurling Club practices twice a week, each lasting approximately an hour and a half, and hosts optional scrimmages on Saturdays. Depending on the season, practices can be indoors at the Purdue Armory or outdoors on the intramural fields. A typical practice starts with warmup stretches, then transitions to passing, catching, drills and scrimmages. 

“We get to display the skills we pick up at practice scrimmaging,” says Kerschner. 

As a student-athlete, establishing a balance between their sport and being a full-time student can be difficult. Each of the hurling club members must be disciplined in their organization and planning to succeed athletically and academically. 

“I have a lot of other stuff on my plate,” says Peterson, who is also a member of the Student Concert Committee. “I really have to plan ahead and compartmentalize my time and multitask when possible. I love going to those tournaments for travel. The hard work and the prep that goes into having those weekends away is worth every second.”

Members of the team often persevere through injury recovery in pursuing their passion for the sport they love.

Athletes in the middle of play
Photo courtesy Wicked Shamrock Photography.

 “I tore my ACL nine months before nationals,” says Kerschner. “I knew I couldn’t let my team down, so I recovered and worked to get back to where I was and I ended up being able to compete in nationals. Perseverance is an incredible quality and I was grateful to learn it through my hurling career.”

The national tournament occurred March 16-17 at Zions Bank Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. Purdue had to defeat Pittsburgh, the reigning champions who had the title four years in a row, in the semifinal matchup to reach the championship. After beating Pittsburgh, Purdue dominated the final round and took home the title. Overall, the club finished 5-0 in the tournament.  

Reflecting on the win, Peterson says, “It felt surreal. It was an underdog story and all our hard work paid off. It was so rewarding.”  

“Not only were we crowned the champions, but we also had the unique experience of being featured on ESPNU and ESPN+,” Kerschner says. “I was so proud of everyone. It was an incredible moment to win.”  

To stay up to date with the hurling team, check out Instagram and website.