The Hurling Match
THE fairies, with their true artistic love of all the gentle graces of life, greatly dislike coarse and violent gestures, and all athletic sports, such as hurling and wrestling; and they often try to put an end to them by some evil turn.
One day a great cloud of dust came along the road during a hurling match and stopped the game. On this the people grew alarmed, for they said the fairies are out hunting and will do us harm by blinding us; and thousands of the Sidhe swept by, raising a terrific dust, though no mortal eye could them.
Then one man, a good player and musician, ran for his fiddle and began to play some vigorous dance tunes, "for now," said "the fairies will begin to dance and forget us, and they will be off in no time to hold a revel on the rath to the music of their own fairy pipes."
And so it was, for at once the whirlwind of dust swept on to the hill of the fairy rath, and the hurling ground was left clear for the game to go on again in safety.
It must be acknowledged that the fairies are a little selfish; or they would not have interfered with the great national sport of hurling, which is the favourite amusement of the country, and used to be held as a high festival, and arranged with all the ceremonial of a tournament; at least before the bad times destroyed all the fun and frolic of the peasant life.
The prettiest girl of the village was chosen as the hurling girl--the Colleen-a-bhailia. Dressed in white, and accompanied by her maidens, she proceeded to the hurling ground, the piper and fiddlers going before her playing gay dance tunes.
There she was met by the procession of the young men surrounding the chief hurler--always a stalwart youth of over six feet. And the youth and the maiden joined hands and began the dance--all the people cheering.
This was called the opening of the hurling. And for the next match another pair would be selected, each village girl anxiously hoping to be the Colleen-a-bhailia chosen to lead the ceremonial dance for the second or following games. Naturally the hurling tournament ended with a festive supper, much love-making, and many subsequent marriages between the pretty colleens and stalwart young hurlers, despite all the envy and jealousy o the fairies, who maliciously tried to mar the pleasures of the festival.