ONE OF THE most amusing aspects of hurling’s debut on Sky last week was the sometimes bewildered and often hilarious reactions from many British people on Twitter, as they tuned into the sport for the first time.
One particular tweet that gained considerable traction online was from Mike Kay, or @micky220406. Since the tweet was published, it has attracted 1,854 retweets and 1,157 favourites, as well as multiple replies, while Kay has countless new followers and was also trending in Ireland for a period.
We spoke with the Manchester-based tweeter earlier this week to ask what it was like to briefly and unwittingly get caught up in the Sky GAA zeitgeist. He says that the tweet in question was intended in a jokey fashion and explains how he feels amazed, more than anything else, by the significant reaction it received.
“Obviously I’d heard about [hurling], but it was the first time I sat down and watched it,” he tells TheScore.ie. “The tweet was very tongue-in-cheek. I did kind of understand what was going on regarding the goalkeeper and I’m quite surprised with the reaction it’s got.”
He continues: “I’m still getting people retweeting me today. It was kind of a shock. To me, it was just a throwaway comment, and the reaction was really surprising. On Saturday, my phone went mad with all the retweets and favourites and people asking me different questions and telling me bits about the game.
“I’ve read what people have said about the game on Twitter — that it’s all mad and chaotic. But when I look at it, I see a lot of skill in the game. I play cricket, so I know that hitting the ball in the air and trying to catch it can be quite difficult, especially doing it under pressure and one-handed.”
Kay says he was particularly impressed with the hurlers themselves, suggesting that they come off favourably compared with certain other athletes, while he believes their amateur status alone will earn them many admirers in Britain.
“I found out that it’s an amateur sport, which I didn’t know before, so I’ve a little bit more respect for them for that.
“I can understand it can cause some fairly grievous injuries, but they’re doing it for the love of the sport. It’s not all about the money, whereas people watch Premier League football and they’re rolling around if they get touched. They’re getting paid x amount of thousands of pounds a week. I think people are getting away from the [past] football culture.
“In reality they should [learn from the hurlers]. But they won’t, will they? Those footballers seem to be in their own little bubble.”
(Kay acknowledges that last week’s Kilkenny-Offaly game was “quite one-sided”)
He is consequently optimistic about hurling’s chances of becoming popular in his country, despite the relatively modest viewing figures for its debut on Sky.
“I don’t know how big it would get in the UK,” he says. “I understand there are some teams based in the UK, so it’s obviously played over here. I’ll certainly watch it again. It was something new that I’d never seen before. Once you sit down and start watching it, it’s quite exciting. It’s end-to-end stuff. You have [primarily non-British] games like American football and basketball, and they’re quite big in the UK, so I don’t see why hurling couldn’t be.
“I watch a lot of sport anyway. I was just kind of flicking through the sports channels. I hadn’t sat down purposely to watch it, but I had seen it advertised during the week. Once I put it on and I watched it for 10-15 minutes, I didn’t turn it off, I just carried on watching it. I’m led to believe it wasn’t the greatest game of hurling — it was quite one-sided. But I still sat there and watched it.”
Since its Sky debut, first-time observers have compared hurling with several other sports including hockey and rugby, and Kay believes such similarities make it more accessible to those unfamiliar with it.
“It kind of takes little bits out of various different sports. I suppose that’s what attracted me to it as well. I don’t really watch hockey, but I like rugby, cricket, football, and golf”
He also recognised Sky presenter Brian Carney from his time playing rugby league with Wigan, but admits he didn’t pay much attention to the post-match analysis because his phone was “going absolutely ballistic”.
“My wife said she couldn’t understand how [the tweet] got so big, because she doesn’t find it funny whatsoever. She had a friend that works in Ireland that’s married to an Irish lad and she texted her, and she said her friend found it in the end. And they did find it funny.
“I hope people aren’t expecting tweets like this every week, because normally, my timeline is very boring,” he jokes.
And as for Gaelic Football?
“I’ve heard of it. People have sent messages regarding YouTube. And I’ve watched bits and pieces on there. But again, I don’t know a great deal about the sport. If it’s on telly and I’m in my house, I’ll certainly have a watch.”
This article was originally published at 9.15am.