MISSOULA — Many teams at the University of Montana have won championships, but one club program has dominated at a different level since their first season in 2013: the Griz hurling team.
“Hurling is one of the national sports of Ireland. It’s played with traditionally 15 a side, there’s no stoppage in play, it’s heavy contact, high scoring, just move the ball around around a pitch and go for goals,” explained Tanner Sholey, a former player and current coach of the Montana hurling team. “If you score a goal it’s three points; if you put it up above the goal between the uprights it’s one. Play anywhere from 25- to 35-minute halves and just go to town.”
And it just so happens that right here at the University of Montana you can find one of the best collegiate hurling programs. They only began in 2013, but they’ve surely shown over the past few years why they’re considered legitimate competitors.
Sholey says he remembers the first practice the program held with only four hurleys for 12 players, but a ton of optimism. The coach told the team all year that they would be playing in New York in May for the championship, and he wasn’t wrong. The Griz have been to the past five title games and have brought the trophy home four of those times.
So what makes this young hurling program so good? Sholey says it’s the effort and dedication he sees each and every season.
“We know what we want to do, we want to go win. We keep up the intensity, we practice almost more than any other team. We usually go three or four times a week, just constantly working on the skills that are needed, because it’s such a skill-heavy sport,” said Sholey.
What’s next for a program with so much already accomplished? Sholey says they have their sights set on going for a three-peat next season, but even more importantly they want to grow the game, here in the 406.
“Having to drive eight hours for any kind of games, it’s kind of expensive and time-consuming,” Sholey said. “So it would be nice to get a couple more Montana teams maybe over in Butte, Bozeman and Great Falls and just kind of grow the sport here in Montana.”