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Nick Frank is looking for women. Not just because he’s single, and not just any women.
He’s looking for strong, competitive, athletic women to join the Akron Celtic Guards Hurling Club, of which Frank is the Chairman. Though the team generally includes six or seven women, who train and play right alongside the men, they need about a dozen women to fill out a full Camogie team—the female equivalent of a hurling team.
Hurling is one of the national sports of Ireland. No, it’s not the one with the brooms and the ice, and no, it’s not what the guys do after drinking too much on St. Patrick’s Day. Known as “the fastest sport on grass,” hurling combines skills from soccer, football, baseball and field hockey into a fast-paced, high-scoring adrenaline rush.
Originally from Medina and now living in Cuyahoga Falls, Frank runs a marketing team at a Solon firm and practices small business law when he’s not crushing splitters with his hurly stick.
How did you get into hurling?
NF: I learned about the sport at the Ancient Order of Hibernians on Brown Street. I went there in my third year of law school, about five years ago, and ran into some Irish guys who said they had this hurling team. [They] talked me into coming to a practice the next day, Sunday. I [had] spent the summer studying for the bar exam, and I needed an outlet. It gave me a way to get active and have fun while I was doing it.
How did the Akron club get started?
NF: In 2002, it was essentially a couple guys who had some hurly sticks and balls, which are called splitters, and they were just hitting them around the park. That’s how it got started, people playing outside, other people noticing and asking what it was and starting to introduce the game to the community. We are adamant about practicing in locations where there’s a lot of foot traffic, so we can promote while we’re practicing. We are the only registered team with the North American Gaelic Athletic Association in the state of Ohio.
Where are the other teams, and where do you play?
NF: In our Midwest Division, we play teams from Pittsburgh and Kalamazoo. We have to travel a lot to play this sport. There’s a national tournament every year in different locations. Last year was in Chicago; the year before was in Boston. This year’s [is in] Seattle. We also go to a tournament every year in Minneapolis [and] Orlando.
What are your teammates like?
NF: I’m partially Irish, but a big portion of the team are not Irish—[they are from] all backgrounds and ethnicities. The biggest thing we tell people is you don’t need to be Irish to play. We have everybody from all walks of life on our team: college students, teachers, laborers, business people, an EMT. It’s a very communal and social sport. These people are my best friends; I hang out with them more than anybody else I know, so it’s really become a family.
Were you always into sports?
NF: Yeah, I grew up playing basketball, baseball, everything. In high school, I played football for two years, and then I started playing in a band. That’s another fun part about this club: we have a lot of musicians. That may be the Irish heritage in us. I’m in two different bands with players from this team.
NF: What instrument do you play?
Drums. And a little bit of singing. But not well.
NF: What are the names of your bands, and where do you play?
The one that plays the most is All But Violet. Two weekends ago, we played the Grog Shop in Cleveland. We’ve got a couple of gigs coming up at the Vortex in Akron, and at the Empire Concert Club we’re headlining a show in March. [The other one] is kind of an Irish-folk-rock kind of deal: Doug Case and the Route 8 Rebels.
NF: When you’re not working at your job, practicing law, hurling, or playing drums in your bands, do you have other interests?
I’m by nature a very passionate person, [but] I am running out of space for passions. I’m the chairman of this club, and I love that. We are closely affiliated with the Ancient Order of Hibernians, on Main Street and on Brown Street. Through them, especially on St. Pat’s Day, we do a pancake breakfast, bar tending, a parade day and a chili cook-off. We also participate in Irish Appreciation Day at the Rubber Ducks. The biggest thing is at the Dublin [Ohio] Irish Festival, we do a youth skills camp, teaching kids the sport of hurling, for free, over three days. That has turned into a youth program we’re forming in Akron for younger kids to start picking up the game.
NF: Where can readers learn more about the club and hurling?
Our website is akronhurling.com, [and] our Facebook address is facebook.com/hurling. Our membership fees are really reasonable; I just need more players, especially girls.
/ Editorial Associate Sharon Cebula lives in West Akron with her very patient husband, two obnoxious cats, and an enormous collection of owl paraphernalia.