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Fionn mac Cumhaill illustration
When the boy Setanta – who was later named Cuchullain, but that’s a story for another day – set out across the Cooley Mountains to ask the High King if he could become a warrior, he took his camán and his sliothar (his hurling stick and ball). To shorten the journey, he drove the ball before him all the way.
Now, 12 of the best hurlers in the country take Setanta’s route once a year, as they compete in the All-Ireland Poc Fada – aiming to cross that same mountain with the lowest number of “pocs” or hits.
It’s said that first-timers emulate the legendary hero’s journey from youth to warrior themselves over the course of the day. For conditions can be harsh: mist and wind combined with steep slopes, ditches, gullies and ravines. Yet it can be lovely up here too – the heather-covered mountains before you and the lough stretching out below you with views to Carlingford and the sea.