The United States and Canada had the most dominant victories on the opening day of the men’s lacrosse competition in the World Games.

Yet, neither was the most compelling story on a steamy Friday at PNC Field on the UAB campus. That honor went to an Ireland team that didn’t play and a Haudenosaunee Confederacy team that lost by double digits.

“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone here who isn’t a Haudenosaunee fan,” said Ireland National team assistant coach Sean Bodie. “Their story is so inspiring. The fact that the creators of the game are here representing (their people), it’s not just important for them, it’s important for the entire sport globally. I speak for everyone when I say we’re grateful for them.”

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is the proper name for what was commonly known as the Iroquois League, the name given to the Haudenosaunee by the French in the colonial period. The Haudenosaunee are credited with inventing the sport known as lacrosse.

The Haudenosaunee team would not be in Birmingham without the graceful sportsmanship displayed by Ireland’s National team. As has been well documented, the Haudenosaunee originally was left out of the World Games field because it was not considered an independent nation under International Olympic Committee rules.

The fight to include the Haudenosaunee splintered throughout the lacrosse community and beyond. Ireland, which was the eighth and final team in the field, chose to give up its spot to the Haudenosaunee.

“The decision-making process was very easy,” Bodie said. “There was no decision to make. They earned the right to be there, we didn’t. From that point of view, it was very easy.”

Ireland Lacrosse CEO Michael Kennedy and the organization were honored with a Musial Award, which proclaims to celebrate extraordinary sportsmanship. World Game leaders also sought to include Ireland representatives in the game, which is why Bodie and Aaron Cahill, both long-time national team players and coaches, are in town. On Friday, they were honored before the Haudenosaunee game with Bodie presenting the team with an Ireland lacrosse jersey.

“Lacrosse is not a massive sport in Ireland,” Bodie said. “Any time we get the opportunity to be part of anything on the world stage it’s always pretty special, whether it be here observing or whether a team of our own is participating.”

Bodie and Cahill, who will stay through the end of round-robin play on Sunday, are also doing some work. Bodie said he taped parts of every game, and they studied what the teams were doing. He also took a second to predict that the Haudenosaunee is the team to beat in a tournament that includes favorites U.S. and Canada.

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On Friday, though, Canada flexed its muscles with a convincing 21-9 victory over the Haudenosaunee.

Afterward, Canada head coach Brodie Merrill left no doubt about his feelings about having the Haudenosaunee in the field.

“It wouldn’t have felt like The World Games without them,” Merrill said. “Anybody who plays the game, if they don’t know the history, they should. We’re playing their game, so we’re thankful for that. I don’t think we would want it any other way.”

On Friday, though, it was the U.S. and Canada looking most comfortable in the six-man version of lacrosse. It’s the first time a world competition has taken place in the six-man game and the U.S. followed Canada’s win with a 27-10 victory over Germany in a game that ended in a heavy rain.

The United States received five goals from Connor Kirst and three goals each from three other players. Adam Ghitelman not only scored a goal in the first half but spent the second half in goal.

Canada was led by Jeff Teat and Josh Byrne, who each had four goals.

“(The six-man game) calls for versatility and to be able to play and make an impact in a lot of different areas in the game, be able to play both ways,” Merrill said. “The pace is a little bit more toward the basketball, higher volume of shooting and scoring. The pace is definitely different. It’s kind of managing runs and having players being responsible on both sides of the field. It’s kind of fun. It’s fun to see a guy like Jeff Teat match up and play defense, Josh Byrne as well. It’s kind of like basketball, you see the Kobe Bryants and Michael Jordans taking a lot of pride in being two-way players. That’s a cool dynamic in this game.”

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email Steve.Irvine@1819News.com

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