WHAT IS HURLING? For a quick overview, watch this video! The technical definition of hurling follows, but words can't describe the speed and athleticism! Hurling is an ancient game and one of the national sports of Ireland. Widely considered to be the fastest game on grass, the game consists of two teams of 13 (in America) trying to drive a ball down the field with a stick in order to score against each other. Without a doubt, it is one the most skillful sports played today. When first experiencing a hurling match (either watching or playing), you'll notice that the components of other sports such as baseball, field hockey, rugby, and soccer are realized in the game. A good hurler uses many skills that require agility, bravery, fitness, hand-eye coordination, strength, and teamwork.
The stick, or "hurley" (called camán in Irish) is curved outwards at the end, to provide the striking surface. The ball or "sliotar" is similar in size to a baseball but has raised ridges and is lighter than a baseball. (Source: GAA)
Hurling is played on a pitch that can be up to 145m long and 85m wide. The goalposts are similar to those used on a rugby pitch, with the crossbar lower than in rugby and slightly higher than a soccer one. (Source: GAA)
You may strike the ball on the ground, or in the air. Unlike field hockey, you may pick up the ball with your hurley and carry it for not more than four steps in the hand. After those steps you may bounce the ball on the hurley and back to the hand, but you are forbidden to catch the ball more than twice. To get around this, one of the skills is running with the ball balanced on the hurley (called a solo). To score, you put the ball over the crossbar with the hurley for one point or under the crossbar and into the net by the hurley for a goal, the latter being the equivalent of three points. (Source: GAA)
THE HISTORY OF HURLING Hurling is the oldest field game in Europe and, as previously mentioned, is widely considered to be the fastest game on grass.
Hurling figures largely in Irish history and legend. The first recorded reference to hurling dates to the Battle of Moytura, near Cong in County Mayo (in the West of Ireland) in 1272 BC between the native Fir Bolg and the invading Tuatha De Danann. When both sides were preparing for battle they decided to have a hurling contest instead, between twenty-seven of the best players from each side. Both sides fought a bloody match and in the end when they were bruised and broken the match finished with the the Fir Bolg victorious who then slew the Tuatha De Danann. (Source: Northern Gaels Hurling Club)
One of the earliest references to hurling and by far the most famous and widely known is from the 12th century document which tells the story of Cu Chulainn and clearly mentions the word camán which is the Irish word for hurley. Cu Chulainn was one of the greatest Irish mythological heroes and legend tells us of his famous feat when, as a young boy and known then as Setanta, he defeated a viscous hound by hitting his ball through the mouth of the hound with his hurley. For this feat he won the name Cu Chulainn, the Hound of Chulainn. This story is told in Táin Bo Cuailgne (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). (Source: Northern Gaels Hurling Club)
The sport was probably a central part of the annual Tailteann Games, which is said to have been the oldest and longest recorded continually organized sports event in the world. They occurred continuously from about 1800 BC to 1180 AD when they died out shortly after the Norman invasion.
After the Norman invasion, Anglo-Norman rulers attempted to eliminate hurling and other forms of Irish culture by issuing the Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366 and the Galway Statutes in 1527. Despite these ordinances, the game’s popularity amongst both the Irish and Normans enabled it to endure.
In 1884, the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded to support and promote Irish games and traditions. As a result, the game's popularity continued to grow and today, the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship finals held in Croke Park, Dublin, are a highlight of the sports calendar in Ireland. (Source: Hurling Club of Madison)
Skills acquired while playing hurling include;
The official 2016 GAA Official Guide, Part 2, which covers the rules of play, is available below.