WHAT IS HURLING? For a quick overview, watch the video to the right. While the creator mispronounces "sliotar" it is the best explanation video we have found. 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. It is very fast paced, high scoring and skillful. In Ireland, a standard team has 15 players on the field. In America, a standard team is 13 players. However, games can be played with almost any number of players. The game starts with a throw-in, and then follows with both teams trying to drive a ball down the field to score against each other. 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 used in the game. Players use many skills that require speed, agility, hand-eye coordination, strength, and teamwork.
The stick, or "hurley" 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. Every player must wear a helmet.
Hurling is played on a field that can be up to 145m long and 85m wide, but a team can play on any agreed upon field size. A standard goal is 21 feet wide and 8 feet high, but goals can be any size as agreed to by the teams playing. The posts rise above the goal on both sides as high as is practical. There is a goalie. To score, you strike the ball over the 8 ft. crossbar and between the posts for one point or under the crossbar and into the net for a goal, the latter being the equivalent of three points.
You may strike the ball on the ground, or in the air. Unlike field hockey, you may carry the ball in your hand for not more than four steps in the hand. When the ball is grasped in your hand, it is a possession. After those steps, one you may bounce the ball against the hurley and back to the hand for a second possession and 4 more steps. A player may not hold the ball more than 2 times in one play unless it touches the ground, at which time 2 more possessions are allowed. At any time, the player can balance or bounce the ball on the hurley (called a "solo") and run without any step limits.
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.