What is Hurling?
Hurling is an outdoor team sport of ancient Gaelic origin, administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association, and played with sticks called hurleys and a ball called a sliotar. The game has prehistoric origins, has been played for at least 3,000 years, and is thought to be the world’s fastest field team sport in terms of game play. One of Ireland’s native Gaelic games, it shares a number of features with Gaelic football, such as the field and goals, number of players, and much terminology. There is a similar game for women called camogie. It shares a common Gaelic root with the sport of shinty, which is played predominantly in Scotland.
The object of the game is for players is to hit a sliotar between the opponents’ goalposts either over the crossbar for one point, or under the crossbar into a net guarded by a goalkeeper for one goal, which is equivalent to three points. The sliotar can be caught in the hand and carried for not more than four steps, struck in the air, or struck on the ground with the hurley. It can be kicked or slapped with an open hand (the hand pass) for short-range passing. A player who wants to carry the ball for more than three steps has to bounce or balance the sliotar on the end of the stick and the ball can only be handled twice while in his possession.
Side-to-side shouldering is allowed although body-checking or shoulder-charging is illegal. No protective padding is worn by players. A plastic protective helmet with faceguard is mandatory for all age groups, including senior level, as of 2010. The game has been described as “a bastion of humility”, with player names absent from jerseys and a player’s number decided by his position on the field.
Hurling is played throughout the world, and is popular among members of the Irish diaspora in the United Kingdom, North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina. In Ireland, it is a fixture of life. It has featured regularly in both film and literature. In 2007, Forbes magazine described the media attention and population multiplication of Thurles town ahead of one of the game’s annual provincial hurling finals as being “the rough equivalent of 30 million Americans watching a regional lacrosse game.” In 1931, Time magazine suggested the sport of golf was “a form of hurling modified by a more cautious race”. American soldiers have also expressed their love of the game’s warrior ethos.