Hurling: exploring Ireland’s passionate national sport

Here’s what you might not know about Ireland’s proud national sport, hurling.

Hurling: exploring Ireland’s passionate national sport.

Hurling is one of the fastest and most dangerous field sports in the world that has been played in Ireland since as far back as the fifth century.

Hurling is a sport that is embedded into Ireland’s identity, heritage, and mythology. The legend goes that Ireland’s first hurler, Cúchulainn, slayed the Hound of Culann with a sliotar and hurley, earning him his warrior title.

It has withstood several bans and remains an integral part of Irish culture whilst also gaining popularity across the globe, with clubs being founded overseas in the United States, Australia, and Brazil.

92,000 people head to Croke Park for the All-Ireland Hurling Final, while hundreds of thousands tune in across the world.

Interesting facts about hurling:

  • A hurling ball, known as the ‘slíotar’, travels at up to 160 kmph (100 mph) during play.
  • Hurling helmets were only made mandatory for players in 2010 when regulations around the safety of the game were introduced and enforced.
  • Michael Cusack formed the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in 1884 to formalise and organise the sport with set rules.
  • In 1904, it was showcased as an exhibition sport at the Olympic Games, but the sport is yet to be played competitively at the Olympics.
  • The first written reference to the sport in Brehon (early Irish) law dates back to the fifth century.
  • It is also referenced in the seventh-century in the Táin Bó Cúailnge, a collection of ancient Irish myths.
  • Similar games to hurling involving a stick and ball are played elsewhere, such as ‘shinty’ in Scotland, ‘cammag’ on the Isle of Man, and ‘knattleiker’ in Iceland.
  • A female-only version of the sport is played competitively in Ireland called ‘camogie’.

Hurling has evolved over its history. It has become the national sport of Ireland, bringing communities together in celebration of Irish culture, identity, and the warrior sport.

The sport has been outlawed numerous times and has survived Norman and British occupations in Ireland to become the pastime of the nation.

Its wild and physical nature is born from the passion and strength that is embedded into its history as Ireland’s national sport.

Your questions answered about hurling

What equipment is used in hurling?

A leather ball called a ‘slíotar’ and a wooden stick called a ‘hurley’ are used to play the sport. Helmets with a caged front are worn along with gloves, shin guards, and studded boots.

What are the rules of hurling?

Opposing teams aim to score points and goals. A point is scored by hitting the slíotar over the crossbar, and a goal is scored by hitting the slíotar under the crossbar and into the net. While it may not be an extreme sport, it certainly is passionate, intense, and skilful.

How many players are there on a hurling team?

A hurling team consists of 15 players, including a goalkeeper, six defenders, six forwards and two midfielders. Each team will also have reserve players.

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