Wide World of Weird Sports: Hurling


If you are looking for a sport that has elements of lacrosse, baseball, and hockey then hurling is the sport for you.  Hurling comes from ancient Gaelic and Irish origin, and the earliest written references date back to the 5th century.  In ancient times, whole villages consisting of hundreds of people would play and these games would take several hours or even days.  The founding of the Gaelic Athletic Association in 1884, created the first common set of rules for the sport and still organize the league today.  The first championship was won by Kerry and the dominant teams today are Cork, Tipperary, and Kilkenny.  It is considered to be one of the national sports of Ireland and the “fastest game on grass”.

Hurling is played on a huge rectangular field that is 160 yards long and 100 yards wide.  At each end, there are two H-shaped goalposts.  In essence, it is a soccer goal with field goal posts extending from it. Two teams of 15, attack the other’s goal. Like soccer, they consist of a goalie, defense, midfield, and forwards.  The players or “hurlers”, carry a flat axe-shaped stick called a hurley.  They wear no padding or protection, except for a plastic helmet with a facemask.

The goal of the game is to score more points than your opponent in two 30 minute halves. In order to score, a team must get the cork and leather ball (similar to a baseball), called a sliotar, into the goal or through the goalposts of the opposing team.  If the ball goes into the net, the team is awarded three points.  If it goes through the posts, then one point.  The remarkable part of this sport is how the players achieve this.  Using their hurleys, the players can hit the ball from the air or from the ground to score or pass to each other.  Players may also run with the ball, but must balance or bounce the ball on their stick.  Players may also pass the ball by kicking or slapping it. In a rule that Hockey fans might be familiar with, hurlers are allowed to catch the sliotar in order to bring it under control. Hurling is a contact sport, meaning there are penalties and fouls.  Players may make shoulder to shoulder contact but anything beyond that such as, tripping, shoving or tackling is a penalty.

Overall, hurling is a very complicated but fun game to watch.  It is incredibly fast, action-packed, and takes a lot of precision and skill.  For a sport that has been around for almost 3,000 years, it is unknown to most people in America.


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