To many people who are unfamiliar with Irish culture, the sport of hurling can be a bit of an enigma.
At first glance it seems to be some kind of mix up between hockey, baseball and rugby, with 15 players on each team chasing a hockey-sized ball with sticks, and clashing violently into each other. In actual fact, hurling and camogie (the version of the game which is played by women) long pre-dates all these sports, and has been played for over 3000 years.
Two teams of 15 players, each with their own ‘hurley’ stick, compete against each other to score points by sending the ball, which is known as a ‘sliotar’, between two upright posts for a single point, or into the goal beneath it, which is guarded by a goalkeeper, for 3. Players can run with the sliotar for three steps, but after that they have to either balance it on the end of their hurley (which is known as soloing), or pass the sliotar to another player by either hitting it with their hurley, kicking it, or batting it away with their hand, but actually throwing the sliotar is not allowed.
Hurling is a full contact sport, and so long as a player is in possession of the sliotar, opposing players can shoulder charge them to try and steal possession, or alternatively block or hook the player’s hurley with their own to try and dislodge the sliotar. Due to the often rough nature of the game, helmets were made compulsory in 2010.
One of the most popular sports in Ireland by attendance, hurling matches regularly draw 40,000 strong crowds, and high profile matches have been known to have attendances of over 80,000.
While the county hurling season has just come to a close, now is a great time to catch some of the action at club level. If you’re interested in watching this inherently Irish sport at its grassroots level, you can watch Ballyboden St Enda’s play against Cuala tonight in the Senior A Championship quarter final. The match will be taking place at Parnell Park at 8:15pm.
Alternatively, follow the link below to watch the recent All-Ireland Inter-County final between Tipperary and Kilkenny-