Hurling: A traditional Irish Sport

A uniquely Irish game, Hurling is one of the world’s oldest field sports and has been played in some form in Ireland for more than 800 years.

It is often compared to hockey but other than the fact that both games involve a stick and a ball there is no similarity. Some people have called it a mixture of hockey and war!

The curved wooden stick with a flat end is known as a hurl or hurley, or in Irish a camán [say:come-awn], and is made from a single piece of wood, traditionally Ash. The lower end, or blade, is flat on both sides. metal bands are often used around the blades, as on the left, to stop the wood from splitting.

Main image: Cork vs Offaly by Kman999

The ball, or sliothar [say: shlit-her] is about the size of a tennis ball and is leather covered with raised ridges where the leather is stitched.

Hurling is an amateur game and is played only by men (or boys). A similar game, Camogie, is played only by women.

How Hurling is Played

Games are played by two opposing teams of 15 players each. The object is to get the sliothar into the opponent’s goalpost. The goalpost is H shaped, with a net under the cross post. If the sliothar goes over the post, a point is scored, if it goes under the post and into the net a goal, which is worth three points, is scored.

Hurling, balancing the sloitharPlayers are allowed to strike the ball in the air, even above head height, as well as on the ground. When the ball is on the ground it cannot be handled but it can be lifted from the ground using the hurley, to be either caught in the hand or struck.

Once caught in the hand a player can carry the ball for no more than three paces, but is allowed to balance it on the blade of the hurley while running. As well as striking the ball with the hurley, players can kick the ball or strike it with their hand.

An impressive hurling skill is the ability to bounce or balance the ball on the hurl while running at full speed before finally flipping it high into the air and whacking it over or under the cross bar.

Hurling, Cork play KilkennyTackling is allowed and although it is not permitted to hit another player with the hurley it can happen in the heat of play and protective helmets are now commonly worn.

When first seeing a hurling match, the impression is of great speed and on closer observation of remarkable skill and dexterity – it is truly not easy to catch and control a small hard ball travelling at up to 150km/hr (about 90 mph)!

Play moves rapidly up and down the pitch since it is possible for a good player to send the ball over 80 metres (about 260 feet) with a single strike. Scoring tends to be frequent, especially of points.

The game’s speed and skill come from the ability required to catch andcontrol the hard ball. It can travel at up to 150 km/hour (93 miles perhour), and a good strike of the hurley can propel the ball over 80metres (262 feet).

Where to See Hurling Played

While it’s a wonderful game to watch live, the ball is so small and the pace so fast that unless you’re familiar with the game it’s sometimes difficult to follow on a small screen. Still, this video will give you a feel for the game.

Hurling is played in most Irish counties, though the strongest teams tend to come from Kilkenny, Tipperary, Wexford, Cork, Clare, Offaly, Limerick and Galway.

Every year the counties compete over the Summer month in the All Ireland Championship , the winner of which receives the MacCarthy Cup. Matches in the Championship series attract huge crowds, with over 70,000 typically attending the final each September in Croke Park in Dublin.

At local level there are many leagues and championships for adult and youth players and in the counties mentioned above especially there will be no problem finding a game to attend any weekend. Ask locally, or check the GAA website.

For a real experience of Irish life, call into a GAA club on an evening when there is training in progress. You will be welcomed, someone will be happy to explain what is going on and will get a real grasp of how the game works by watching teams and individuals learn their skills. There are GAA clubs in pretty much every parish in Ireland, so just ask a local.

Hurling in the US Army

No, seriously! Here’s the story of a group of US soldiers who saw a game of hurling in the television while on a stopover in Shannon, loved it and began to play:

Hurling in the News

The GAA - Latest Hurling News

Latest Hurling news supplied by

GAA President Larry McCarthy has offered his sympathies to the family and friends of Dillon Quirke after his sudden passing on Friday night. The underage All-Ireland medal winner with Tipperary collapsed before half time in Clonoulty Rossmore’s senior hurling championship clash with Kilruane McDonagh’s at FBD Semple Stadium. The GAA

The GAA can confirm that following comprehensive testing and a full review of Hawkeye's score detection technology in recent days, the system will be in use for Sunday's All-Ireland hurling final meeting of Kilkenny and Limerick. The system will also be in use tomorrow for the LGFA semi-finals at Croke

The public has voted Limerick’s Aaron Gillane the Hurler of the Week. The Patrickswell man received 5,383 votes on the GAA’s Official Instagram page which put him ahead of Galway’s Cathal Mannion (4,116) and Kilkenny’s (3,756). Aaron Gillane (Limerick) The main man for Limerick in their All-Ireland SHC semi-final

Published: September 18, 2008 | Updated: March 31, 2017

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  • Ananda says:

    I loved this article. Thank you very, very much. Now i want to see a hurling game!!!!!! this sport is amazing

  • […] millions of people around the world will put on some green, watch a hurling or rugby match, enjoy a Guinness stout, and praise St. Patrick, the patron saint of the Emerald […]

  • […] millions of people around the world will put on some green, watch a hurling or rugby match, enjoy a Guinness stout, and praise St. Patrick, the patron saint of the Emerald […]

  • […] Hurling is believed to be the world’s oldest field game. The Celts arrived in Ireland approximately 700BC and continued their migration until about 400AD. During this time the Celts influenced new culture, music, language, script and pastimes on the country. One pastime that is hugely popular today is the sport hurling which has been played in Ireland for more than 800 years. […]

  • Mercedes says:

    my first time to see how the hurl game is played

  • MiguelRios says:

    hi I’m doing  an investigation about national sports in other  countries, so can you tell me,  how do you teach “hurling” in Ireland?
    so here in Mexico the national sport is “charreria” is a sport than combine horses and the ability  by  manage cows, bulls and horses braves. and the roping.
    thanks a lot 

    • Michael Madden says:

      It is as much of Ireland as the bogs and the troubles. Each county has colors (I guess like coat of arms). These emblems and colors make up the county uniforms. We are from County Laiose so our colors are blue with a white trim. My uncle Jack in Stradbally did a number of odd jobs (killing the greyhound runt, filling in fox burrows the night before a hunt, and crafting hurleys out of Ash. So the young lads are introduced to it on the pitch in grade school along with soccer and Irish football. There are various levels of play and you compete against other counties, but it is truly grand to play on the county team at the GAA level in hope of an appearance at Croake Park come season’s end.

  • […] counties are traditionally stronger in hurling, others in […]

  • […] is very similar to the Irish game of Hurling, but it is played only by women and girls and there are some minor variations in the […]

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