The History of hurling:
Hurling is the fastest and oldest field sport in the world. Celtic warriors founded hurling long ago. Hurling was an essential part of life for young men preparing to be warriors. This unique Irish game has been played in Ireland over 1000 years. Even though hurling is almost only played in Ireland, there are some branches of hurling in Scotland, North America, Australia, and South America. Watching a game is almost like a mixture of hockey, soccer, and war
How to play:
Hurling is played by two opposing teams of 15 on each side. The objective of the game is for players to use a wooden stick, “hurl or hurley”, to hit a small ball, “sliotar”, between the opponents crossbar. If the sliotar goes above the crossbar it counts as one point. If the sliotar goes below the crossbar into the net guarded by a goalie, it is worth 3 points. The sliotar cannot be picked up from the ground. The hurl must be used to lift the sliotar up into the hand. A player who wants to carry the sliotar for more than four steps must bounce or balance the sliotar on the end of the stick. Tackling is allowed and even though it is not permitted to hit another opponent with a hurl it often does happen during the game. Only recently did the GAA require all levels to wear protective helmets. Hurling is a very fast, physical, and exciting sport.
My experience with hurling:
Before I came to UL I had no idea what hurling was. But I recognized the sport fast because of how popular it is at UL. If the rain is not pouring outside, people are on the pitch hitting the sliotar around. Almost male student at UL has played hurling sometime in his life. Hurling is to Ireland as American football is to USA. Hurling is part of the Irish culture, which is why I was so eager to learn it.
A hurl is made from one single piece of wood. Therefore, the quality of your hurl is extremely important. Fortunately an Irish buddy of mine who plays for his hometown county gave me advice on what size and where to pick up a quality hurl. I bought a 35” and 34’’ hurl for 48 euro. The sizes are a bit different than baseball. I usually swing a 33” bat but I feel most comfortable with a 35” hurl. Don’t make the mistake my roommate did and buy a hurl from a touristy sports store. Those hurls are usually overpriced and will break the first week.
When I first got ahold of the flat curved wooden stick, I just observed it for a solid 2 minutes. I was trying to process what the hell I am going to be doing with such a weirdly shaped stick. A hurl looks like a boat paddle but when it’s in your hands it feels like a baseball bat. Hurling is very different for an American. Because it is so different, it makes you so anxious to learn and to get better. The hardest part for me was getting use to lifting the sliotar from the ground using the hurl. Swinging a hurl is bit different than swinging a baseball bat as well. The hurl is flat so you have to make sure you hit the sliotar on the sweet spot. Also, hurlers usually swing with their dominant hand on bottom. But once you get a feel for the sweet spot, the satisfaction from hitting is like nothing else. I actually have not played in a regulated hurling game yet. I just have loads of fun playing catch. It truly is something else trying to catch and control a hard moving ball traveling up to 90mph.
If you are interested in hurling or thinking of visiting Ireland, I recommend watching a couple YouTube videos of the exciting sport.
By University of Limerick International Student Clayton Congdon