Hurling: the ancient Irish sport
How much do you know about hurling? This outdoor Gaelic sport is rising in popularity again. Find out all you need to know about this ancient sport here.
Hurling, one of the world’s oldest field games, is returning to mainstream culture. Whether you’re Irish or not, you’ve likely heard a sports fan mention this unique game in the last few years. But do you know what hurling involves?
With deep cultural roots and a competitive spirit, the hurling resurgence is exciting. First mentioned in 1272BC, this sport has been enjoyed since the dawn of time. Today, the younger generations are getting involved, and bookmakers across the UK and Ireland are setting up odds for this Gaelic sport.
Whether you want to play or bet, embracing this game with a modern attitude gives it a new lease of life.
Are you interested in learning more about hurling? We’re here to help. Keep reading to know what this sport involves, its history and how you can get involved today. Enjoy!
What is hurling?
Perhaps one of Ireland’s favourite sports, hurling is a field game with an impressive history. Unlike other modern sports, hurling is closely linked to old Irish legends and myths, placing it as a cultural phenomenon.
Hurling is a stick and ball event played by two teams of 15 players. This game takes place on a rectangle-shaped grass pitch with H-shaped goals at either end. The stick used in this event is called a hurley or a camán in the traditional Irish language. The ball for hurling is referred to as a sliotar.
The objective of hurling is to score points by passing the ball through the goals or by putting the ball over a bar to score a point. The team is awarded three points if the ball goes into the net. Whichever team scores the most points wins the game.
This men’s sport is similar to Gaelic football, as the field, the number of players, goals and general terminology is similar. You can also see similarities between hurling and field hockey, baseball and lacrosse. If you have experience in these alternative games, you might want to give this Gaelic sport a try!
Hurling is a fast-paced event, and some even believe it’s the world’s fastest field game. The ball can travel as fast as 180 kilometres per hour, so watch out!
Have you heard of camogie? Closely associated with hurling, camogie is the women’s version of the game.
Camogie is nearly identical, but there are some minor rule changes. This women’s event was created in 1903 and the first few matches started in 1904. Today, camogie is played by more than 100,000 women worldwide.
So, it’s not just men who enjoy Gaelic sports! Ladies can enjoy the fun of ancient field games too. There are clubs worldwide, ideal for any women who want to get active in a historical sport.
The history of hurling
This Gaelic game is often difficult to trace through history. Since hurling predates written history, the sport’s origins are a little confusing.
It’s believed that the first written mention of hurling appears in Irish Brehon law, way back in the fifth century. However, the sport pops up in folk tales and myths as early as 1200BC. Hurling was likely around much earlier, but due to the nature of the spoken word, it wasn’t recorded until later.
Hurling is famously mentioned in the Táin Bó Cúailnge, a story from early Irish literature that describes Cú Chulainn’s adventures. These tales also tell the war between Ulster and Connacht. Cú Chulainn supposedly killed a giant hound with a sliotar (the ball from hurling).
These early stories place hurling as a sport similar to martial arts training. Many old heroes used hurling to show their battle proficiency, linking the game with strength.
What is the golden age of hurling?
When researching hurling, you might notice some records describing “The Golden Age of Hurling”. This refers to a period during which Ireland was held under British occupation.
During this time, British authorities tried to ban hurling twice. The sport was banned in 1336 and 1573 due to fears of young men banding together, and the threat it posed to the empire.
These bans didn’t threaten the Irish, though! Hurling continued to be a common pastime and a social event. By the 18th century, Anglo-Irish landlords were also joining in on the games.
This led to popular competitions on their land, allowing the tenants to compete. This friendly competition allowed the sport to flourish, thus creating the golden age of hurling.
The decline of hurling
Sadly, all good things come to an end.
The decline of hurling and the end of the Golden Age occurred due to the nationalist sentiment among the Irish public. A rebellious spirit was building, and groups such as the Society of United Irishmen started appearing.
These beliefs and groups started creating tensions between Anglo-Irish landlords and tenants. Hurling games became few and far between, and the events stopped completely in 1789, with the start of the Irish Rebellion.
Why is hurling seeing a resurgence?
After its decline, hurling didn’t appear again until 1884. The sport was revived thanks to the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), and inter-county competitions started happening again.
Though hurling technically saw a resurgence in the 19th century, it has again stepping into the limelight in the 2020s. Today you see hurling in Ireland and countries across the world.
From New Zealand to Argentina, young men worldwide are enjoying this quick and active field game. CNN even gave hurling the spotlight, listing the Hurling Championship Final as one of the “top sporting events you have to see live”.
How can you get involved?
Are you intrigued by this cultural sport? We don’t blame you.
Hurling is an exciting game with deep Gaelic roots and is more accessible than ever. Teams and clubs are popping up worldwide, especially throughout Ireland and the UK. But, if you don’t want to be on the field, you can also tune in to live matches and local events to show your support.
Punters enjoy betting on hurling too! Like other sports, the modern gambling industry has embraced this field game, allowing fans to place bets on their favourite teams. Bookies frequently release odds on the latest matches, so check with your bookmaker to find out more.
The bottom line
Are you ready to embrace hurling? This historical game provides everything you need. Excitement, competition and culture are all on one field. Grab your sliotar and camán, and let’s get started!