The sport of hurling is widely recognized as the national pastime of Ireland. Dating as far back as the 13th century, there
is considerable reference to hurling in many old Irish manuscripts and many Irish heroes were recognized as expert hurlers,
such as the legendary warrior Cú Chulainn (Hurling). It was brought to Ireland by the Celts when the last ice age was beginning
to recede and is considered Europe's oldest field game. However, the original game of hurling is considerably more violent
than the version being played in stadiums today.
The Original Game
In traditional hurling, the players, armed with a three to four foot ash stick, would attempt to hit and hurl a ball,
or "sliothar", from one village to a distant goal in the next village (Move to Ireland). The hurlers would traverse
over great distances, through hedges and over hillsides, whacking the ball and catching it on the rounded end of their stick
to each other. However, because the players on the other team are trying to move the ball in the opposite direction, it is
quite likely that the hurley sticks were used for much more then simply hitting the ball (Croke Park).
The game revived in 1884 is much more civil then its violent predecessor. Unlike the vast expanses of land that hurling
was originally played on, the new dimensions of the field has made the game one of the fastest paced events on earth. The
field's dimensions are approximately 137m long and 82m wide with goalposts located on each side. The goalposts are the same
size as on a rugby field, but the crossbar rests slightly lower. Each team is comprised of 15 players and is allowed a maximum
of three substitutions per game (pitch positions can be seen below).
The ball can be moved on the ground, through the air, or can be carried by the players. If carried, however, a single
player may not take more then four steps with the ball in his possession. Once those steps have been used up, the player
may bounce the ball on the ground and back into the stick, but it is forbidden to catch the ball more than twice at any given
time. To score, the ball can be hurled over the crossbar for one point or under it and into the net for a goal, worth a value
of three points (All About Hurling).
Although many old variations of sport have been played throughout Ireland's history, hurling is among the few that is
ancient. The modern revival of the game is inseparably linked with the revival of Irish culture and nationalism that occurred
during the 19th century. The game represents a link with Ireland's historic past, and it is a great source of pride to those
who still cherish their roots.
All About Hurling. Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). GAA. 10 Nov. 2006 http://www.gaa.ie/page/all_about_hurling.html
Croke Park - Site visit to the historic Croke Park while in Ireland
Hurling. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 7 Nov. 2006. http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9041603
Move to Ireland. 1996. Move to Ireland. 7 Nov. 2006. http://www.movetoireland.com/movepag/misespan.htm.