Hurling (Irish: Iománaíocht/Iomáint) is an outdoor team game of ancient Gaelic origin, administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association. The game has prehistoric origins, has been played for at least 3,000 years, and is thought to be the world’s fastest field team game in terms of game play. One of Ireland’s native Gaelic games, it shares a number of features with Gaelic football, such as the field and goals, number of players, and much terminology. There is a similar game for women called camogie (camógaíocht). It shares a common Gaelic root with the sport of shinty (camanachd) which is played predominantly in Scotland.
The object of the game is for players to use a wooden stick called a hurley (in Irish a camán, pronounced /ˈkæmən/) to hit a small ball called a sliotar ( /ˈʃlɪtər/) between the opponents’ goalposts either over the crossbar for one point, or under the crossbar into a net guarded by a goalkeeper for one goal, which is equivalent to three points. The sliotar can be caught in the hand and carried for not more than four steps, struck in the air, or struck on the ground with the hurley. It can be kicked or slapped with an open hand (the hand pass) for short-range passing. A player who wants to carry the ball for more than four steps has to bounce or balance the sliotar on the end of the stick and the ball can only be handled twice while in his possession.
Baiting people is allowed although body-checking or shoulder-charging is illegal. No protective padding is worn by players. A plastic protective helmet with faceguard is mandatory for all age groups, including senior level, as of 2010. The game has been described as “a bastion of humility”, with player names absent from jerseys and a player’s number decided by his position on the field.
Hurling is played throughout the world, and is popular among members of the Irish diaspora in the United Kingdom, North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina. In Ireland, it is a fixture of life. It has featured regularly in both film and literature. In 2007, Forbes magazine described the media attention and population multiplication of Thurles town ahead of one of the game’s annual provincial hurling finals as being “the rough equivalent of 30 million Americans watching a regional lacrosse game.” American soldiers have also expressed their love of the game’s warrior ethos.
- A team comprises 15 players, or “hurlers.”
- The hurley is generally 79–100 cm (31–40 inches) in length
- The goalkeeper’s hurley usually has a bas (the flattened, curved end) twice the size of other players’ hurleys to provide some advantage against the fast moving sliotar.
- The ball, known as a sliotar, has a cork center and a leather cover; it is between 69 and 72 mm in diameter, and weighs between 110 and 120 g
- A good strike with a hurley can propel the ball up to and over 150 km/h (93 mph) in speed and 110 metres (361 ft) in distance.
- A ball hit over the bar is worth one point. A ball that is hit under the bar is called a goal and is worth three points.
- As of 2010 all players must wear a helmet, and may wear other protection such as shinguards and/or a special kind of glove called an ashguard.
Hurling is played on a pitch 135 – 145 m long and 80 – 90 m wide. The goals at each end of the field are formed by two posts, which are usually 6 m high, set 6.4 m apart, and connected 2.44 m above the ground by a crossbar. A net extending in back of the goal is attached to the crossbar and lower goal posts. The same pitch is used for Gaelic football; the GAA, which organises both sports, decided this to facilitate dual usage. Lines are marked at 13 m, 20 m, 65 m and 45 m in gaelic football from each end-line. Shorter pitches and smaller goals are used by under-13s and younger.
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