An Irish Sport That Hurled Its Way Into an American's Heart

Reis ThebaultCorrespondent IAugust 1, 2008

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to combine field hockey with football and futbol? If so, then we have something in common, but if not, don't worry you're just normal. For those who are like me, there is no need for imagination, such a sport already exists. This great invention is the Gaelic sport of hurling and I came across it when I was in Ireland and I became hooked.

Hurling is played with a wooden field-hockey-shaped stick called a hurley, a small baseball-like ball called a sliotar, and a lot of cahones. A team compromises of fifteen players and is played on a pitch 145 meters long and 90 meters wide. The object of the game is for players to hit the sliotar between an opposing team's goal-posts, for one point, or into a soccer-like net guarded by a goalie below the goal-posts, for three points, or one goal. The sliotar can be carried in the hand for just four steps, unless the player bounces or balances the ball (I am tired of writing sliotar) on the hurley (ahh! so many red dotted lines!). There is as much physical contact as lacrosse, but no padding is worn, and very rarely will you see a helmet. 

The game itself dates back to the 13th century and is predominately played in Ireland, although leagues have sprung up around Britain and even across the pond there is interest in hurling. Currently the Milwaukee Hurling Club is the largest North American team and is surprisingly, to me at least, made up of all Americans. So, maybe there is hope for hurling in America, but only time will tell. Even with my hundred of Comcast-provided television channels, I still struggle to get my hurling fix. The only place I have found it is in my local Irish pub. So, good luck and go Kilkenny!