Hurling: Ireland's most popular sport
Hurling is an outdoor team sport of Irish origin, rooted in a long tradition. Players compete with passion, wielding a stick, called a "hurley", made of ash wood 75 to 90 centimetres long, to hit a ball called a "sliotar", weighing around 100 grams. When hit by the stick, the sliotar can reach speeds of up to 110km/h. In addition to these 2 pieces of equipment, hurlers have been required to wear a helmet since 2010. A hurling team comprises 15 players, including a goalkeeper, 6 defenders, 2 midfielders and 6 forwards.
This dynamic sport is often compared to a form of soule à crosse, where speed and skill are essential. There are many similarities between hurling and Gaelic soccer, including the pitch, the number of players, the scoring method and some of the terminology used. The GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) is the governing body for the sport, organizing major competitions in Ireland and around the world. Hurling is also played by women, known as "Camogie".
Hurling has been practiced in Ireland for thousands of years, with the earliest written records dating back to the 7th-8th century, thanks to the monks who recorded the oral traditions of the Gaels. However, due to its brutality, it was banned from the 16th to 18th centuries. In the 19th century, hurling underwent a revival, giving rise to two variants: Iomaint in the south of the island and Camànacht in Dublin. Camànacht eventually evolved into field field hockey, while Iomaint became the basis of modern hurling.
It is generally believed that hurling first appeared in Ireland before Christianity, probably brought by the Celtic peoples who settled the island. Teams representing neighboring villages would compete in games that could bring together several hundred players and last for several hours or even days.
Hurling has been part of Irish culture for almost 2,000 years, making it as old as the earliest written records of Irish history. Its earliest written mention dates back to the 5th century, in the Laws of Brehon. It is considered a relative of the shinty played in Scotland, the Cammag of the Isle of Man and the Bandy of England and Wales. Legends such as the Táin Bó Cuailgne and tales involving legendary figures such as Cúchulainn and Fionn Mac Cumhaill refer to hurling. Mention of hurling can also be found in other historical texts, such as the 13th-century Statutes of Kilkenny and a 15th-century engraved slab.
The 18th century is often considered the golden age of hurling in Ireland. Members of the Anglo-Norman gentry created hurling teams on their estates and challenged each other to entertain their tenant farmers and farmhands.
Today, hurling remains the third most popular sport in Ireland, with over 100,000 members. In recognition of its cultural importance, hurling has been inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since November 29, 2018.
The aim of hurling is simple: to score points by placing the ball in the opponent's goal over a period of 2 x 35 minutes. However, it's not easy because the ball can't be picked up by hand!
Once picked up, the ball can be distributed by hand, cleared with the stick (only on the tip), played with the foot and cannot be kept more than 4 steps in the hand or on the stick for a solo-run, consisting of running with the ball balanced on the tip of the stick.
Because of the use of the stick and the feet, hurling is considered a brutal and violent sport. It can easily be likened to rugby, where confrontations between players can be ferocious, leaving a few players injured when they shoulder their opponents (known as Body Check)...To limit the damage, elbowing, hip thrusting, kicking and punching have been banned and penalized.
Generally speaking, a hurling match is officiated by a main referee, 2 touch referees and four goal referees. It is necessary to have as many referees as possible, as hurling is played at high speed, and the ball sometimes reaches dizzying speeds, making refereeing difficult.