As Jason Statham once put it, 'Hurling is a cross between hockey and murder.' Indeed the Irish game of Hurling is one of the most bizarre and dangerous sports in the world. Hurling is considered to be the world’s oldest field game, yet is played nowhere but Ireland, though there is a Cornish version in South West England. When the Celts migrated to Ireland after the last Ice Age they brought with them their culture, including their social structure, music, customs and a sport called hurling. The old fashioned sport features in Irish folklore, praising heroes of the clan. It is perhaps noticeable that the sport derives from an ancient and more bloodthirsty time, but unlike many older sports the rules have not really been altered. It is incredibly dangerous!
The stick, or "hurley" (called camán in Irish) curves outwards at the top, making it easier to hit it with momentum. The ball, also named "sliotar" is a similar size to a hockey ball but is much harder, more so than a cricket ball even and has rough raised edges so being hit by it coming at speed off a rounded stick will hurt!Hurling is played on a pitch a similar length to football but the goalposts are similar to those used in Rugby or American football , with the crossbar a little lower than in rugby and slightly higher than in football.
The ball can be hit on the ground or in the air so sometimes players will jump in competition for the ball and hit each other in the face with their sticks; imagine two footballers jumping to head the ball but wielding wooden sticks instead. For this reason and the overall danger of being hit by the ball helmets are sometimes worn no it is not an official enforced rule! Players can balance the ball on the hurley (the stick) and carry it for four paces in their hand, however after these steps they can bounce the ball back between hurley and hand and continue another four steps in hand. However to prevent this continuing too long players can only hold the ball in their hand twice in a row. Therefore an invaluable skill is to run with the ball balanced on the hurley. This is difficult but the curved end of the hurley makes it easier than on a straight wooden stick.
In order to score players must get the ball over or under the crossbar with their hurley and into the net for a goal. Note that the ball cannot be held to score however, it must be carried or hit into the goal with the hurley. Each team in this bizarre sport is made up of 15 players so there are 30 men on the pitch running around hitting a hard ball with clubs effectively, certainly sounds Celtic! Like most sports there are attackers, midfielders and defenders and a goalkeeper who has a slightly larger curve on his stick in order to give him any hope of catching it as it travels so fast. In fact the ball can travel at up to 93 miles per hour with a decent strike! Clearly an incredibly dangerous and bizarre game, it is no surprise it is not more popular worldwide! This being said, credit to the brave souls who dare to risk brain damage every time they step on the pitch!
IMAGE: http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/44753000/jpg/_44753684_antrim_down_hurling_av.jpg – It can only be described as carnage!