The fastest field sport in the world.
Hurling is played with a curved stick known as a camán or hurley and a hard ball with raised ridges known as a sliotar. The hurley is made from the wood of a mountain ash and is shorter and flatter than a hockey stick.
The teams line up with fifteen players aside on a rectangular pitch facing a rugby like goal. Hitting the sliotar over the crossbar earns 1 point while under the crossbar (i.e. a goal) earn 3 points.
As in Gaelic football, the fifteen players are divided into one goalkeeper, three full backs, three half backs, two midfielders, three half forwards and three full fowards.
Once a ball is picked up with a flick of the hurley, it may be carried for four steps. Then the player must either flick the ball to himself (the female version of the game is known as camogie), balance it on his hurley or pass the ball by hitting it with the hurley.
An opposing player will hassle the man in possesion with his own hurley. The potential for serious head injuries has prompted many players to wear protection.
This game was introduced by the Celts to Ireland and there are records of a form of hurling being played 2000 years ago. In those days it probably took the form of faction fights between two villages. The game has enjoyed a revival since the establishment of the Gaelic Athletic Association in the nineteenth century. However, it has not attained the popularity that Gaelic football enjoys.
The main bastions of Hurling are the Irish counties Cork, Kilkenny, Galway, Wicklow and Antrim. The greatest hurling player of all time is generally held to be Christy Ring.
Despite the injuries that sometimes result, hurling is a game of great skill. Lightning fast reactions are needed. When watching on TV it is difficult to see the sliotar as it zips about. There is no more exciting game in this sport than the All-Ireland Final generally won by either Cork or Kilkenny.
See also Gaelic Football.