Introduction to Hurling

Originally published at the Crawley Irish Festival August 2005

Hurling is traditionally regarded as Ireland’s national sport although Gaelic Football takes dominance in many Irish counties such as County Dublin.

Whilst the objective of football and hurling are similar, the styles of the sports are very different. Hurling is closest to Scotland’s Shinty and a modified rules game is often played. Otherwise, only Ireland has a national hurling team.

The objective of hurling is for one of two teams on a field to score more points and goals than the opposition team. Hurling is played with a stick, a hurley or camán, traditionally made of Ash wood (81-97 cm in length) with a flat blade opposite its handle. The ball, which is also known as a sliotar, is made traditionally of leather-covered wood (65 mm in diameter). A good strike with a stick can propel the ball up to 93 mph (150 km per hour) in speed and 262 feet (80 m) in distance.

Teams attack their opposing goal and protect their own. When the ball is on the ground, players hit the ball or lift it off the ground with their hurley into the air where it may be struck from hand or. If the ball is caught, the catching player may not throw it or carry it more than four paces, but is allowed to strike the ball with the hurley, hand, or by kicking. The hurley’s flat blade, the bas, may be used to carry the ball while a player controls it.

Players can score using their hurley to control a ball through their opposing goal posts – they more also score with hand or foot. The skill of players comes from their ability and speed to control the ball. The posts, which are at each end of the field, are “H” posts as in rugby but with a net beneath the crossbar as in soccer.

Three points are scored when players control the ball under the crossbar while one point is scored when players control the ball over the crossbar. Points are shown in a form of goals and points. For example, if Tipperary has scored 2 goals and 13 points (2-13) and Clare scored 20 points (0-20), as in the 1997 all-Ireland final, Clare would win by one point: “Clare beat Tipperary 0-20 to 2-13”.

Hurling and Gaelic games in Britain took a major boost in August 2005 when London raised the inaugral Nicky Rackard Cup at Croke Park, Dublin: the home of Gealic Games. London beat Louth 5-08 to 1-05 to win the title.

London went into the final as favourites, not a term often attributed to the Exiles and came out victors in a match that seemed to take everyone by surprise. Goals galore were the order of the day for London setting the standard with some great strikes and Louth were unable to regain a foothold – with five goals and eight points, London comfortably won by 15 points.

London GAA hope to receive a boost from the coverage of the Nicky Rackard Cup and GAA clubs in London will be looking to recruit. If you are interested in playing you should contact the London GAA at