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For the Cornish sport of Hurling, please see Hurling the Silver Ball
Hurling is a team sport of Celtic origin, played with sticks and a ball. The game, mostly played in Ireland, is considered to be one of the fastest team sports. It bears some resemblance to shinty (mainly played in Scotland) or bandy (formerly played in England and Wales). Another version of the game, for women, is known as camogie. An annual international against Scotland in shinty takes place every year.
The objective of the game is to score more points than the opposing team. Scoring is by driving a small hard ball (sliotar) through the opponent's goal. The ball is 65 mm (2.55 inches) in diameter and is leather-coated. The playing field is 140 metres (153 yards) long, with a set of goalposts at each end. Each team attacks its opponent's goal. These are like a set of "H" posts in rugby football but with a net on the bottom section, as in soccer. The posts are 7 yards (6.4 metres) apart, and the crossbar is 7 feet (2.13 metres) above the ground. A goal or cúl, valued at three points, is scored when the ball is played under the crossbar and into the net. One point is scored when the ball is played over the crossbar.
During play, the ball is struck on the ground, or in the air, using the hurley or camán, a wooden stick traditionally made of ash, between 32 and 38 inches in length, with a flat blade. When the ball is on the ground, it cannot be handled, but must instead either be played on the ground, by striking it with the hurley, or lifted off the ground using the hurley into the air, where it can be either caught or struck. When the ball is caught, the catcher may not throw it or carry it more than three paces, but he is allowed to strike the ball away by hand or kick it, as well as strike it with the hurley. It is also permitted to balance the ball on the blade while running, which requires great skill. Tackling is permitted, but striking an opponent with a hurley is not. Accidental clashes do occur, and so a protective helmet is recommended, although it is not yet mandatory.
Each team consists of fifteen players: one goalkeeper, six defenders, two midfielders, and six forwards. Matches last 60 or 70 minutes, and have two halves. The game's speed and skill come from the ability required to catch and control the hard ball. It can travel at up to 150 km/hour (93 miles per hour), and a good strike of the hurley can propel the ball over 80 metres (262 feet).
The game of hurling is first mentioned in a description of the Battle of Moytura (13th century BC), where the mythical Tuatha Dé Danann defeat the Fir Bolg in a game of hurling, and later in a battle.
Hurling has been mentioned in several other old Irish sources since, and the game has enjoyed popularity through the ages.
The most important competitive games are between the counties of each of the four Irish provinces; the provincial championships. The winners of the provincial championships then play off for the right to compete in the All-Ireland Final which takes place annually at Croke Park in Dublin in September.
Historically, the strongest teams have been from the counties of Kilkenny, Tipperary, Wexford and Cork, but teams such as Clare, Offaly, Limerick and Galway have also risen to prominence since the 1990's. Antrim in the North East is also considered an isolated "hurling county".
Since 1884, the sport is governed by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). The most important competition is the GAA "All-Ireland" inter-county championship. It is an annual competition, played in a modified knock-out format. The later games are played in Croke Park, regularly attracting attendances of up to 80,000.
See also: Ice Hockey (History)
Previous Winners of GAA All-Ireland Hurling Championship
For a complete list of All-Ireland Hurling winners see All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship.
North American Clubs
Hurling has been played in North America ever since Irish immigrants began landing on North American shores. The earliest games of hurling in North America were played in St. John's, Newfoundland in the years 1805-1810. The GAA's history in North America goes back a long way. In recent years Hurling has started to become popular in several cities in the United States, most notably the Milwaukee Hurling Club of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The MHC will start the 10th competitive season in the Summer of 2005 after finishing last season with 8 teams and over 160 players. Other cities such as St. Louis and Seattle also have hurling clubs. In St. Louis the club is growing rapidly. In 3 years the club has gone from 2 squads for scrimmaging to 4 teams holding regular weekend matches. The sport is starting to gather support at the club level at some universities as well, notably the University of Notre Dame. Each year the North American Gaelic Athletic Association holds a tournament between the American clubs in different US cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Boston. What marks out the Milwaukee hurling league from other established clubs in North America is that, while most North American clubs are predominantly Irish, Milwaukee's players are predominantly American.
The 'traditional' way for clubs to operate is to have a core of Irish-born or Irish-American players who will get together and raise funds to fly players out from Ireland for the summer. A debate is currently going on in the GAA about concerns about this practice which some say should be abandoned in favour of promoting the game among people who actually live in North America. Advocates say that bringing players out from Ireland is the only way to reach the numbers necessary to field a team. Critics say that the money spent bringing players out would be better spent getting local people into the game, and would result in a stronger game in the long run.
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