Gaelic Games are not just a thing of myths and legends, despite being mentioned in many fairy tales of yore. Perhaps the most famous is the story of a young warrior called Setanta who used a sliotar (hurling ball) to defend himself from the attack of a hound owned by Culann. This led to his name being changed to Cú Chulainn (hound of Culann) and he is still one of Ireland’s most beloved heroes.
In recent times, television stations in the UK and Canada have shown hurling games much to the bemusement of their viewers. Social media was alight with comments such as:
- "One of the craziest sports I have ever watched"
- "How are people not killed playing this game?! Are there any rules?"
- "How have I not heard of the sport 'Hurling' until just now. #awesome I want to play even though I won't walk again"
All going to prove that the fastest and possibly toughest field sport in the world is not for the faint-hearted!
Akin to field hockey but played with a shorter stick, a “hurley” (called a camán in Irish) and a small ball, the aforementioned “slitoar”, the game is almost gladiatorial. The battle roar from the crowd spurring on the players will make you wish you were pulling on a jersey and taking to the pitch. The crack of the hurley against the slitoar, the intensity of the crowd and the sheer bravery of the players combine in an almost decadent display of determination and athleticism. With a few minor changes to reduce (slightly!) the physicality, a version of the game, called camoige, is played by women.
If you’re not able to catch a championship game in Croke Park, check out a Dublin GAA club game to get a taste for the passion and pure exhilaration. You can find out more about hurling by visiting the official GAA website where you will also get a list of upcoming matches allowing you to savour an ancient Irish sport.