Hurling is one of the two national sports of Ireland, the other being Gaelic football. For those who have played and have been brought up with the game, it is deeply rooted in their everyday lives. In fact the game holds a unique role in many clubs creating a stronger community relationship.
Hurling is a game played with ash sticks and a small ball called a sliotar. Fifteen players play against fifteen. There is a goalkeeper, six defenders, two midfielders and six forwards.
The object of the game is to score more points than your opponents.
A point is scored when the ball is hit (pucked) over the crossbar and three points is awarded if you can score a goal past the goalkeeper. Hurling is the fastest field sport in the world and in my opinion the most skilful.
The most successful county in Hurling is Kilkenny with 35 All Ireland titles followed by Cork with 30 and Tipperary with 26. The All Ireland series is run over the summer with the final played on the first Sunday in September. On completion of the All Ireland championship, players return to their respective local clubs i.e. their hometown or village team. They have the opportunity to win their own county championship and the opportunity to win the All Ireland CLUB championship with the finals played on St. Patrick’s Day every year.
Obviously the biggest rivalries in Hurling are amongst neighbouring counties. Kilkenny versus Tipperary, Cork versus Tipperary, Clare versus Galway and Laois versus Offaly. The standard of physicality, fitness, speed and preparation has increased dramatically over the years and I believe that the association will find it very hard to keep the games amateur with the high demands placed on players in the modern game.
The sport has now been given the opportunity to be viewed by a wider audience as the sporting organisation (GAA) has signed a deal with Sky Sports to televise some of the biggest games in the Hurling Championship. The reaction from the British public has been shock and awe. The most surprising part is that these players are amateur even though they play the sport to a professional standard. This game has to be seen to be truly understood.