For the Cornish sport, see Hurling the Silver Ball.
Irish postage stamp which portrays hurling
Irish postage stamp which portrays hurling

Hurling (Irish, Iomáint) is an outdoor team sport of Celtic origin, played with sticks and a ball. The game, played primarily in Ireland, is arguably the world's fastest field team sport in terms of game play (however the ball travels faster in other field games such as hockey). It resembles the games of shinty that is played primarily in Scotland, cammag on the Isle of Man and bandy that was played formerly in England and Wales. Hurling played by women is also known as camogie. Hurling is one of Ireland's native sports.


Hurley and sliotar (hurling stick and ball)

The objective of this field game is for one of two teams to score more goals and points, during a match, than the other. A team comprises 15 players.

The stick, which is known as a hurley or camán, is made traditionally from the root of the Ash tree and is generally 25–38 inches (64–97 cm) in length with a flat face opposite its handle called a bas. The ball, which is known as a sliotar, is made of leather and is 2.55 inches (65 mm) in diameter. The goalkeeper's hurley has a bas twice the size of other players' hurleys to provide some advantage for the fast moving sliotar. 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.

During a match, players attack their opposing goal and protect their own. When the ball is on the ground, it must be played by striking or lifting it off the ground with the hurley into the air where it may be struck again or placed into the hand for four seconds or four steps, whichever comes first. If the ball is caught, the catching player may not throw it or carry it for the shorter of four paces or four seconds, but is allowed to strike the ball with a stick or hand, or by kicking. The hurley's bas may be used to carry the ball while a player controls it.

Accidental collisions between players and equipment do occur and so a plastic protective helmet with faceguard is recommended (mandatory for players under 18 years of age).


Playing Field

The pitch is of grass and rectangular, stretching 130-150 metres long and 80–90 metres wide. There are H-shaped goalposts at each end with a net on the bottom section. The same pitch is used for Gaelic football; the GAA, which organises both sports, decided this to facilitate dual usage. Lines are marked at 13 m, 20 m and 65 m from each end-line. Shorter pitches and smaller goals are used by under-13s and younger.


Teams consist of fifteen players (a goalkeeper, two corner backs, a full back, three half backs, two midfielders, three half forwards, two corner forwards and a full forward) plus up to fifteen substitutes, of which five may be used. Each player is numbered 1-15, starting with the goalkeeper, who must wear a different coloured jersey.


Senior inter-county matches last 70 minutes (35 minutes a half). All other matches last 60 minutes (30 minutes a half). For age groups of under-13 or lower, games may be shortened to 50 minutes. Timekeeping is at the discretion of the referee who adds on stoppage time at the end of each half.

If a knockout game finishes in a draw, a replay is played. If a replay finishes in a draw, 20 minutes (10 minutes a side) extra time is played. If the game is still tied, another replay is played.

In club competitions replays are increasingly not used due to the fixture backlogs caused. Instead, extra time is played after a draw, and if the game is still level after that it will go to a replay. Some club competitions have used penalty shoot-outs also.

Technical Fouls

The following are considered technical fouls ("fouling the ball"):


Scoring is achieved by sending the sliotar (ball) between the opposition's goal posts. The posts, which are at each end of the field, are "H" posts as in rugby football but with a net under the crossbar as in soccer. The posts are seven yards (6.37 m) apart and the crossbar is seven feet (2.12 m) above the ground.

If the ball goes over the crossbar, a point is scored and a white flag is raised by an umpire. If the ball goes below the crossbar, a goal, worth three points, is scored, and a green flag is raised by an umpire. The goal is guarded by a goalkeeper. Scores are recorded in the format {goal total} - {point total}. For example, the 1995 All-Ireland final finished: Clare 1-13 Offaly 2-8. Thus Clare won "one thirteen to two eight" (16 to 14). 0-11 is referred to as "eleven points", never "zero eleven". 2-0 is referred to as "two goals", never "two zero". 0-0 is said "no score".


Players may be tackled but not struck with a stick. Jersey-pulling, wrestling, pushing and tripping are all forbidden. There are several forms of acceptable tackling, the most popular being:

Restarting play


A hurling match is watched over by 8 officials:

The referee is responsible for starting and stopping play, recording the score, awarding frees and booking and sending off players.
Linesmen are responsible for indicating the direction of line balls to the referee.
The fourth official is responsible for overseeing substitutions, and also indicating the amount of stoppage time (signalled to him by the referee) and the players substituted using an electronic board.
The umpires are responsible for judging the scoring. They indicate to the referee whether a shot was: wide (spread both arms), a 65 m puck (raise one arm), a point (wave white flag), or a goal (wave green flag).
All officials are also supposed to indicate to the referee anything he may have missed, although this is a rare occurrence. The referee can over-rule any decision by a linesman or umpire.


Fragments of law predating the Brehon Laws refer to hurling and may have been written before AD 400.

12th century

Meallbreatha describes

Hurling was first mentioned in a 9th century description of the Battle of Maigh Tura where the Tuatha Dé Danann defeated the Fir Bolg in a brutal match and, later, in a battle. Hurling has also been mentioned in several other old Irish sources since and the game has enjoyed popularity through the ages.

Since 1884, hurling has been governed by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). The most important match is the GAA All-Ireland Intercounty Championship which takes place annually in a modified knock-out format. The final matches are played at Croke Park and regularly attract attendances of up to 83,000 people.

Hurling remains an entirely amateur sport.

National and international

Although many hurling clubs exist worldwide, only Ireland has a national team. It and the Scotland shinty team have played for many years with modified match rules. The match is the only such international competition. However, competition at club level is growing in Europe with teams in several countries.

In North America there are leagues in many cities; the largest of these is the Milwaukee Hurling Club. The sport is promoted by the North American Gaelic Athletic Association.

Major hurling competitions

Famous players