Hurling is one of the oldest games in the world and Europe’s oldest field game. It is also arguably the fastest field game with the sliothar travelling at speeds up to 93mph/150km/h.
It is played with a small round leather ball called the sliothar and a wooden stick called the camán in Irish or the hurl in English. The sliothar is a white ball with raised black ridges that curve around it. The hurl or hurley is a straight stick, usually between 70–100cm long, that widens and curves at the end. The goalkeeper has a hurl with a wider curved area (Bás) for when he is re-starting the game after the ball has gone out of play. When teams of women play, the game is called Camogie.
The sliothar can be caught by hand and carried for not more than four steps. Players can strike it while it's in the air or on the ground. If they use their hand to pass the sliothar, they must use an open palm and slap the ball. If they wish to carry the sliothar for more than four steps on their hurl, they must bounce it on the hurl or balance it while running. The sliothar can only be handled twice before passing or the player will be penalised. The aim is to get from the goal the player is defending to the opposite end of the field and score.
The game is played between two teams of 15 players. As with Gaelic Football, players sent off for foul play can't be substituted, thus leaving their team one man short. Each team defends a goal and tries to score against the opposing team and tthrough heir goalposts.
Each team starts the game with a goalkeeper, three full backs, three half backs, two mid fielders, three half forwards. Up to three subs can be used.
In order to get the sliothar from the other team, players can intercept it when it's passed or kicked. Otherwise they can tackle their opponent using side-to-side shouldering, the hook (approaching from the rear and using their hurl to hook the other hurl) and blocking a shot with their body or hurl.
Although it's a very fast-paced game with sticks and balls flying in all directions, players are not required to wear any protection. Some players do wear plastic helmets with face guards and a special glove called an ashguard.
Once a goal or point has been scored, or a shot at goal has gone wide, the goalkeeper restarts the game by taking a puckout, where he hits the ball from his hand.
If the ball bounces off a defender and goes out of play along the line that the goalposts are on, the attacking team get a 65 ie they get to kick the ball from the ground 65m out from where the ball crossed the line into touch.
If during play the ball goes out of play and crosses the line either side of the pitch, the team that touched the ball last lose possession.
If a player commits a foul then the other team gets a free from the spot where the foul took place. The sliothar cannot be lifted off the ground by hand but raised with the hurl. If the foul takes place in the large rectangle then a penalty is awarded. The goalkeeper and two defenders can defend this.
If it is not clear who tackled first, the referee can restart the game by throwing the ball in – as he would do at the start of the match. All clear? Good stuff.
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