Hurling: The World’s Oldest & Fastest Field Game

Hurling is known as the world’s oldest and fastest field game and was first played in Ireland around 3,000 years ago. If you’re taking a vacation to Ireland, you must learn a little bit about one of the Irish’s oldest and most played games!

Hurling is played on a pitch, or field, (similar to that of rugby or soccer) that can be up to 145m long and 90m wide with H-shaped goal posts at each end (the same pitch that Gaelic football is played on). Each game is 70 minutes with two 35 minute halves.



  1. Hurly: this is the stick that is used – it is usually 31-40 inches long
  2. Bas: this is part of the goalkeeper’s hurley and is a flatteneted, curved end that is bigger than the rest of the hurleys on the field – not all goalkeepers use a hurly with a bas, but most do
  3. Sliotar: this is the ball – it is covered in leather with a rubber center and is between 69-72mm in diameter
  4. Helmet: helmets were not mandatory until January of 2010, but the GAA now is making it a rule that players of all ages must oblige by


Like in most sports, the object of the game is to score the most points. The players must hit the sliotar either over the crossbar, which will give them one point, or under the crossbar into the net, which will give them three points. The goalkeeper is standing under the crossbar guarding the net.


There are 15 players on the field at a time, and when they have the sliotar they can hit in on the ground or in the air with the hurly, catch it in their hand and carry it for four steps, or kick it or hit it with an open hand to pass to another teammate.


There are three types of acceptable tackling in hurling according to the GAA:

1. The Block: where one player attempts to smother an opposing player’s strike by trapping the ball between his hurley and the opponent’s swinging hurl.

2. The Hook: where a player approaches another player from a rear angle and attempts to catch the opponent’s hurley with his own at the top of the swing.

3. The Side Pull:  where two players running together for the sliotar will collide at the shoulders and swing together to win the tackle and “pull” (name given to swing the hurley) with extreme force.

Unacceptable forms of tackling include:

  1. Jersey pulling
  2. Wrestling
  3. Pushing
  4. Tripping
  5. One handed slash of the stick

Sound like fun? It does to me! I’m hoping to see a game of hurling the next time I’m visiting Ireland. So, plan your vacation to Ireland, learn a few popular Irish phrases and then you’ll be ready to watch or maybe even play in a game of hurling.

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