Hurling: Getting into Irish Sporting Culture in Galway

Elizabeth Hurd is a student at Saginaw Valley State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Elizabeth is currently studying abroad with ISA in Galway, Ireland.


Hurling is one of Ireland‘s national sports. “What is hurling?” you may ask, well, that’s kind of tough to answer.  It’s advertised as “The fastest sport on the grass” and there is a lot of truth behind that statement. Think of Hurling as a cross between baseball, hockey, lacrosse, with a dash of American Football thrown in. Then add wooden sticks and a small wooden ball covered with leather, and players wearing no protection but helmets. Tada: Hurling. What I find extraordinary about Hurling is that it is a completely amateur sport. The men that are playing this game aren’t playing for money. Oh no. They’re playing for the pride of their county. I think that’s admirable, since it seems like a pretty dangerous sport. But don’t let the fact that it’s an amateur sport fool you, these guys are tough. I saw hits that would knock out the best professional Football or Hockey players, and the victims got up and played the game!

Now to explain the game a little bit. The players run around the field, chasing the ball. Their wooden sticks are used to hit the ball, but they can also catch the ball in their hands and bat it, like a baseball. They typically pass the balls off of the sticks. There are two ways to score. If the players get the ball above and between the crossbars (like a field goal in Football) they get one point. If they get it in the net (like in hockey) the get 1 goal that is worth three points. The scoring system looks like this:


That means 1 goal (worth three points) plus 15 points for a total of 18 points. Yes, this does mean that spectators have to do math to know the actual score of the game, but maybe that’s not a completely bad thing.


As for those spectators? They are brutally loyal, almost more so than American sporting fans. Since the games are played for the pride of the county, they get really behind it. I can tell you this for a fact because when my ISA group went to the Tipperary-Galway match in Galway…our team lost. Pretty badly. There were a lot of angry people. A lot. After a while, I found myself getting into the game and yelling out support for the Galway team when they were doing well and yelling not so nice things when they did poorly.

Now, I know that this is a burning question, so I will answer it. Yes. Hurling players are attractive. Very, very attractive.

Going to the match was a great experience and opened my eyes to the Irish sporting culture. I think I like it a bit better than the American one, because people are actually cheering for a team with people that they know on it, not just a team wearing the right kind of laundry. Multiple times I heard the people around me calling out the names of the team members, and not the last names. The first names. These are people that they know personally and are proud to support. It knits the community together, and I have to say, that is a great thing to see.

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