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Hurling: Cast Aside for Mainstream Sports

Illustration by Ari 

In today’s society, the sports world is dominated by huge leagues like the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball. The rise in popularity of sports like hockey and soccer has seen expansion in both the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer.

    The size and popularity of these leagues make it easy to forget that there are other interesting sports. One such sport is the Irish sport of hurling, which has been played for over three thousand years, making it one of the oldest organized sports on the planet. While the sport is only widely followed in Ireland, it is the origin of many European sports, and it is easy to notice parallels with sports such as rugby and soccer.

Modern lacrosse was influenced greatly by European settlers and the rules of hurling. The objective in a match of hurling is to use a wooden, axe-shaped stick called a hurley to hit a ball called a sliotar between the opponents’ goalposts, either over the crossbar for one point, or under the crossbar into a net guarded by a goalkeeper for three points. The sliotar can’t be carried for more than four steps in a row, and must be bounced or balanced on the end of the stick in order be carried again.

This rule exemplifies why the sport is infamous for its complexity. Though the sport is known for its physicality, players wear no padding, and it only recently became required to wear helmets.

While Hurling doesn’t have a professional league, there are still large events. The All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship is a knockout tournament between the teams of the 26 counties in Ireland.

Hurling has grown increasingly popular, with the All-Ireland hurling team final being ranked second in the “10 sporting events you have to see live” by CNN. The underrated sport is migrating around the world, with a popular amateur league formed in San Francisco. Before we know it, Hurling could even replace baseball as America’s past time.