VOV reporter: Welcome back, MH. We loved your story about Cork City and The Irish Pub in the other show and today we’d love to hear more from you about Irish sports, especially Hurling, one of the oldest field games in the world with the first literary reference dating back to 1272 BC.
MH: Hello everybody. It’s great to be back on today’sthe show. Talking about sports in Ireland, it would not be complete if we don’t mention Hurling, a very uniquely Irish gamesport. Hurling is one of the world’s oldest few sports and has been played in some forms in Ireland for more than 800 years. I think some people often compare hurling to hockey. But other than the fact both games involve a stick and a ball, there’s no similarities. Some other people have called hurling a mixture ofbetween hockey and war.
VOV reporter: So what are there in the uniquely Irish gamewhat’s involved in Hurling? Can you tell us more about the game?
MH: The curved wooden stick with a flat end is known as a hurl or hurley, and is made from a single piece of wood, traditionally Ash. The lower end, or blade, is flat on both sides. Mmetal bands are often used around the blades, as on the left, to stop the wood from splitting. The ball, or sliothar [say: shlit-her] is about the size of a tennis ball and is made of leather, covered with raised ridges where the leather is stitched. Hurling is an amateur game and is played only by men (or boys). A similar game, Camogie, is played only by women.
VOV reporter: So how Hurling is played?
MH: Games are played by two opposing teams of 15 players each. The object is to get the sliothar intopast the opponent’s goalpost. The goalpost is H shaped, with a net under the cross post. If the sliothar goes over the post, a point is scored, if it goes under the post and into the net a goal, which is worth, three points, is are scored.
Players are allowed to strike the ball in the air, even above head height, as well as on the ground. When the ball is on the ground it cannot be handled but it can be lifted from the ground using the hurley, to be either caught in the hand or struck.
Once caught in the hand a player can carry the ball for no more than three paces, but is allowed to balance it on the blade of the hurley while running. As well as striking the ball with the hurley, players can kick the ball or strike it with their hand. An impressive hurling skill is the ability to bounce or balance the ball on the hurl while running at full speed before finally flipping it high into the air and whacking it over or under the cross bar.
VOV Reporter: Is it possible for players to tackle in Hurling?
MH: Tackling is allowed and although it is not permitted to hit another player with the hurley it can happen in the heat of play and protective helmets are now commonly worn.
VOV reporter: The final of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship has been listed in second place by CNN in its "10 sporting events you have to see live", after the Olympic Games and ahead of both the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Football Championship. From the perspective of a foreigner, how do you see the popularity of Hurling in Ireland?
MH: When I was in Ireland, all I heard inwhat dominated the sports news, apart from football and Gealic football, it’s all aboutwas Hurling in the news. The sport of Hurling is so muchdearly loved by Irish people. It’s an amateur game and is played only by men or boys. A similar game in Ireland called CKamogi is played only by women. It’s funI find it very interesting because my friends and landlords they all spend time relaxing and drinking and enjoy watching Hurling duringon the weekends, especially when there are teams of Hurling teams playing across different counties and cities in Ireland. I think that while it’s a wonderful game to watch live, the ball is so small and the pace is so fast that sometimes I myself find it difficult to follow, especially on a small screen on the television or even when I was at the stadium.
So because Hurling is so popular and common in Irish society, it’s played in almost all counties in Ireland and I think I learn from my Irish friends that the strongest teams of Hurling teams tend to come from the counties of Kylan, Waxfox, Cork, Clare , and Ggalway. It’s very easy for you to see for exampleto find Hurling game. When I was living in Cork, I often saw school boys and school children, they brought along the carrying their Hurling sticks so they could play Hurling with their friends anytime during the day.