So Soccer may not be Ireland’s strong point but luckily we have sports of our own, native to this country and guess what, we’re the best in the World at them! (Even if these sports are played almost exclusively in Ireland) In this month’s piece we’ll be taking a crash course in Hurling, Camogie, Gaelic Football and Irish Handball. For some Irish people, these sports are their life, and the dedicate as much time and effort to it as professional Soccer players, only that all Irish Sports are amateur. So even at the top level, players do it purely for the love of the game!
Hurling and Camogie: The fastest field sport in the world
Firstly, what is the difference between these two sports? Well not much really, only that Hurling is played by men and Camogie is played by women. Other than that the rules are the same!
This sport could be compared to a mix between hockey, rugby and lacrosse and what you get is something magical! It was said to have originated approximately 3000 years ago making it older than the recorded history of Ireland and all of our mythical heroes are said to have played this sport.
To play you need a hurly, usually made of wood, and a leather ball, similar to a baseball ball. Each team has 15 players. Goals are shaped like a ‘H’, like in rugby and shooting the ball over the crossbar gets you 1 point, while under is a goal and is worth 3 points. There are said to be more than 72 different skills that players can utilise so there’s never a dull moment making it very exciting to watch live or on the television!
Only in 2010 was a law brought in that player must wear a helmet. Before this time players would regularly be hit in the head or face and were missing all or many of their front teeth..
Two Dublin Hurling/Camogie stars in action: photo credits to We Are Dublin GAA
This game is also enjoyed by both men and women around the country and can be described as a mixture between Soccer and Rugby. You might have guessed one has to be pretty tough to play Irish sports!
This is played on the same pitch (playing field) as with Hurling and Camogie and all you need is a ball, similar to a Soccer or Volleyball ball. The same scoring methods are used here as in Hurling and Camogie. It is a little slower than Hurling so it may be easier to follow, as an introduction to Irish sports.
Two Dublin Gaelic football stars in action: photo credits to We Are Dublin GAA
Finally we have the lesser known of the Irish sports, Irish Handball. I had to do a little research into it to understand it myself!
Unlike the other two sports, this one is played in an alley, usually with four walls. It’s a two player game. Opponents play off the the front wall and much like squash or table tennis, the ball (similar to a squash ball) can only bounce once before the other player has to get to it. If they don’t get to it in time and play it against the wall, their opponent wins the point. The player with the most points at the end wins… I’m not sure I understand it fully either, don’t worry..
2015: Irish One-Wall Nationals star in action: Photo credit to GAA Handball
Join us this month, 30th May, when we visit Croke Park and the GAA Museum to gain a real insight into the games and where all the most exciting matches are played. Also watch this space because we’re hoping to run a GAA experience in the summer where you can spend the afternoon testing your Hurling/Camogie and Gaelic football skills
Immerse yourself fully in Irish culture and go to a match. See all the fixtures for the big games here, or check out the fixtures of your local GAA club and join the community to support their local sporting heroes!