What is hurling?
Hurling is a field sport played with a stick and ball, loosely similar to field hockey. It is wildly believed that Hurling is the fastest field game in the world. It is also one of the most skillful games in the world. The game is a national sport of Ireland, where it is predominantly played. It is also found in parts of the world where ex-pat Irish people live, who help to set up clubs and teams.
Although it is an extremely popular sport in Ireland, the game is strictly amateur. So although the biggest match of the year, the All-Ireland Final, is played in front of a crowd of over 82,000 spectators and broadcast on TV, radio and the internet to an audience of millions, the players are not paid. They all have day jobs, and play for the love of the game, which in fact enhances the way they play as they are more loyal to their teams.
Hurling is played on a pitch approximately 137m long and 82m wide. If you were to take a soccer goal and football uprights and stick them together, you would have the type of goal that is used in hurling. Getting the ball over the crossbar scores 1 point and getting it into the net scores 3 points.
The stick or "Hurley" (called camán in Irish) is curved outwards at the end, to provide the striking surface. The ball or "sliothar" is similar in size to a baseball but has raised ridges.
You may strike the ball on the ground, or in the air. Unlike hockey, you may pick up the ball with your Hurley and carry it for not more than four steps in the hand. You cannot pick it up directly from the ground using your hand. After those steps you may bounce the ball on the Hurley and back to the hand, but you are forbidden to catch the ball more than twice. To get around this, one of the skills is running with the ball balanced on the Hurley (called soloing).
Each team consists of fifteen (commonly 13 in the U.S.) players, lining out as follows: 1 goalkeeper, three (two) full-backs, three half-backs, two midfielders, three half-forwards and three (two) full-forwards.
Goalkeepers may not be physically challenged while inside their own small parallelogram, but players may harass them into playing a bad pass, or block an attempted pass.
Teams are allowed a maximum of three substitutes in a game. Players may switch positions on the field of play as much as they wish but this is usually on the instructions of team officials.
Officials for a game comprise of a referee, two linesmen (to indicate when the ball leaves the field of play at the side and to mark 65 yard frees and 4 umpires (to signal scores, assist the referee in controlling the games, and to assist linesmen in positioning 65 yard frees). A "65" is awarded when a defender knocks the ball over his own end line, similar to when a corner kick is awarded in soccer. A free, in line with the point at which the ball crossed the end line is taken 65 yards from the end line.
A goal is signaled by raising a green flag, placed to the left of the goal. A point is signaled by raising a white flag, placed to the right of goal. A "65" is signaled by the umpire raising his/her outside arm, and standing at the point where the ball left the field. A lines man will move to the corresponding point on the 65 yard line to indicate where the free is to be taken from. There is no "offside" in hurling, like in soccer, but a 'square ball', is when a player scores having arrived in the 'square' prior to receiving the ball, is signaled by pointing at the small parallelogram.