Curling is an Olympic Game…But Check Out Hurling!
~ James Moore
Curling is a sport that had a difficult background, going from an unofficial sport over the years before finally becoming an integral part of every Winter Olympics. Hurling, however, is another sport that was actually an ‘unofficial’ sport, shown for the first time at the Summer Olympics held back in 1904, in St. Louis, Missouri. Unfortunately, unlike the eventual success of curling, hurling was seen and then unseen, appearing at only this one session of the historic Olympic Games.
As with curling, for the majority of sports fans, hurling is also a game that many do not know about or understand. The realm of Ancient Gaelic and Irish people is where the sport of hurling first originated. The Gaelic Athletic Association is actually the bearer and public relations behind the game of hurling, keeping the sport under the umbrella of where it first began.
But if you want to talk about ancient, hurling actually has a ‘foot’ in prehistoric times, being played by athletes for over 3,000 years. There are many who also state quite clearly that hurling was the quickest, speediest sport to ever be played by human beings. (Take that NASCAR).
Gaelic football, with its playing field, goals, the number of athletes per team and more, is also a ‘relative’ of hurling.
For those who have never seen the sport in action, players are looking at a tough competition. They are armed, so to speak, with wooden sticks referred to as ‘hurleys’, and they must utilize this piece of sports equipment to hit a small ball (AKA: sliotar) between their opponents’ goalposts. One point is granted to a team whose player hit’s the ball over the crossbar of the goal; and three points are awarded to the team when the ball is hit under the bar into a net that’s guarded by a goalie.
Hand-to-eye coordination is a serious must in this game. The sticks (hurleys) need to be controlled by the player, because even though the actual ball may be able to be caught by the player in his hand, it can not be carried across the field for more than four steps. It also can be kicked or hit with a player’s open hand for short-range passing, but if the ball needs to be ‘carried’ for more than four steps, than the player must have extreme balance; after four steps in hand, they must be able to bounce or balance the ball on the end of the hurley, and can only touch the ball twice while they have it in their possession.
As with all Irish and Scottish ‘real men’ sports, there is no padding to help a player not get harmed by the other team. They do, however, wear a helmet with a faceguard. But if you are an athlete who has an ego and needs to have their name sewn on the back of their shirt so their fans can cheer, hurling is not the game for you. No player’s names are on the jerseys, and no specific number will ever go down in history, seeing as that no numbers are assigned.
The Irish and others compete in hurling across the globe; from Argentina to Australia to South Africa. Although there’s no professional teams or competitions, not to mention no way to get paid, hurling is a huge source of pride. And many have said that to witness hurling live and in-person is an experience a true sports lover will never forget.
So let’s give a ‘shout-out’ to the Olympic Committee! Hurling is a true warrior sport with a deep historical background that all countries and people could share and bring to life in front of the global audience. If curling made it, hurling should also be given the chance to shine!