Top 10 mad facts about hurling you never knew

The Irish love their sports and when visiting the Emerald Isle, watching a match in a pub ranks high among the experiences you shouldn’t miss out on. However, we know that some of our games might be a bit confusing for outsiders. 

Take hurling, for instance. The sport, played with a wooden stick called a hurl (hence the name) and a small ball called a sliotar, is one of the oldest in the world with the annual final at Dublin’s Croke Park considered the “Superbowl of Ireland”.

In a nutshell, the goal of the game is to get the ball either over or under the opponents’ goalpost crossbar to score points. 

You will learn the rest of the rules from your mates at the pub, but to get you in the right mood, here are our favourite mad facts about hurling. 

10. Milwaukee has the largest club outside of Ireland – and almost all the members are U.S. born

Milwaukee has a large hurling club.
Credit: Instagram / @milwaukee_hurling

Hurling is a very popular sport in Ireland but clubs exist all around the world, and none attract as many players as the one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Founded by Tom Mills with just 30 members in 1996, it has now grown to over 300 active players including more than 100 youth.

One of the most surprising facts about hurling outside of the Emerald Isle is that almost all members of the club are Americans, with only a handful of Irish immigrants on the teams. 

9. The U.S. Marine Corps have two hurling teams – and they have pretty funny names

The U.S. Marine Corps' love for the sport is one of the facts about hurling you never knew.
Credit: Instagram / @wildgfc

It is well known that Americans enjoy Irish sports, and even the U.S. Marine Corps are fans of hurling.

They have two official teams called The Wild Geese and The Barley House Wolves (also known as The New Hampshire Wolves Hurling Club), with the latter having been spontaneously established in 2006 when the troop took in a game while on a stopover at Shannon airport. 

The Wild Geese first competed in Ireland in 2012.

8. Hurling was banned in Quebec City – it was considered too dangerous

Hurling was banned in Quebec City.

According to records, hurling has been played in North America since the 1780s.

However, citizens of Quebec City were banned by law from playing the sport in 1845. The authorities thought it was too dangerous to chase the ball down the town’s narrow streets and alleyways – one of the maddest facts about hurling. 

7. Protective headgear was only made mandatory ten years ago – imagine all the injuries

One of the facts about hurling is about the protective headgear players wear.

Hurling is considered one of the most dangerous sports in the world due to the speed of the ball. However, the wearing of helmets only became compulsory in 2010.

That doesn’t mean that the majority of the players were sporting their bare heads until then, though.

Mid-fielder Micheál Murphy from the University College Cork team was the first to wear a helmet at a match in 1969. 

6. Hurling has been around since the Celts – with the first player being celebrated as a hero

Hurling has been around for a long time.
Credit: Flickr / Irish Jesuits

Hurling is thought to have come to Ireland with the Celts, the earliest references going back as far as 1200 BCE. 

The first-ever player is believed to be a guy nicknamed Chulainn who used a hurl and sliotar to defeat a vicious hound.

Hurling is said to have been played in ancient times by teams representing neighbouring villages, involving hundreds of players and possibly lasting up to several days. 

5. Hurloween instead of Halloween – a crazy tradition in Milwaukee

One of the facts about hurling involves Halloween.
Credit: Facebook / @CelticTweed

You’d think that the Irish came up with the maddest hurling ideas. However, we admit that the Americans beat us by lengths.

The Milwaukee Hurling Club has an annual celebration called Hurloween where players dress up before the match, turning it into a mix of a sports event and a costume party. 

Obama and the Queen have hurls.
Credit: / @271277

Gifts are part of every state visit, and hurls have become an incredibly popular choice.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama was presented one by the Taoiseach when he first visited Ireland in May 2001 – and he even went to play a few rounds. 

Queen Elizabeth has a stick engraved with her name, too. Unfortunately, unlike with Obama, it is not known if Her Majesty ever actually used hers.

3. Every year Ireland produces 450,000 hurls – creating over 400 fulltime jobs 

Facts about hurling you never knew include how many hurls are produced Ireland.

Hurling isn’t just a huge sporting event; it’s also an important economic factor. Each year, 450,000 hurls are carefully handcrafted in Ireland.

Hurls are made from ash wood using the base of the tree near the root. In the 1970s, hurls were briefly made from plastic, but manufacturers quickly changed back to wood as the plastic ones were more likely to cause injuries. 

2. Hurling is one of the ten sporting events you have to see live – according to a CNN ranking

You have to witness hurling live.

If you have never been to a hurling match, it might be time to catch up.

CNN once listed the All-Ireland Hurling Finale as number two in its “Ten Sporting Events You Have to See Live” list. The annual event at Croke Park attracts more than 82,000.

Other sporting events mentioned in the CNN ranking included the F1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi and the Four Hills Tournament in Germany and Austria. 

1. Hurling is the fastest field sport in the world – the ball is faster than a hurricane

Topping our list of facts about hurling is the speed of the ball.

If you are thinking about a career in hurling, fast reaction and decision-making are essential. One of the facts about hurling is that the ball is hit at speeds of up to 100 mph.

That’s about one-and-a-half times as fast as a baseball and one-and-one-third times as fast as a hurricane!