Ireland is home to the fastest ball game in the world and to most who have had the privilege of playing or even just watching it will agree. It is called hurling, an amateur sport played and trained as a professional sport watched by a full stadium of 80,000 people but without the outrages amounts of money flying around.
Its history can be traced back 2000 years and was played in pre-christian Ireland. It has connections to similar games in Scotland, Wales and even North Africa.
In the 1880s there was an movement to formalize the ancient sport and the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) was formed. This regional club and amateur based sports association succeed in bringing the sport into the 20th and now 21st century that has become famous world wide.
Hurling which is played with a stick about 3 feet long and wider at the end, a small ball like a base ball and a helmet is worn to protect the player against the flying sticks and high speed ball! It is a contact sport 15 against 15 with big hits at high speeds from opposing players. It is exciting to watch and thrilling to play!
September is the month of the All Ireland finals, the championship play offs between the best teams in the country. This year Killkenny v Tipperary will be a clash of the titans of the sport, and will be watched by millions of Irish in Ireland and worldwide.
What a unique experience to come and visit Ireland next year, 2017 to coincide with a GAA hurling game and experience living history and a battle worthy of the toughest sportsmen in the world!
John Sheehy, ex GAA player and sports enthusiast.