Luck O’ The Irish: Hurling

By: ROXANNA COLDIRON

Edited by: KELSEY CRUZ

If you’re looking for a new sport, look no further than Ireland. It has a rich culture that includes the sports hurling and camogie, an Irish stick-and-ball team sport played by women. Although hurling originates in Ireland, Americans play it, too.

Coleen Casey, the public relations officer and member of the Akron Celtic Guards in Ohio, has played for the team for almost two years. She first learned about hurling during a semester in Ireland, and as she immersed herself in the language and culture of her ancestral country, she quickly developed a love for the Irish pastime.

Casey explained that there are two versions of the game in Ireland– one for men and one for women. The men tend to play on hurling teams while the women play camogie, which is “hurling with slightly-altered rules.” Casey, however, plays on a hurling team made up of both men and women.

“We don’t have enough girls [on the Akron Celtic Guards] to make a full team, but I prefer hurling to camogie anyway,” she says.

RC: What is hurling?

CC: Hurling is the national sport of Ireland and is known as ‘the fastest game on the grass.’  It is about 3,000 years old with Gaelic roots.  Hurling is a field sport and played using a wooden axe-like stick (called a hurley) and a small, hard ball (a sliotar).  A player can hit the ball on the ground or in the air. It can be caught, kicked or hand-passed (using an open palm).  It cannot be thrown or picked up off the ground with the hands.  To pick it up off the ground, a player needs to lift it using the hurley.  To run with the sliotar, it must be balanced or bounced on the hurley.  A player can only run with the sliotar in his/her hands for four steps (or the equivalent time it takes) before either passing it to another player, scoring, or balancing it back on the hurley.

RC: How has hurling benefited your fitness and athletic goals?

CC: Hurling is amazing because it really works every muscle group.  I’ve noticed that my back and arm and leg muscles have become extremely defined and stronger from playing because players are running, kicking, swinging, and lifting. It is highly demanding of the entire body, and the physical benefits are extensive.  Personally, I have lost weight, gained a great deal of muscle definition and endurance, and have found myself in better cardio health. Hurling also provides benefits in terms of mental health, which I have always found crucial. I always feel better – less stressed, calmer, and happier – after playing.  I know that is true for other players as well.

“What’s great,” Casey adds, “is that you don’t need to be in good physical shape or any certain age to play with the team or enjoy the sport.”

Melissa Hall, a member of the Akron Celtic Guards, agrees. “I like hurling because it’s a fun game, a great workout, and everybody on the team is extremely nice.”

Beginners are welcome to join and experience a powerful, total-body workout in a fun and encouraging team environment. If you’re in the United States and would like to join a hurling team or begin one, visit the North American GAA web site for more information.

Photo credit: Jeff Maruna

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Categories: Featured Interviews, Your Fitness, Your Health News

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