Football? Golf? Soccer? Do you know the fastest Sport played on grass?

Football? Golf? Soccer? Do you know the fastest Sport played on grass?

Not many people outside the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have heard about hurling.

The existence of this sport was first recorded in Irish mythology, around three thousand years ago. Hurling is a variation of other sports played with a ball and a stick which were born in the British Isles and never left their birth places.

For example, in Scotland there is shinty, on the Isle of Man we can find cammag and bandy is widely spread in England and Wales.

Hurling is the fastest sport played on the grass with its ball reaching over 120 kilometres per hour in average.


Why hurling is the fastest sport played on the grass?

You can find some examples of squash or tennis serves, baseball fields or even golf drives that beat the speed of the shots of the hurling athletes. There is one major difference though: the Gaelic ball, called a sliotar, is always in play.

This means that the player while shooting with all his strength is either running or dribbling, or both.

He is also looking at the opposition’s goalkeeper to try to score or for a teammate for a great pass.

The other mentioned sports only reach hurling’s speed because the game stops frequently. When a pitcher throws the ball or the tennis player serves there is no one trying to stop them, they are not running, they are just concentrated in hitting the ball with all his power.

These sports demand silence and frequently the referees tell the audience to shut up.

Can you imagine someone asking the entire population of Dublin’s Croke Park (82 thousand seats) to stop cheering during a hurling match?

Hurling game

Fastest balls on Earth

Since men started measuring the speed of the balls thrown in sports, no one has beaten the golfer Ryan Winther who struck his ball at 362 kph. There are other impressive figures coming from non-grass sports, like jai alai, squash and tennis.

The Brazilian Ronny Heberson, when playing by Sporting Lisbon (a famous Portuguese club) shot a free kick over 211 kph. He also beat the hurling former player TJ Reid, whose strike could reach over 180 kph.

Hurling Speed

Hurling’s Equipment

Hurling has three mandatory apparatus to be used. The hurley is the wooden stick, through which you shoot the ball at the goal. The sliotar is the hurling´s ball. Since 2010, all players are obliged to wear helmets. This was a safety measure taken to reduce the number of serious injuries during the season.

hurling sliotar helmet hurley

Main Hurling’s rules

  • The hurling field is larger than a rugby field. It is 130-145 meters by 80-90 meters.
  • Each team has 15 players, including a goalkeeper.
  • The goalkeeper has a bigger hurley than the rest of the players. It is called a bas.
  • A goal is scored when the ball goes under the bar, like soccer. It is worth three points.
  • A field goal is scored when the ball goes over the bar, like football. It is worth one point.
  • The senior matches have 70 minutes, two halves of 35. The referee can add stoppage time according to the circumstances of the match, like soccer.
  • If the ball (sliotar) is on the ground, it cannot be picked by hand, only by the hurley.
  • The players cannot throw the sliotar with a closed hand. The sliotar must be thrown with an open hand, which slaps the ball.
  • A player who has the sliotar in his hand cannot take more than four steps with it.
  • The player who has the sliotar in the hand cannot switch the ball from one hand to the other.

hurling field

Hurling's Body

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) was founded on November 1st 1884. Its mission is to promote Gaelic and Irish culture mainly through sports.

This body is responsible for the administrations of hurling, Gaelic football, handball (a totally different game from Olympic Handball) and rounders (similar to baseball).

Women compete in ladies’ football and camogie (the female version of hurling). The association also promotes Irish music, song, dance and language.

The GAA has 2200 clubs as members. They are spread throughout the 32 counties of Ireland (the 26 which are part of the Republic of Ireland and six which are under British rule in Northern Ireland).

GAA Logo

During the season, over 1.5 million people watch the games of all sports at the stadiums. The All Irish final is sold out every year and 82.300 people witness the grand moment of Irish sport.

Recent rules approved by the GAA include the end of the ban against athletes who also played traditional English sports, such as soccer and rugby, and the obligation for every player to wear helmets during hurling matches.

Outside Ireland, the GAA helps the promotion of hurling in over forty countries, such as Canada, USA and the United Kingdom.

Hurling’s All Ireland Senior Championship

The most important Irish championship is called the All Ireland Senior Championship. Twelve teams take part in this competition.

The five best teams from the province of Leinster and the five best teams from the province of Munster play a regional round robin inside their groups. The top three from each advance to the knock-out stage.

Two clubs from the Joe McDonagh Cup also advance to the knock-out stage. In the preliminary quarter finals, the two sides coming from the cup face the third placed teams from Leinster and Munster.

The two winners play the quarter finals against the second placed teams from the group stage. The winners of each group start from the semi-finals stage.

Ireland has a total of four provinces. Ulster (Northern Ireland) and Connacht are not very strong at this sport, so they are not represented in the All Irish Championship nowadays.

Despite that, Galway won the trophy in 2017. For those who don't know, Dublin is the major city from Leinster, while Cork is located in Munster.

All Ireland Champions

All-Time Champions

Team No of titles
1. Kilkenny 36
2. Cork 30
3. Tipperary 27
4. Limerick 8
5. Dublin 6
5. Wexford 6
7. Clare 4
7.Offaly 4
9. Waterford 2
10. Kerry 1
10. Laoios 1
12. London 1

Hurling's History

The Celts invented hurling around three thousand years ago. It was played as a pastime to entertain the first Irish settlers. The sport is constantly mentioned in Irish mythology.

The Brehon Law, which governed the Medieval life in Ireland, also describes the sport in the fifth century.

The local ancient tales describe how heroes such as Cúchulainn, Fionn Mac Cumhail and Fianna played the game.

In the 13th Century, Kilkenny forbade the practice of hurling due to its violence. Of course, that many rules changed throughout the years. As an example, animal hair balls were replaced by the modern sliotar.

This is true to all other present day sports. Standard rules were stablished to unify the games in the five continents of the planet.

After the English colonization of Ireland, there was a dispute between English and Irish cultures. In the 19th Century, the GAA was formed to keep alive Irish traditions and folklore, which was suffering prejudice in the English dominated society.

Only with Irish independence hurling could find ways to grow again.

Hurling's Variations

Camogie is the official name of women hurling.

camogie irelandIt is very similar to the men´s sport. Some differences include a smaller sliotar, two halves of thirty minutes, players are not allowed to wear shorts and the goalkeeper uses the same hurley as the rest of the team.


Shinty, in Scotland, and Bando, in Wales, are sports derived from hurling. The rules of these games are quite similar to the Irish sport and the main differences are in the size and weights of the ball and of the stick.

Recently, they tried to unify the rules of shinty and hurling by creating a new sport called iomain. After an exhibition match in Dublin, it didn´t conquer the hearts of the Irish fans.

Hurling at the Olympics

Hurling was part of the unofficial programme of the 1904 Summer Games, which was celebrated in St. Louis.

Two American teams played the exhibition match. The Fenian GAA Club beat the Innisfáils GAA Club to win the gold medal.

Hurling in North America

The Gaelic Athletic Association has four members in North America: Toronto GGA (responsible for East Canada), Western Canada, New York and North American GAA. Each organization has its own “national” championship.

Hurling is not yet big in North America, but many people play it to keep in touch with the Irish culture, since many Americans have Irish roots.

There are around one hundred clubs where you can practice hurling and around one hundred and fifty where you can learn any Gaelic sport. The North American GAA has approximately 2500 adults registered in hurling or camogie.

Hurling in North America

Can we bet on Hurling?

The Irish and the British love betting opportunities. Do you really think they would leave hurling out of the betting world?

There are several ways to bet on hurling and our partners, such as Bet365, Spin Sports and Bodog offer plenty of betting opportunities.

When Dublin plays Galway, for example, you can wager on the winner of the match (1x2), which is quite simple. Some sportsbooks offer handicaps to give a team an advantage. You can also try bet on the total number of points scored during the match, the exact correct score, the goal difference of the winner side, the team which will score the first goal and if both opponents will score at least one goal – or not.

Future bets are also available. Who will win the All Ireland Hurling Championship? And which team will celebrate its triumph in the Division 1 (second level)?

If you prefer the excitement and adrenaline of live betting you can also go for it. If you are at a stadium of watching any game live on tv or internet, hurling live bets are regularly available. CanadaSportsBetting recommends the below partners for you to invest your money:

Further Reading

If you want to read more about hurling, I recommend you the following websites:

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Squash or tennis serves, a baseball hit or even a golf drive can go faster than a hurling play.

    There is one major difference though. The Gaelic ball is always in play.

  • It is called sliotar.

  • Dublin's Croke Park can receive up to 82 thousand fans.

    The stadium is expected to be full on that day.

  • Since men started measuring the speed of thrown balls, no one has beaten golfer Ryan Winther who struck a ball at 362 kph.

  • Since 2010 GAA demands that all players use helmets. This rule was imposed for the players' security.

  • The stick, called hurley, the ball, called sliotar, and the helmet.

  • Hurley is the wooden stick used at by players during hurling games.

  • No. The hurling field is larger. It measures 130-145 meters by 80-90 meters.

  • Yes. 

  • Each team has 15 players. One of them is the goalie. The other fourteen run across the field.

  • Hurling's goalkeepers have a bigger hurley (the wooden stick) than the other players. This bigger hurley is called a bas.

  • The GAA was founded on November 1st 1884.

  • The GAA is the Gaelich Athletics Association and is the ruling body for Gaelic sports.

    It is responsible for hurling, Gaelic football, Gaelic handball, camogie and rounders.

    It also promotes Gaelic culture through traditional music, dance and Irish language.

  • It is the All-Ireland Senior Championship, which is played by teams from the whole country.

  • Kilkenny has won the All-Ireland Senior Championship 36 times.

    It is followed by Cork (30 titles) and Tipperary (27).

  • The Celts invented hurling around 3 thousand years ago.

  • Yes. It is called camogie.

  • Yes. Camogie is women's hurling.

    Shinty, in Scotland, and Bando, in Wales, are very similar to Irish hurling.

  • Of course. There are plenty of reliable sportsbooks, such as Bodog, Betway, SpinSports and Sports Interaction (SIA) which offer hurling odds, hurling betting lines, hurling futures and hurling props.