Read on for an overview of some of the key geography, terminology, and rules of hurling.

The Hurling Pitch

Hurling is played on a large pitch, though the dimensions can vary a little by field. The length is between 140 – 160 yards (130 – 145 meters) and the width between 90 – 100 yards (80 – 90 meters). It can be hard to find a field this size here in Knoxville, so we make do with football, soccer, or rugby pitches. At each end of the pitch is an H-shaped goal with a net on the lower portion. Lines are painted across the field at the 13m, 21m, 45m, and 65m marks from each end. On smaller fields, we approximate this proportional to the actual field size.

The Equipment Required for Hurling

The main pieces of equipment needed in order to play hurling are the sliotar (ball, pronounced sort of like “shlitter”), the hurley (stick, also called a hurl), and a helmet. The KGAC has plenty of these on hand to loan to newcomers during training and games, though if you decide to make a bigger commitment, you’ll likely want to invest in your own sticks and some sliotars to play around with at home.

Cleats can be very handy too, and most just pick up some soccer cleats. If you get more serious about the sport, you might want accouterments like extra grips, boiled linseed oil to treat your sticks, gloves, equipment bags, wall balls for solo practice, cones for solo drills, and so on. But really if you have a stick or two (they do break) and a handful of sliotars (they do get lost), you’ve got what you need to train with the club or on your own. Helmets are used in games and heavier training, but again, the club has some for loan on training and game days.

The Object and Timing of the Game

The object of the game is to score more points and goals than the opposing team. If you hit or kick the ball over the crossbar, it’s worth 1 point. If you hit or kick the ball into the goal, it’s worth 3 points. Points in hurling are displayed in a G – P format. So if your team has 2 goals and 13 points, your score is displayed as 2 – 13. The total point value determines the winner. In this case, 2 goals at 3 points each makes 6 points. Add that to the 13 points and the total is 19. If your total of 19 beats your opponent’s total, you win.

A hurling match is composed of two halves of 30 minutes each. It’s commonplace in the U.S. to have breaks at the 15-minute mark too. At higher levels of play in Ireland, halves at 35 minutes each. The referee has discretion to add stoppage time to the clock to account for injuries or other stoppages.

Some Hurling Lingo

Phrases you’ll see below and hear routinely on the pitch include:

  • Free puck, free-in, or free-out. Certain fouls result in a “free puck.” The team that has won the free puck places the ball on the pitch where spotted by the referee. The free-taker must lift the ball with the stick and hit it from that lift (without taking the ball to the hand). Often, the free-taker will try to score a goal in this attempt. A free-in is an offensive free puck and a free-out is a defensive one.
  • Puck-out. When the opposing team scores or puts a ball wide over the end-line, a player (typically the goal-keeper) puts the ball back into play from an area just in front of the goal by striking it out of the hand toward field of play. Puck-out placement strategy varies by team and situation.
  • 65. When a defensive player is the last to touch the ball before it goes out over the end-line, the offensive team takes a free puck from the 65-meter line. This discourages the defensive team from intentionally putting the ball out over the end line by setting up a probable score from the 65.
  • Sideline cut. If a player from team A was the last to touch the ball before it goes over the sideline, team B is awarded a sideline cut to put the ball back into play. To execute a sideline cut, you place the ball on the ground and strike it into the pitch from the ground without lifting it.
  • Throw-in. At the beginning of each half and in some other circumstances, the referee throws the ball in between two players from each team to put it back into play.
  • Solo. To solo, you take the ball onto your hurl and run with it, egg-and-spoon-race style, for as long as you’d like.

The Basic Rules

There is a lot of nuance in the rules of hurling, which can make it a complicated game to officiate. But there are some key rules that will suffice for most players.

  • You may not pick up the ball with your hand (though you may get it to hand by lifting it with the stick, bouncing it off the stick into the hand, catching it on a bounce, or catching it in the air). And you may not touch the ball while it is on the ground unless you have fallen with the ball in hand.
  • You may not throw the ball, but you may let the ball go and strike it immediately with the hand to pass to another player. This is called a hand-pass, and the referee may call a foul if the pass is executed without a definite striking motion of the hand.
  • You may not run more than four steps while holding the ball (or hold the ball for more than the time it would take to run four steps). If you do so, you’ll turn over the ball to the opposing team, who can take a free puck at the point at which you overcarried the ball.
  • You may solo for as long as you’d like.
  • You can take the ball to the hand only twice in a run. If you catch it and bounce the ball off the stick while running, you may only take it to the hand once more before striking it, kicking it, or hand-passing it away. This sounds very restrictive, but there’s lots of room for variation in your approach.
  • You must keep the ball within the field’s boundaries. Failure to do so will result in a turnover in which the opposing team may take a free puck, a 65, or a sideline cut, depending on where the ball left the field.
  • Hurling is a physical game, but you may not pull on an opponent’s clothing, push them in the back, swing the hurley wildly, make significant or non-incidental contact with a player with your hurley, block with your body, or charge a player in any way other than making shoulder-to-shoulder contact while attempting to play the ball.
  • In more official play, yellow and red cards are awarded for aggressive fouls. Two yellows equal a red, and a red results in your being ordered off the field.