What the Heck is Hurling?


The Irish National Sport—No, Not That One

For the past few months, much of my free time has been spent with the Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club. If you don’t know by now that Liam is from Ireland, here’s the announcement. He received an invitation in April to join the new hurling club here and was immediately overcome with excitement. I was aware of hurling and had a pretty good idea of how the game is played, but everyone I’ve met since then has asked one of two questions: “What the heck is hurling?” or “Is that the game on ice with the broom and stuff?”

So What Is It?

To answer your questions, it’s the Irish national sport, and there is no ice in sight. You might be thinking of “curling,” and our neighbors to the north enjoy that one. It also does not involve drinking until you throw up. It is, in fact, the most intense game I’ve ever seen. A mix between lacrosse and field hockey without pads and with a lot of Irish grit, the game requires some serious fortitude and an amazing set of lungs. The stick used is called a hurley (also now the name of our new puppy. We’re hardcore), and the ball is a sliotar (it’s Gaelic. Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it. Try “schlither”).

The Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club

The team here in Nashville is small but growing. Last week, we all traveled to St. Louis for a tournament and had to borrow players from other teams to have a full squad. We see new people in and out each week, so I don’t think it will be long before we have our own full club…and then some. John Watson, a sculptor on the faculty at Belmont University, is our fearless leader, along with his wife, Anji, who is a surgical resident at Vanderbilt. The rest of the club is made up of other Nashville professionals: optometrists, web designers, teachers, and marketers. We’ve also been blessed with a couple from County Down in Northern Ireland for the summer.

I don’t actually play yet. I hit the ball around on Thursday nights for the informal practice, but the training on Sunday mornings is too intense for my leg. I hope to slowly build up some more strength in my knee again so I can join the girls’ team for camogie next year in St. Louis.

So, aside from working, this is what I’ve been up to. I thought I’d share our new obsession with you and show some photos of the club and the tournament. If you’re interested in learning more about hurling, do a quick search for your city. You might be surprised to find a club already in place. I know for sure you can join clubs here in Nashville, Atlanta, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Chicago, Kansas City, and New York City.

In addition to fun, fun, fun athletics, I’ve met some of the nicest, funniest, and most encouraging people here with the Nashville club. I can’t wait to see where this all goes!

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Nashville Irish community

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2 thoughts on “What the Heck is Hurling?

  1. When I think of Liam, I think of Guinness, the giants causeway, and driving on the wrong side of the road, not actual physicality! Shows what I know! Rah rah rah! 🙂

  2. Irelands national sport is actually handball- like racketball/ squash without the racket. Its a good game too. Hurling is the fastest field game in the world and is a very old game, dating back thousands of years. It is a great game to play and exciting to watch. Has everything a game should have- skill, athleticism, speed, power and aggression.

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