Hurling is 'hockey mixed with murder'

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2014
hurling
RUTHLESS AND FASCINATING: Players get stuck into a game of hurling.

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The Irish sport of hurling has been described as "the fastest sport on grass" and "hockey mixed with murder", and it's taking off in Christchurch.

Hurling has been played for centuries and like gaelic football or rugby, young Irish boys start playing the peewee version as young as 5 years old.

Irish import Liam Kelly took up the sport as a kid and has been a staunch player since, joining the Christchurch McKenna's Gaelic Atheletic Association when he arrived for the Christchurch rebuild two years ago.

"It's pretty unique," he said. "Spectators love it."

Hurling is complex. Players have hurley sticks made of wood which they use to balance the ball and run, or hit the ball down the field. They also use their hands to catch and throw the ball. The mixed use of hands and sticks means the sport is known for hand injuries.

It is played fast - really fast. Players are all but sprinting up and down the field, with sticks flying and a hard ball at the centre of it all. The sport is both ruthless and fascinating.

The goal looks like a rugby goal post with a football-style net from the cross-bar down. Points are scored by getting the ball over the bar (1 point) or under it and past the goalie (3 points).

The sport is high on contact, but compulsory helmets and face guards were only introduced to men's teams in 2010.

Kelly said the Christchurch club had noticed a surge in interest and players as more Irish workers came over to New Zealand for work. Being such a skilled and complex sport, few Kiwis had been involved but spectator interest was predicted to increase as awareness of the sport caught on.

Players are amateur level in clubs and only the best make the inter-county professional teams.

Professional players devote their lives to the pursuit.

"It's a high honour to represent your county," Kelly said. "The fitness levels are really, really high.

"These guys train five nights a week and have fulltime jobs."

Find the Christchurch GAA on Facebook for info about games and training, including gaelic football.

A video on YouTube gives a good look at the game.

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- The Press

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