What is the History of Hurling

We know hurling as one of our greatest past times and one of the greatest sports in the world, but do you know what the history of hurling is?

It might surprise you that a lot don’t know the game’s origins date back over 3000 years.

Back then, the Celts were arriving to Ireland and introduced the legal system. Hillforts were being constructed across the country such as the Hill of Tara.

It survived some testing times to become a cultural phenomenon and a modern day behemoth in terms of involvement and influence.

In this blog we’ll take a trip back through time to discover where it originated and what it has become.

what is hurling

What is Hurling: The Origins

It’s first mention in literature dates back to 1272BC – a long, long time ago.

Ironically enough, that reference took place in Mayo, near the village of what is now known as Cong, which is a devout footballing county.

It is written that at some time during The Battle of Moytura, at Moytura Conga, the Fir Bolgs challenged the Tuatha De Danann to a game of hurling and proceeded to kill many of their enemies during the game.

However, Tuatha De Danann had the last laugh, slaying the king of Fir Bolg, King Eochai, on the fourth day.

The spot where the game proposedly took place is now called The Field of the Hurlers (below).

what is hurling
Pic: mayo-ireland.ie

Yet, if you are to believe urban myth and legend, the story of Cú Chulainn and hurling dates back even further.

Passed down by word of mouth for generations the story of the great Irish mythology was eventually written down 800 years ago in the Táin Bó Cúailnge and still told today.

In short, he was a hero warrior who possessed super human strength.

Christened as Sétanta, he is said to have been able to, allegedly, hit a sliotar with a ball, leap forward and hit it again all before it hit the ground – impressive if true!

He derived the name Cú Chulainn after he killed a large wolfhound, named Culann, that was keeping watch over the kingdom of his uncle, King Conor MacNessa.

Arriving to the gates of the kingdom under the cover of darkness, he was set upon by the hound who through he was an intruder.

Sétanta drove the ball with such accuracy and power it went straight down the hound’s throat and killed him instantly.

what is hurling
Pic: The Irish Road Trip

Upon hearing the ordeal outside, the King and his aids rushed outside to find the hound dead and Sétanta standing over him.

Relieved and impressed in equal measure as to how the young boy killed the hound, the King was also upset at losing a valued dog.

However he need not be too sad as his nephew offered his services to mind the castle while he searched for an able replacement, earning the name Cú Chulainn, which means ‘Hound of Culann’ or ‘Hound of Ulster’.

How Hurling was played Then and Now

In its earliest form, hurling was played with a stick called a camán, which was curved at the end, and a ball made of animal skin or other materials.

The goal of the game was to hit the ball, the sliotar, between two markers, often trees or stones, using the camán.

There was no pitch to play on in the early days, so often fields, hills and bogs were used.

In the 17th century, it is accounted as being played on a field nearly 300 yards long and the victorious team had to drive the ball through the goal of the opponent.

The Brehon Laws, a system of Celtic law, established provisions for instances of intentional injury or even death caused by hurling in addition to providing compensation for accidents involving the sport.

After the Normans took over, the game was outlawed in the 12th century, but it survived and even thrived until the early 19th century, largely because of landlord support.

For more on the rules of the game, check out How Long is a GAA Pitch blog.

Emergence of the Modern Game of Hurling

While the history goes back a long way, the modernising of the sport under current regulation and form is much more recent.

The founding of the GAA in 1884 was pivotal in the ancient game developing recognition, an established set of rules and structured competition.

If you want to know more about the GAA, check out our blog on What the GAA Stands For.

The GAA was founded to support and maintain traditional Irish sports, such as hurling, and it soon emerged as a dominant force in the Irish sports scene.

The organisation offered a platform for arranging contests and matches as well as assistance in standardizing the rules of hurling and other sports.

what is hurling

The GAA’s early years were characterised by controversy and hostility as it fought with British authorities and worked to forge its own unique identity.

Nevertheless, despite these difficulties, the GAA stayed dedicated to promoting hurling and other Irish sports, and they had a significant influence on how the game is played today.

The creation of a set of regulations for the sport was a significant advancement in its modernisation.

Matches could be played with a wide range of rules and equipment prior to the GAA’s involvement, which could make it challenging for teams to compete on an even playing field.

A level playing field was made possible by the adoption of standardised regulations, which also contributed to the fair and safe conduct of games.

The advent of new tools like the sliotar and hurley was a significant advancement in the modernisation of hurling too.

Due to these advancements, the game became faster and more exciting while also allowing for increased player ability and precision.

This blog will give you more detail on how long a game of hurling lasts.

The Significance of Hurling in Irish Culture

The game is so much more than a sport in Ireland.

With the emergence of the club and county codes and parish rule, hurling is a strong symbol of identity and pride.

Pride derives from the fact that people can only play for the parish in which they are born, creating a strong sense of unity and pride of place within local communities.

what is hurling

The game is celebrated in music, literature and art by some of the most well-known musicians and poets, such as WB Yeats, and matches are some of the biggest social events in the Irish calendar.

The All-Ireland Hurling Final, for example, attracted over 1 million viewers in 2022.

Recently, the game has sparked huge interest worldwide too, particularly in the USA.

Hurling folk look at the game as a second religion.

What is Hurling Today

Modern day hurling is only growing in popularity.

Right now, the game boasts some of the most talent players the sport has ever seen.

Check out our blog on the Best Team of the Past Two Decades to read more on them.

The sport has also gained a following around the world, with teams and leagues established in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia.

There is also a lot of work taking place in Ireland and beyond to make the game more accessible and inclusive, while it is also attracting players from all backgrounds and nationalities.


We hope you enjoyed a look back through time on the history of hurling and learned a few things.

It’s an amazing sport and we are supporting it for a long time.

Check out our full range of GAA gear below.

Best Hurlers of all time: Ultimate VX 2000-2020

We’ve already compiled our list of the best football XV of the past two decades, so now it’s time to compile our list of the best hurlers of all time: 2010-2020.

It was an era dominated by Brian Cody’s relentless Kilkenny, who captured 11 Liam McCarthy Cups in that time. The Cats produced some of the game’s greatest players in that era too.

While Tipperary (4), Cork (2), Limerick (2), Clare and Galway all enjoyed their days in the sun in the 20 odd years as well.

Trying to pick a top 15 players was every bit as difficult, if not more, than the footballers and we know some will be disappointed and aggrieved with our decisions!

It’s a game of opinions after all.

So here goes.

Best Hurlers of all Time

1. Goalkeeper: Eoin Murphy (Kilkenny)

best hurlers of all time

There have been an emergence of some incredible goalkeepers over the past 20 years but Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy comes out on top of the lot. He beats off still competition from the likes of Donal Óg Cusack, Anthony Nash and Nicky Quaid, Murphy raised the bar, particularly in the second half of the decade.

Four All-Irelands and 3 All Stars is a good showing too.

Full Back Line

best hurlers of all time

2. Right Corner Back: Paul Murphy (Kilkenny)

The army man won four All-Irelands and four All Stars in his first five incredible years with the Cats!

A former Hurler of the Year nominee, Murphy was an absolute all-rounded defender that could man-mark the best, dictate the skies and hassle and harry with the very best.

A shout out to Jackie Tyrell and Noel Connors too, but Murphy is a too strong.

3. Full Back: Daithi Burke (Galway)

Although he won only one All-Ireland title compared to his competitors for this position, Burke is undoubtedly one of the best full backs the game has seen.

A physical specimen, he was a key figure as Galway ended their wait for the Liam McCarthy in 2017 and won four consecutive All Stars between 2015 and 2018.

A dual star too with Corofin, Burke was tough, skilful and smart – a powerful trio.

4. Left Corner Back: JJ Delaney (Kilkenny)

There is fierce competitiveness in the full back line, especially from the Kilkenny boys, but Delaney was a nailed down starter and takes the last jersey.

One of the finest defenders to ever play the game, Delaney finished his illustrious career with nine All-Ireland titles and seven All Stars.

Although he played a lot of his career in the half back line too, he was versatile anywhere in the defence.

Half Back Line

best hurlers of all time

5. Right Wing Back: Tommy Walsh (Kilkenny)

The man from Tullaroan was small in stature but huge in determination, desire and skill.

He had an affable ability to fly through the skies and pluck the sliotar before driving his team on and raising the roof of Croke Park. A player that was loved by all counties, not just his own.

Nine All-Ireland titles, nine All Stars and a former Hurler of the Year is as good an innings and you will find.

6. Centre Back: Padraic Maher (Tipperary)

Will go down as one of Tipperary’s greatest ever, the indestructible Maher earned six All Stars during his time with Tipp.

His accuracy from play, where he could set up attacks from deep inside his own half made him such a dangerous weapon.

Known and feared for his physical stature, Maher also had consistency and longevity during his three All-Ireland titles.

7. Left Wing Back: Austin Gleeson (Waterford)

The versatility of the Waterford ace is what has earned him a playmaking role in the half back line.

Gleeson can play in any position you want given his exceptionally high skill level, workrate and pace.
Doesn’t have the trophy cabinet to match some of the others on this team, his ability to create something magically out of nothing is something we couldn’t ignore.


best hurlers of all time

8. David Burke (Galway)

Captain of their 2017 All-Ireland winning team, Burke was a player who product at least an 8/10 performance every single game.

The St Thomas clubman won four All Stars since breaking onto the scene in 2010 and is one of the finest long range shooters in the game.

A rock who will sit in, defend and do all the unfashionable stuff just as well as he can hit some of the best scores you will ever see.

9. Tony Kelly (Clare)

Kelly has managed to get the nod ahead of Kilkenny’s Michael Fennelly and that in itself says enough about how highly we rate him.

The Ballyea man won a Hurler of the Year and Young Hurley of the Year in the last decade and inspired the Banner win to a famous All-Ireland in 2013.

Kelly can and has won games on his own and has a long career of him yet.

Half Forward Line

10. Right Half Forward: Noel McGrath (Tipperary)

McGrath’s vision and passing accuracy was a joy to behold.

He overcame a battle with testicular cancer in 2015 and bounced back an even better player, proving pivotal around the middle of the field.

Young Hurler of the Year in 2009 as a corner-forward, McGrath was recently named captain for 2023.

11. Centre Half Forward: Joe Canning (Galway)

Galway’s greatest every hurler, Canning was so good he became universally known throughout the game as just ‘Joe’.

His talents and efforts for Galway warrant more than just the one All-Ireland, and no one will forget his winning point against Tipperary in 2017 was special, as was his ability to hit sideline cuts.

His older brother, Ollie, isn’t far off the pace for this team in the corner back role, but Joe was the real star in a talented family.

12. Left Half Forward: TJ Reid (Kilkenny)

Like Canning, Reid is so good he is only referred to by his first name such is his profile.

The Kilkenny ace and Ballyhale clubman is arguably the hurler of the 2010-2020 decade and is still showing no signs of slowing down.

TJ has hit 28-477 for Kilkenny and is one of the greatest forwards of all time with 7 Celtic Crosses and 6 All Stars and counting.

Full Forward Line

13. Right Corner Forward: Seamus Callanan (Tipperary)

Callinan was a colossal for Tipp’ since he burst onto the scene in 2009.

Almost unmarkable on his day, Callinan inspired his county to three All-Ireland titles, Callinan scored a goal in every championship game (8) in 2019 as Tipp’ won the Liam McCarthy.

Four times nominated for Hurler of the Year and once a winner, the Drom & Inch man will go down in Tipp’ hurling folklore.

14. Full Forward: Henry Shefflin (Kilkenny)

King Henry is arguably the greatest of the great; widely considered to be the best every amongst his peers and former teammates and opponents.

The only player every to win Hurler of the Year on three occasions (’02, ’06 and ’12), his 11 All Stars and ten All-Ireland titles show his dominance across a long period of time.

Kilkenny’s all-time leading scorer with 27-484, Shefflin was and still is, one of the most naturally talented players to ever pick up a hurl.

15. Left Corner Forward: Patrick Horgan (Cork)

This decision was one of the most difficult on the team, particulatly given Patrick Horgan is nudging out players who have collected far more silverware.

However, that wasn’t part of the criteria to picking this team and that’s why we can’t ignore Horgan.

Deadly in front of goal and from the dead ball, Cork’s inability to win an All-Ireland wasn’t because of Horgan’s lack of efforts or talents.

The Glen man is a three time All Star and aging like a fine wine.

Honourable Mentions

Nicky Quaid (Limerick)

Richie Hogan (Kilkenny)

Brendan Maher (Tipperary)

Michael Fennelly (Kilkenny)

Noel Connors (Waterford)

Ben O’Connor (Cork)

John Mullane (Waterford)


Phew… we’re glad that’s over.

The standard was incredible and some of the decisions we made were not easy.

Have an opinion? Let us know.

How to put a Grip on a Hurley like a Pro

Learning how to put a grip on a hurley correctly is one of the most important parts of your preparation.

It’s a skill in itself because making sure your grip is secure, tight and feeling comfortable in your hand is crucial.

We have enlisted the help of Dublin Camóige star, Ciara Tierney to demonstrate how to do it correctly.

As Official Retail Partners of Dublin GAA, we love our GAA.

If you like GAA content, you might like our Best GAA Players of All Time blog. 

How to put a grip on a hurley

Step 1

Before using the new grip, remove the old one.

The hurley may slip in your hands while playing if the grip wears off over time from use. Peel the covering entirely off the grip by pulling one end of it away from the handle.

If the hurley feels sticky or looks to be dirty, clean it before adding the new grip tape.

With a cotton ball coated in alcohol, clean the ash.

Alternately, rub the hurley with a dampened towel that has been lightly soaped; then, using a fresh, damp washcloth or rag, remove the soap off the handle.

Step 2

Start by rolling out the tape or wrap and take ff the backing at the narrow end to reveal the sticky side of the grip.

Pull about half of the backing off first and make sure you start at the narrow/tapered end of the grip.

how to put a grip on a hurley

If you’re right handed, generally people will hold the tape in their right hand and the hurley in the opposite.

Some like to tuck the hurley underneath their left armpit for security or some will hold it vertically.

Step 3

With the tapered end, stick the grip about half way up the butt of the hurley and start to wrap the grip around the back or the top of the hurley towards the back of the butt with a little stretch in the grip.

Keeping a good stretch on the grip, you then want to overlap the point where you stuck it the hurley, before bringing it back around just below the top of the hurley.

Next circle you want to just slightly overlap the part where you started, making sure you keep a good stretch on the grip at all time.

how to put a grip on a hurley

Overlap around ¾ of the first layer as you work your way down the hurley.

The second turn overlap a half and gradually phase it out.

Step 4

Keeping a good stretch all the time on the grip, you want to barely overlap each layer of the grip as you circle it around the handle of the hurley.

The most important part here is to keep a good stretch on the grip and ensure you are barely meeting the grip already wrapped around.

how to put a grip on a hurley

Pull off the backing as you need to.

Step 5

When you have finished unwrapping the full grip on the hurley, get a little bit of insulation tape to the secure the end of the grip onto the hurley.

For a full-length grip, you will get comfort right up at the butt of the hurley thanks to the overlapping method.

Wrap the grip over the hurley handle as smoothly as you can; bumps or separations can interfere with your grip on the paddle and may impair your performance during a game.


Practice makes perfect in gripping your hurley.

So take your time and make sure it’s correct, because there is nothing worse than finding out it’s not when you’re in the middle of a match.

Check out our hurley grip range below.

how to put a grip on a hurley


Interview: Waterford GAA’s Darragh Fives Speaks with Intersport Elverys

It’s the All Ireland Senior Hurling final weekend and Waterford look to hold onto an amazing record against Galway. The Deise and the Tribesmen have met 10 times in the championship and on all occasions Waterford have come up trumps. This Sunday, they look to do it again and bring home Liam for the first time since 1959.

As part of our #WherePassionsUnite campaign, we caught up with Waterford player, Darragh Fives, to get his take on his experience growing up with hurling and his love for the game.


Hi Darragh, I’ll start with what was your best day of hurling to date?

“It probably goes back to winning games, I know is a cliché but when we won the league final there 2 years ago, I wasn’t actually playing the game but what I found was when the whistle blew at the very last minute, I was standing beside Jamie Barron thinking just that collective group achieving something it was really icing on the cake for a lot of hard work over the years. To finally get some silverware was a highlight of my career anyway”.


It’s interesting because you weren’t playing most people mightn’t feel the same way compared to if they had been playing can you talk to me a bit more on that?

“Well I was out injured at the time but it was just when you’re down training with these lads, that team, that bond that you create over the years you know it’s for everyone. I think even if you’re not playing on the day you still have that feeling of winning, it might be hard to develop that into a team, once everyone has that it’s a great asset to have in any team. It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of people pulling in the right direction and everyone going for the same goal, that’s what we were doing over the last couple of years, when you finally get the reward that you put in its a huge clap on the back for your efforts throughout the year”.


How many brothers do you have?

“I have 2 brothers and Shane is my older brother, he’s on the team as well since he was 18 so he’s on it quite awhile, he’s 27 now. So we’ve been on the panel now for the last number, 5, 6 years together. Obviously we get on quite well but when we we’re starting out at times we could be competing for the same position so at times in our own household it can be quite tense and not a lot of words are spoken coming up to match selection days and things like that but we do get on quite well underneath it all”.


©INPHO/Tommy Dickson


How long have you been playing?

“I’ve been playing hurling since I was 2 or 3 years old out in my front garden, I just remember there was me Shane and Niall and Niall was always in goal for whatever reason and he used to puck the ball out between myself and Shane and it was a tussle till the end and Shane was always left a little bit worse for wear we’ll say. I was kind of seen as the dirtier player we’ll say, and Shane I don’t know if he’s soft or what, but he used to always be the first fella in and I’d be left out there on my own. It’s great, it builds up that intensity and enjoyment for the game and there’s a real summer-esque and that’s why when the summer rolls around it kind of brings back them memories of being out in the garden playing hurling for the first time when you’re 3,4,5 years old, just the whole intensity and everything that the game has it’s brilliant!”.


What do you love about hurling?

“I love the game it’s what I know and what I was brought up on , the whole family have played it just love every bit of it, the intensity , I suppose going out and the thrill , the excitement , playing in front of 30,000, 40,000 thousand people in Thurles or Croke Park . There’s no feeling like it. You just completely zone out you notice it(the crowd) at first from that initial roar and you can sense it in the stadium that atmosphere but once the ball is thrown in your totally focused on the ball and it’s like being out in the garden again , there no one watching you and your just playing hurling”.


Intersport Elverys is proud retail partner to both Galway and Waterford GAA. It’s great to see their passion and dedication to the game translate into winning momentum.

We are also delighted to be the player’s destination for boots, supplying them with the latest and greatest styles. We are THE destination for all things GAA.

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