Different Types of Hurling

'Olde Rules' Hurling Match, Stonethrowers vs Cats, Gortnahoe, July 31, 1998


It is interesting to note that hurling to goales and hurling to the countrie were played in Cornwall and Devon in the 16th and early 17th centuries. A description of hurling to the countrie is given by Joe Lennon in his book The Playing of Football and Hurling 1884-1995: "Some two or more gentlemen usually make this match, appointing that on such a Holy day, they will bring to such an indifferent place, (neutral venue), two three or more Parishes of the South and East quarter, to hurl against many other parishes of the West and North. Their goals are either those gentlemen's houses, or some towns or villages three or four miles asunder, which either side chooses, depending on which is nearest to their dwellings. When they meet, there is neither comparing of numbers or matching of men. A silver ball is cast up, and that company which can catch, and carry it by force or slight (craft or skill) to their place assigned, gaineth the ball and victory."

In contrast David Power Conyngham in his book "The O'Donnells Glen Cottage," describes a game, twenty-five before the foundation of the GAA, that is probably an example of hurling to goales. Conynham, who was from Crohane and a cousin of Charles J Kickham, describes the game thus: "All the preliminaries being arranged by the elders, twenty-one young men at a side were selected. The spectators then retired to the ditches and the ball was thrown in among the rival parties. The ball was struck here and there, often pucked up in the air, then hit again before it reached the ground. Such lucky hits were acknowledged by cheers from the spectators. Then by tumbling, tossing, feint blows and the like at length one party succeeded in driving it to goal, amidst a peel of shouts and hurrahs from the friends of the victors. . . When the priest and gentlemen used to head us, and we all dressed out like jockeys in jackets and caps and the green was all roped; them were the times when we used to have the fun".

As far as is known the rules varied widely in cross-country hurling. According to Br. Liam P. O'Caithnia to strike a player a deliberate blow of the hurley was a crime punishable by law and to knock down a wall or fence and not to replace it was a further breach of the law. The latter law can be appreciated in the light of hundreds of players chasing a ball across country. Four other fouls mentioned by O'Caithnia appear to relate to hurling played in a confined space. One of these concerned two or more men jostling or shouldering one man between them, in other words 'sandwiching' a player. "Double-pulling" was also forbidden as it still is. Throwing the hurley was a foul as was lying on the ball was also forbidden. There was no sideline pucks, no sixty-fives, no linesmen, no umpires, no frees and no penalties. In contrast with our game today with its rules and regulations, its set fields and trim grasses, its white lines and secure nets, pre-GAA hurling appears disorganised, spontaneous, even anarchic.