Hurling Rules: A Beginner’s Guide

Ah the beautiful game of hurling bestowed upon us from Ireland. No, this is not what happens after a long night at the pub. It is an ancient Irish game that is a part of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). If you’ve ever looked into the sport, you might be wondering what are the rules of hurling? Well, you’re in luck – in 5 minutes, you can master the complex yet fascinating rules that govern this amazing activity!

Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    History of Hurling

    Hurling is believed to be one of the oldest field sports in the world – we’re talking ancient Ireland vibes here! The Celts were all about it, thinking the sport had some mystical and spiritual significance. The Annals of Ulster, a good old historical record, first mentioned hurling in Ireland in the 5th century.

    Fast forward a bit, and hurling is now a huge part of Irish culture, like ripples in a pot of gold! It’s even considered the national sport of Ireland. Hurling has had its fair share of changes along the way, especially in the modern era. Back in the 1880s, the GAA took the reins and became the governing body for hurling in Ireland as it remains to this day.

    What Is A Hurler? What Type Of Equipment Is In Hurling?

    In hurling, there are 15 players on each team who play on the field. The lineup consists of 1 goalkeeper, 6 defensive hurlers (full-backs and half-backs), 2 mid-field hurlers, and 6 offensive hurlers (forwards and half-forwards).

    • Goalkeeper – The goalie’s main job is to defend the goal and stop the other team from scoring.

    • Full-backs – We’ve got three full-backs in charge of protecting our defense line. They work closely with the goalie to keep the other team from scoring.

    • Half-backs – Another three players on our team responsible for defending the half-back line. They also help bring the ball from defense to offense.

    • Midfielders – These two players control the center of the field. Their goal is to win possession of the ball and distribute it to their teammates.

    • Half-forwards – To support the forwards and midfielders, we have three half-forwards. Their job is to create scoring opportunities for the team.

    • Full-forwards – The three full-forwards are the go-to players for scoring goals and points.

    There are eight officials at a senior inter-county hurling match: the referee, two linesmen, sideline official and four umpires.

    In addition, the referee controls the game and makes the major decisions on fouls, awarding free, time, and issuing yellow and red cards.

    The linesmen state which hurling team last touched the sliotar when it went out of bounds. There are two umpires behind each goal and they say whether a point or goal counts.

    The sideline official handles substitutions and managing stoppage time.

    How Are Substitutions Determined In A Hurling Match?

    Hurling rules require that all players have a helmet with a faceguard and a hurley that meets IS:355 or an equivalent standard set by the National Safety Authority of Ireland (NSAI). The ball used in hurling is a sliotar. The sliotar, made from leather, boasts a diameter of around 3.5 inches. Although resembling a baseball in size, it is noticeably harder than a baseball.

    The hurling rules state that a team can substitute a maximum of 5 hurlers per game. Therefore, once a hurler is substituted, they cannot play again for the rest of the game, except if the referee requests a temporary substitution for an injured or bleeding hurler. If the substituted hurler is cleared to play, they can replace the temporary substitute. Moreover, if the game goes into extra time, a team can make a maximum of 3 substitutions, regardless of how many substitutions they make during regulation time.

    Image by roninmd from Pixabay

    How Long Is A Hurling Match? What Are The Hurling Rules About The Size Of The Field?

    Hurling is a game played on a field that is 145 m in length and 85 m wide. Each end has a goal that is 2.5 m high and 6.5 m wide with goal posts extending 6 m above the crossbar.

    The game breaks into two halves of 35 minutes and a 10 minute halftime break.

    What Fouls Are There In Hurling?

    There are two types of fouls in hurling: technical foul and aggressive fouls.

    Technical Fouls

    • Throw the sliotar

    • Handpass the sliotar by throwing it instead of tapping it

    • Lift the sliotar off the ground with your knees

    • Lie on the sliotar

    • Touch the sliotar on the ground with a hand

    • Catching the sliotar more than twice off the hurley before playing it away

    • Releasing the sliotar and catching it without touching it against the hurley (self-pass)

    • Committing offsides

    • Hurler runs more than 4 steps with the sliotar in his hand

    Aggressive Fouls

    • Pull down an opposing hurler

    • Push, kick, trip, hold, or strike an opponent with hands, arms, leg, foot or hurley

    • Hold an opponent with hands or arms

    • Deliberately hit a hurler with the hurley

    • Reach for the sliotar with the hurley over another hurler

    • Deliberately throw the hurley in the air or at another hurler

    • Spit on an opposing player

    • Engage in reckless behavior

    • Threaten or abuse an opponent physically and/or verbally

    A technical foul typically results in a change in possession with no card.

    An aggressive foul results in a free puck or penalty puck and the referee can decide whether the incident results in no card, yellow card or red card.

    hurler can be ejected from the game with one red card or two yellow cards.

    His team is not able to substitute for him. Therefore, they will play with one less hurler the rest of the match.

    Image by roninmd from Pixabay

    How Do You Score In Hurling?

    There are two ways to score in hurling: a goal and a point. A goal is three points and it is when the hurler hits the sliotar below the crossbar and into the net.

    A point is when the hurler hits the sliotar above the crossbar and between the goal posts.

    The scoring format is the same in camogie and similar in gaelic football.

    What Are The Phases Of A Hurling Match?

    The objective of the game is to score the most goals and points.

    The game begins with the referee doing a throw-in between two hurlers facing back to back.

    A team can move the sliotar down the field by hand-pass, passing via the hurley through the air or hitting the sliotar on the ground, and solo runs.

    A solo run is when a hurler runs with the sliotar balanced or bouncing on the hurley. This is an advanced way to move the sliotar and is one of the ways to allow a player to maintain possession of the sliotar.

    Hurling rules state that a hurler is permitted to shoulder check on the side of an opponent. Furthermore, this can be the goalkeeper too as long as the play is on the sliotar.

    A hurler can attempt to block a shot with the hurley as long as it is not swung at the opponent.

    A “hook” is when the defending hurler places his hurley to stop the offensive hurler from completing his swing.

    If an aggressive foul occurs inside the penalty area, the non-penalized team receives a penalty puck. In contrast, if the aggressive foul occurs outside of the penalty area, the non-penalized team receives a free puck at the 65 m line or the spot of the foul.

    If the match ends in a tie, the game will go into extra time if the tournament allows it. However, if it’s not a tournament, then the match can result in a tie.

    Hurling Leagues and Tournaments

    Hurling is played at both amateur and professional levels, with the GAA hosting an array of leagues and tournaments annually. The pinnacle of hurling competitions in Ireland is the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, renowned for its prestige. Apart from the GAA, various professional hurling leagues exist in other countries, including the United States and Canada.


    Wonderful. You made it through and you learned one of the best sports of the GAA. I hope you now have a better understanding of hurling rules. Go enjoy a match and put to practice all that you learned here. If you enjoyed this article, feel free to share with others.

    Leave a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *