Hurling is Ireland's most characteristic sport. It has an ancient history and is mentioned in many old Irish tales.
Hurling itself is somewhat similar to field hockey in that there are sticks and balls and a field, called a pitch. The sticks are known as hurleys and the balls are known as sliotars. There are fifteen players and they can either strike or carry the sliotar with the hurley. Helmets are not required but are advised, as Hurling can be a rough sport. Matches consist of two 30-35 minute halves. The goals are shaped like an "H". A point is scored if the ball goes between the bars and over the crossbar and a goal, worth 3 points, is scored if the ball passes between the goalposts under the crossbar. The hurley can be used in many different ways. The ball can be struck on the ground or in the air. It can be balanced on the hurley for as long as possible or bounced continuously on the hurley for up to four bounces. The hand can also be used to strike the sliotar open-handed, but it cannot be thrown. There are no off-side rules and a player can only be charged by another player legally if he possesses the sliotar. More on Hurling.
Gaelic Football is the Irish national sport and more than two-thirds of Irish men join a club. Almost every weekend a match takes place. Gaelic Football is a fast and exciting spectacle. The ball used is round like soccer ball, but the players can kick, handle and run with the ball as in rugby. There are fifteen players and they can pass the ball in any direction but only by kicking or punching. The goalposts are similar to rugby posts, and a goal, worth three points, is scored by putting the ball below the bar, while a single point is awarded when the ball goes over the bar. More on Gaelic Football
Road Bowling is one of the country's oldest games and is mainly played in Cork and Armagh/Nothern Ireland. The game takes place on regular roads, which in most cases are narrow rural roads. The aim of the game is to cast the bowl a specified distance in the least number of throws.
Greyhound racing attracts crowds who enjoy watching dogs run as fast as they can around a track. To keep the dogs running in the right direction, they are trained to chase a mechanical rabbit made of fur as it zips along the track in front of them. A man in the press box electronically controls the speed of the rabbit, keeping the rabbit just out in front of the dogs.
The Irish have a deep love for horses. They say that it is the sport of kings. Most of the horse races take place from March until November.