Watching Mollie’s video it’s difficult not to be swept up in her enthusiasm for science and for her own research. Indeed, she’s one of the best “Cheerleaders for Science” that I’ve ever seen. Although we’re familiar with the concept of cheerleading in this part of the world (Ireland), it’s predominantly just from American movies and TV programmes. The fact is, we don’t have many cheerleaders in Ireland, and we play some very different sorts of sports.
A portrait of the hurler as a young man. For this, my first guest post for “Secret Life,” I thought I’d introduce you to an Irish sport which many will not have seen before. It’s calling hurling and it is the fastest field sport in the world.
Hurling is not unlike field hockey, except it is played on a much larger scale, at a faster speed and with the added factor of allowing high balls. The game is played on a field 137-145 metres long and 80-90 metres wide, and the object is to propel a small leather ball (or sliothar) into or over a goal erected at either end of the field. The players use a hurley (a c.1 metre long wooden stick) to hit the ball and a sliothar, well struck, will reach speeds of up to about 100 mph. This year, over 80,000 people packed into Croke Park in Dublin to watch the culmination of the hurling year, when Tipperary took on Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Final.
Conscious of Mollie’s work on the brain, it is interesting to note that up until this year, players at the highest level of the game did not need to wear any head protection. Now, a helmet and faceguard are compulsory at all levels of the game.
The following clip should give you an idea of the speed and excitement of hurling: