Hurling vs. Lacrosse

The comparison between the sports of Hurling and Lacrosse.

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Mal achy O’Connell soloed the ball, balancing it there on his Hurley as he sprinted ten feet down the left wing of the field, then to double the slither in the air and score three points for his team.  Come on now yobs, everyone cheered as Mal achy took his victory run back to midfield to join witTh his team!  Hurling the game was and that’s what Mal achy had played all of his life growing up in Ireland, hearing stories of the great Cuchulain and other Irish Heroes who had played the same as he does.  Now in America, Malachy tries to keep up his spirits in playing the similar sport of Lacrosse after discovering no local Hurling Clubs.  Switching from Hurling to Lacrosse will not be easy, but after playing Hurling, the “Fastest game on grass,” (MHC) he should be able to pick up Lacrosse, “The fastest game on two feet,” (Smith).  Malachy will indeed notice the differences in equipment, game play and especially history when playing this new foreign game and will soon miss the cultural sport he grew to love. 

 Being a very easy-to-see difference between the two sports, Hurling and Lacrosse require special equipment in order to be played.  This difference in equipment affects the game play and rules of each sport becoming an essential part of the sport as a whole.  The way equipment allows players to perform in their sport more effectively than otherwise is commonly overlooked by fans.  Different equipment is one huge factor that sets many sports apart and that is why Hurling and Lacrosse still have very important differences between them.

Hurling equipment is pretty basic for the most part and getting fitted for the right equipment is even easier.  When playing the great game of hurling you need four basic things to play which are a Hurling Stick or Hurley as we like to call it, a Protective Helmet, a Sliothar and a simple pair of Cleats.  First off and most importantly you should be fitted to a correctly-sized Hurley which will be your best friend and affect every aspect of the game in which you play.  Hurleys are hard wooden sticks that have a curved toe and a grip on them.  You need to have the right size stick in order to perform efficiently, because a stick that is too big or too small will affect your hitting, ground hurling and even your solo runs during a game.  Hurling helmets or whatever hockey helmet a hurler chooses to wear consists of a hard plastic shell with ear holes and a metal cage in front for visibility and protection.  The Sliothar is the ball that is used in hurling which is much like a baseball, but has ridged edges instead of just stitched lines. Lastly your shoes for hurling should be some type of cleats which grip the ground firmly and allow you power down the field quickly.  All of this equipment is essential to a Hurling player allowing him to be successful at what he or she does. 

Lacrosse equipment consists of many different things that are required for play.   In lacrosse you need a Crosse, a ball, a helmet, a mouthpiece, gloves, protective pads and of course some cleats.  The Crosse in Lacrosse is a metal and plastic stick that is long and has a net fitted on the end so that the player may obtain the ball and keep hold of it by doing a simple back and forth motion.  The ball is a rubber ball that is of medium size and has a metal core making it heavy and tough to get hit by during a game.  The helmet in Lacrosse is a full metal and plastic helmet surrounding the head with a cage in front and usually a sleek design or school colors on it for show.  The mouthpiece just protects the player from biting too hard and the gloves are big plated gloves guarding the player’s hands from injury as well.  Protective pads include shoulder, arm and rib pads which cover their whole upper body during play and cleats provide the same function as any other cleats do.  Lacrosse equipment consists of a wide range of things, but all are still necessary for a player to play this sport safely.

Hurling and Lacrosse have some similar equipment in common but they still have pieces that set them apart into two different sports.  Hurling definitely has less equipment needed to play its game which means less cost and the faster and easier you can get started playing.  I have seen the mess that all the equipment needed to play lacrosse makes after practice in player’s homes and the small bag of equipment sitting in the corner that is needed to play hurling and I don’t know about you, but I rather have the small bag than the stinky pile of armor sitting in my basement by the washing machine. Lacrosse needs much more protective armor and padding in order to be safe and to stand up to regulations while hurling stands almost padding free with only a helmet to protect us.  It’s not like hurling players get anymore injured than lacrosse players do, it is just that hurling has been staying traditional like the way its ancestors played. 

Speaking of ancestors, History is another major difference between the two sports that is commonly overlooked by people.  These two sports have very different origins and histories behind them affecting their style of game play and the culture that surrounds them.  Culture and history and very important in keeping these sports alive in the modern world and even though it isn’t easy, they are both still here and being played by thousands and thousands of people large and small across the nation.

Hurling comes from a rich Irish history that originates in Ireland and has grown into “one of the oldest and fastest field sports in existence today,” (MHC).  “Mentioned in the description of the epic 14th century BC battle of Moytura between the native Fir Bolgs and the Tuatha De Danann,” hurling has been alive for over six centuries.  Starting with “stories of Irish mythological heroes” ( such as Cuchulain, the greatest hurler in Irish legend, Hurling has survived centuries of play and was even “almost lost forever in 1527 AD when the Galway Statues outlawed the game,” (MHC).  After that event, hurling has “survived until the late 19th century,” and even into modern times.  Today the GAA or Gaelic Athletic Association is up and running while working to “revitalize the ancient Gaelic games and traditions of Ireland,” (MHC).   Even today I am very thankful that this awesome sport has stayed alive long enough for the Milwaukee Hurling Club and myself to still be playing it. 

Originating around the time of the native North Americans, Lacrosse has remained “the oldest sport in North America,” (USL).  “With a history that spans centuries,” Lacrosse is rooted in Native American religion by being played to solve many of their conflicts such as war (USL).  Known as “The Creator’s Game,” Lacrosse has evolved into an eventful sport that is played by millions across the United States today (USL).  The evolution of lacrosse actually began early on in the sixteenth century in Canada, inside where the province of Ontario lies today.  Modern lacrosse has changed drastically since its old days when you consider that they used to have about 48 players on each side and today teams use only 10 players a side including a goalie.  U.S. Lacrosse or United States lacrosse has become the governing body of lacrosse today and continues to promote and grow its cherished sport. 

Evolving from native games of completely different countries, it is no surprise that hurling and lacrosse’s course of history would be different as well.  Since lacrosse has origins in North America and hurling has an origin in Ireland, lacrosse may seem more familiar to people that pay attention to our school sports.  Although lacrosse does seem more familiar to people, they should know that Shorewood High School is involved in both sports.  Lacrosse may also be a very fast growing sport alongside hurling in the United States, but for some people to not have even heard of it before, is just a shame to the sport.  In Ireland, if someone did not know what Hurling was, they would probably get weird looks from everyone around them, because that is their national sport and almost every man and child that is born in their nation has played hurling once or is involved in a team that plays competitively.  Since hurling and lacrosse were both used to bypass war and resolve conflicts in older times, they are obviously both excellent sports, but when it comes to history, hurling beats out lacrosse as well. 

Game play or the way a sport is played is a given difference between the two sports, considering the rules. Being essential to playing a sport efficiently and to the best of your own ability, a player must adapt to that certain sports type of game play which can be aggressive, passive or even completely relaxed.  The kinds of moves and actions you can take in a sport, that are permitted by the rules of course, also directly affect a sports game play.  All sports have different types of game play, which is why it is very necessary for me to discuss this important aspect of comparison between the two sports.

Hurling, the “fastest game on grass,” has a special breed of game play when it comes to sports (MHC).  Aggression is probably one word that could sum up the sport of hurling, which anyone playing and even someone just watching could agree on as well.  Playing a game that only consists of two 25-35 minute halves means players are going to do whatever it takes to score more points than the other team.  In hurling you cannot just simply pick up the ball off the ground, you have to use your Hurley to roll, lift or even flick the sliothar up into your hand in order to retrieve it.    “The sliothar can be caught while in the air,” or off from the fly making it a bit easier to obtain but not much (MHC).  It is important to know all the rules in hurling, because you could be called a foul on by doing something like transferring the ball to your hand twice, which us an easy mistake to make by the way.  You have to be aggressive in hurling to even pass the ball, because you cannot just throw the ball you have to hand pass it by slapping the ball with your fingers or hitting it with your Hurley.  “The sliothar can be kept in the hand for at most 4 consecutive steps,” making players think quickly and making this fun sport mentally aggressive as well. Though you can balance the ball on your Hurley for as long as you want it takes skill and is easy for aggressive players to knock it away from you. When it comes to Hurling, you really just need to realize what kind of aggressive game play surrounds this sport and you’ll be good to go.

            Lacrosse, “the fastest game on two feet,” is also an aggressive sport as well.  Becoming a very fast growing sport in high schools, it is no wonder that the guys like it so much.  This sport is growing so fast that STX Lacrosse is even working “to promote Lacrosse in Dublin and Limerick,” where Hurling originated.  Lacrosse’s game play “is a combination of basketball, soccer and hockey,” which are all intense sports, so it makes sense for a player to need skills of those sorts (USL).  “Quickness and speed are two highly prized qualities in lacrosse,” say U.S. lacrosse describing what players need to have in order to dominate the game play of their sport (USL).  With 10 players to a side, Lacrosse players need to be aggressive as well, in order to be successful at getting through opposing defense and racking up points.  In lacrosse a player needs “coordination and agility, not brawn,” (USL).  I think those words really describe lacrosse’s game play as quick and organized, but not as tough as some sports such as football.

Hurling and lacrosse obviously have some differences when it comes to game play, so what are they?  Hurling’s game play has been described and seen by people as extremely aggressive which I can back up completely by recollecting a personal experience.  During the last fall in 2008, I found myself at hurling practice playing in an “end-of-the-practice-scrimmage” when Ivan, a highly tattooed man, behind me was struck by another players stick and started bleeding from a slash under his left eye.  This injury was a result of either ignorance on Ivan’s part or over-aggression by that certain player and I think Ivan, an experienced hurling player, knew what was going on.   Lacrosse, “an exhilarating sport..,” is quick and full of action left and right (USL).  Consisting of “long sprints up and down the field,” I believe lacrosse has a game play that is very common in the world of sports such as soccer or basketball (USL).  When it comes to speed, hurling and lacrosse are evenly matched, but when you consider the brawn factor as well, hurling has an edge in game play over lacrosse.

  Lacrosse is a High School party where students go to just hang out and chill with friends and to simply pass the time.  After a long day of sports or studying, these students are tired and just want to sit back and relax.  This is how Lacrosse should be described in comparison to Hurling. After you play a game of lacrosse you simply go home and continue on with normal life, just as if you went to a high school party, any person would live on like it was just another time to hang out with friends.  Lacrosse has intensity and speed and coordination all just like hurling does, but it does not cut it when it comes to the brawn, the involvement and the family tradition that hurlers have been practicing for over six centuries.

If Lacrosse is like a high school party, then Hurling would be the college night party 10 blocks down the road blasting music, with drunken college students playing beer pong at 3:00 in the morning.  The drinking of Guinness and all other kinds of alcohol and beer are extremely encouraged by most hurling players after practice is over.  The Milwaukee Hurling club has many teams to organize and each one of them has a different pub or bar as their sponsor.  Even when you enter the Milwaukee Hurling Club website, the first thing you see is a big Hurling Stick with the word “Guinness” across the toe of it.  My friends and I are encouraged to join the older Irish men and women as they go off to drink at the round robins; the club has after every practice.  Hurling is very serious and intense, but not afraid to have a ton of fun as well, which is why it should be displayed as a college night party.  This college night party is just a huge ball of fun and excitement that the Milwaukee Hurling Club and other clubs promote, which I am proud to be a part of. 

Between hurling and lacrosse there exist many differences especially when it comes to equipment, game play and history.  When it comes to equipment, hurling has less stuff, less cost and less mess to clean up at the end of the day.  When it comes to game play, lacrosse has the same speed and coordination of that in hurling, but not the brawn that exists in this old Irish game.  When it comes to history, hurling has two more centuries of built up culture, skill and story than lacrosse does.  So after looking at these three points of similarity and difference, what sport would you rather play?

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  1. Posted June 27, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    hmmmnn I actually think lacrosse is a lot faster paced type of gameplay…i would play hurling too though

  2. Posted July 11, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Have you ever played the game of hurling? It’s faster than lacrosse, believe me. More skillful, too.

  3. Luke (from Ireland)
    Posted June 7, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Hurling requires lots of skill as well as aggression. You just can;t go onto the field and lose your head

  4. Dexter
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I’m from Ireland and play lacrosse in Ireland so I’ve a pretty good perspective. This is an interesting comparison but, obviously, very biased. Some of the stuff said here just isn’t fair to the game of lacrosse and to suggest hurling has much more of a history is just misleading. Hurling may have started earlier but was also derelict and not played widely for huge periods of time throughout the years. Even now it is a minority sport in Ireland. More people play Soccer, Rugby and Gaelic football than hurling and, whilst is a massive part of our cultural heritage, it is a game that is in decline. The best way to sum this argument up is that the game you play first is the game that you will defend as being somehow ‘better’. Neither is better, or faster, or anything. They’re just different.

  5. Patrick McDermott
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I’ve read several commentaries on the differences between lacrosse and Hurling. At first flush it appears that commenter’s have little sense of history and its affects over time on everything from tradition to rocks.
    Discussions of “equipment” and rules is sort of a red herring when discussing possible origins, as rules and equipment evolve over time. The stark similarities of the basic game however, cannot be ignored.
    Since Hurling can be traced further back than lacrosse, one could suggest that some sort of cultural interchange occurred along the way, which brought Hurling to the Native American. This line of thinking would suggest a pre-Columbian connection between Ireland and the Americas. And there is ample Irish tradition to lend credence to such an idea — the voyage of St. Brendan. It is a connection worth considering.

  6. Aaron
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    I\’d like to try playing both games, they both sound like fun. From what I\’ve learned so far, I can\’t conclude that either game is superior to the other.

    I am fascinated by the possibility that, given the basic similarities of the two games, they may have originated from the same source, or as Patrick McDermott [Posted August 23, 2011 at 10:18am] suggests, that Irish seafarers \”brought Hurling to the Native American”.

    I am wondering if anyone knows of any research into this idea?

  7. Aaron
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    P.S. I’m stuffed if I know how those backslashes got into my post…

  8. Aaron
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    From ‘Hurling’ page, Wikipedia:

    “In the book by Seamus King “A History of Hurling” there is a reference from Irish verbal history of hurling as far back as the 1200 B.C”


    “The earliest written references to the sport in Brehon law date from the fifth century.”

    From ‘History of hurling’ page, Wikipedia:

    ‘The Seanchás Mór commentaries on the Brehon Law state that the son of a rí (local king) could have his hurley hooped in bronze, while others could only use copper. It was illegal to confiscate a hurley.”

    From ‘Lacrosse’ page, Wikipedia:

    “Lacrosse, a relatively popular team sport in the Americas, may have developed as early as 2010 AD”

    I am assuming they meant 2010 B.C. For this claim they cite “Vennum, Thomas. American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War. (Smithsonian Institution, 2002) SBN 978-1560983026″

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