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What Is Hurling?

Gaelic Sports Come to Nashville

By Co-Founder John Watson

Nashville gaelic sportsIt’s a Saturday afternoon in Centennial Park, and the Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club is out in force batting a small white ball around with sticks. Passersby stop and watch; the more curious among them ask, “Hey, what sport are you playing?” “Hurling,” we reply. “Curling?” they ask, correcting us. “No, hurling, with and ‘H’, it’s and Irish field sport.” They’ve never seen it, have never even heard of it, but they are fascinated. We tell them that we welcome newcomers, and that we’ll teach anyone to play.

This is how Irish sports are taking off in America. Small clubs, like ours, are spreading the word about hurling, Gaelic football, and camogie (women’s hurling). Once only played in US cities with large Irish emigrant communities, Gaelic sports clubs are popping up in cities all over the States from Seattle to Orlando to Akron to St. Louis to our own club right here in Nashville, TN.

So what is hurling?

Hurling has been called “the fastest game on grass.” It is a stick and ball field sport that dates back more than 3,000 years. Traditionally, teams line out 15 aside on a pitch that’s nearly twice the size of soccer pitch. An “H” shaped goal stands at each end line (think of an old school football goal). A ball (“sliothar” in Irish) that is struck into the lower portion of the goal, which is protected by a goalie, is worth 3 points, while a ball struck over the bar and between the uprights scores 1 point. Each player is armed with wooden stick (hurley), about the size of a baseball bat but flattened at one end, and is protected only by a helmet and courage.

The ball can be struck with the stick on the ground, lifted to the hand and struck with the stick or the hand, or kicked. Newcomers will see similarities to lacrosse, field hockey, soccer, baseball, and American football, and the game certainly utilizes skills from each of those games. The games are thrilling for players and spectators alike; the pace is fast, the scoring is high, and the skills are fascinating. For more on hurling visit this site or to see hurling in action, check out this video.

The Gaelic Athletic Association classifies teams into various grades. At the highest level, there is “Senior,” followed by “Intermediate,” and then “Junior.” These names refer not to the age of the players, but rather the overall skill level and ability of the teams in the grade. In the United States, teams competing in the “Junior” division must abide by rules outlined by the North American County Board, which intend to make the competitions more fair at this development level. Nashville GAC currently competes in the “Junior C” grade.

The Nashville GAC

Founded in April of 2013, the Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club promotes Irish sports and culture in Nashville and throughout Middle Tennessee. The Nashville GAC is modeled after other American city clubs, which have had great success in promoting and playing Irish sports in recent years. The Milwaukee hurling club, the Indianapolis GAA, and the St. Louis Gaelic Athletic Club have been particularly influential, and like those clubs, the Nashville GAC welcomes men and women over the age of 18 to play in coed, competitive matches. Experienced players are certainly welcome, but new players are strongly encouraged to come out, learn about the games, and join in the fun. For more on the club visit:

What are you waiting for? Come out and join us a give this exciting sport a try. Contact John Watson at for more information.

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