A hurley (or camán) is a wooden stick used to hit a sliotar (leather ball) in the Irish sport of hurling. It measures between 70 and 100 cm (28 to 40 inches) long with a flattened, curved end (called the bas) which provides the striking surface. It is also used in camogie, the female equivalent sport.
Hurleys are made from ash wood, the base of the tree near the root is the only part used and are usually bought from local craftsmen in Ireland (for about 20–50 euro), who still use traditional production methods. However, for some time in the 1970s, hurleys made from plastic were used, mainly produced by Wavin. These proved more likely to cause injury, however, and were phased out. Steel bands are used to reinforce the flattened end of the hurley though these are not permitted in camogie due to increased risk of injury. Bands have been put on hurleys since the beginning; the 8th century Brehon Laws permit only a king's son to have a bronze band, while all others must use a copper band.
No matter how well crafted the hurley is, a hurler may well expect to use several hurleys over the course of the hurling season. The hurleys often break if two collide in the course of a game, or occasionally they break off on the other players (arms, legs, etc.). Two hurleys colliding is colloquially known as "the clash of the ash". Some hurleys can be repaired by a method called "splicing". This method involves cutting a bas shaped piece from another broken hurley and fixing it to the broken bas by way of glue and nails; the two-piece bas is then banded ("hooped") and sanded into shape. Throwing the hurley (e.g. to block a ball going high over one's head) is illegal, though camogie players may drop it to make a handpass.
There are names associated with different parts of the hurley. With respect to the picture above the "bas" is the rounded end of the hurl where the sliotar makes contact as it is being struck. At the same end the "heel" of the hurley is the area to the left of the band and at the hurley's edge (nearest the bottom of the picture above). It is used to give height to a ball struck on the ground. The rounded area to the right of the band is the "toe" of the hurley and is implicated in the roll lift or jab lift techniques which allow a player to gain legal possession of a ball into the hand from the ground. The handle is at the opposite end of the hurley to the boss, with the timber cut to form a small lip at the peak (to prevent the hurley from slipping from the player's hand). The handle is typically wrapped with a self-adhesive synthetic foam grip.
When selecting a hurley, choosing the correct size is very important as a hurley which is the incorrect length can be difficult to swing correctly. A rough guide is that the toe of the hurley should reach the player's hip when the heel of the hurley is placed on the ground and held parallel to the player's leg.
As a gift
The hurley is often given as a gift to or between politicians, for example, Mary and Martin McAleese were given two when she was awarded the freedom of Kilkenny in 2009, and Barack Obama was given one by Enda Kenny on his visit to Ireland in 2011. Prince Philip was also given one as a gift during Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Ireland but declined to keep the gift.
In popular culture
Jason Statham used a hurley as a weapon in the opening scene of the 2011 film Blitz.
- Official Hurling Page of GAA.ie
- "Thirty Irishmen With Shillelaghs" Popular Mechanics, March 1954, pp. 146-147.