Hurling in popular culture

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Hurling (Irish: Iománaíocht/Iomáint), the Gaelic sport, is a prominent feature in popular culture.

In film[edit]

Hurling and Hollywood have long been linked.[1] Several awards have resulted from the depiction of hurling in film, including the Palme d'Or and several Academy Award nominations:

  • The 1930s Warner Brothers short film Sports Thrills, narrated by CBS broadcaster Ted Husing, demonstrated hurling.[1]
  • A 1936 MGM-commissioned short series, directed by David Miller, portrayed hurling as "bordering on savage" with "all the Hollywood stereo-type images of the Irish back then, short of drinking, on the field". The GAA complained and attempted to have some of the more unpleasant scenes removed.[1]
  • The 1952 film The Quiet Man features the famous line: "Sure don't you know the Mayo hurlers haven't been beaten west of the Shannon in the last 20 years."[1]
  • A 1955 Paramount Studios-commissioned short film, Three Kisses,[2] directed by Justin Herman, was nominated for an Academy Award.[1]
  • The 1956 film The Rising of the Moon featured a badly bruised and bandaged but victorious local hurling team, leading to "deep concern" about Hollywood's tendency to overdo the bad side of hurling.[1] Novelist Flann O'Brien (The Third Policeman, At Swim-Two-Birds) gave the disagreement a satirical edge in his newspaper column.[1]
  • During filming of the 1958 Rank Studios film Rooney titular actor John Gregson ran out onto the Croke Park turf with the teams ahead of the 1957 All-Ireland Senior Championship Final between Kilkenny and Waterford. He wore a Kilkenny jersey to film the part.[1]
  • The 2006 Ken Loach film The Wind That Shakes the Barley, set in 1920, opens with a Sunday hurling match in County Cork.[3] The film won the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.
  • In the opening scenes of the 2011 film Blitz, Jason Statham uses a hurley to beat up three youths who are trying to steal a car. Statham's character is heard to say, "This, lads, is a hurley, used in the Irish game of hurling, a cross between hockey and murder".
  • In the Disney production "Secret of Boyne Castle" 1972 - episode 1, Kurt Russell was playing Hurling at the boarding school where the mini series starts.

In literature[edit]

  • Hurling is referenced in the works of James Joyce; he mentions it in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)[4] and Ulysses (1922).[5]
  • Samuel Beckett's novel Murphy references hurling.[6]
  • In John Banville's novel The Newton Letter, the character Edward "appeared, brandishing a hurley stick", which he later "leaned on, [...] admiring his drink" before taking it up again after urinating against a chestnut tree. "Still held dangled down" by the narrator's side, Edward then proceeds to "gently bat" him with the hurley stick.[7]
  • The Colm Tóibín novel Brooklyn (2009) features an exchange between two characters involving the confusion that may occur when discussing the similarities between hurling and the American sport of baseball.[8]
  • Stephen Maturin in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series was a hurler, and demonstrates his skills to the dismay of his cricket teammates in one of the books.
  • In Walter Macken's novel Rain on the Wind, one of his Irish trilogy, a game of hurling takes place, and the history and background to the game is explained; however, a player gets injured in the course of the game.
  • The Eoin Colfer novel Benny and Omar (1998) is about a young hurler named Benny who moves from Ireland to Tunisia.
  • Hugo Hamilton's book The Speckled People (2003) contains numerous references to hurling which he uses to come to terms with Irish and German history.[9]

In music[edit]

In television[edit]

  • Doug Ross, the character played by George Clooney in ER, mentioned planning to watch "Irish hurling" in a season one episode. This has been described as "hurling's biggest pop culture moment ever."[11]
  • The Irish language version of Cheers, Teach Seán, substitutes hurling in place of baseball as the main character's former sport.[12]
  • The male members of the Dillon family, Tommy and Zak, in Fair City display an interest in hurling. When they first arrive from Kilkenny a storyline revolves around Zak's determination to play rugby instead of his father's favourite sport, hurling.
  • In a popular Guinness Beer Commercial, shown in the US, Ireland, and the UK, made in 2007, had a player preparing for a Free as the last play of the game, the opposing sides were lined up, and in the build-up before the shot, the player experiences nervousness imagines the ball become a cement cube, and the men at the goal looking like orcs with shields in front of him. upon the announcer saying what would inspire the player, it shows the bartender putting down a freshly poured pint of Guinness beer at an Irish Pub, as the [13] going from cloudly gold to clear black, the player growing confident makes the play, and strikes the ball, and the words 'believe' appear at the end of the commercial, leaving the ending of whether he made a goal or not ambiguous


  1. ^ National University of Ireland, Galway "Recently Discovered Hurling Films Screened for First Time in Eighty Years", NUI Galway, 5 August 2010
  2. ^ McBride, Dara. "Top 10 Irish films of the decade". Thursday, 17 December 2009.
  3. ^ Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
  4. ^ "Michael Cusack and James Joyce: Pair May Well Have Reshaped Modern Ireland".
  5. ^ "Samuel Beckett—humanistic perspectives". Morris Beja, S. E. Gontarski, Pierre A. G. Astier, Ohio State University. College of Humanities.
  6. ^ Banville, John. The Newton Letter.
  7. ^ Tóibín, Colm. Brooklyn.
  8. ^ Hamilton, Hugo. "Speaking to the Walls in English". "I remember a school teacher relating Irish history as a hurling match where our team was losing but won the match in the last minute. I remember my mother saying that German history was a very brutal hurling match."
  9. ^ "Hurling fan Bruce Springsteen dedicates Glory Days to Limerick’s Munster heroes". The Score. 18 June 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  10. ^ McDaniel, Xavier. "The ER Episode Where George Clooney Talks About Watching ‘Irish Hurling’", 27 March 2012.
  11. ^ Busis, Hillary (19 December 2012). "Irish language adaptation of 'Cheers' is in development". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  12. ^ Guinness