Print Edition: February 8, 2012
Perhaps you have heard of the brutish ball-and-stick sport played by the Irish called hurling. Men partake in this highly physical, lacrosse/hockey like game mainly in Ireland, but it has grown in popularity over the years to now be played widely across North America. However, hurling is exclusively for men. What are women to do if they are eager to beat other women with sticks while chasing after a small baseball like object? They play Camogie: the female variant of hurling.
Camogie, just like hurling, originated in Ireland and was formerly called “camoguidheacht.” Hurling and Camogie are the two official sports of Ireland. Camogie is primarily played in Ireland and in Irish communities outside of Ireland. The game is played in 60 minute matches, with 15 players a side – on a field with H-shaped goal posts on each end. In what would seem to be mixture of soccer and American football to score points, one can either propel the ball over the crossbar between the two posts (similar to a field goal) for one point or propel the ball between the posts under the crossbar (similar to a soccer goal) for three points. To score all these points the women must employ the use of a “hurley.” A hurley is a long stick with a broad end used to hit the ball or “sliotar” which is the size of a baseball.
Hurleys and sliotars are also used in the male variant, hurling, but there are some distinguishing features of camogie which single it out as a sport of its own when compared to hurling. Some of the main differences between the sports are that, when playing camogie, women can hand-pass to score (which is an illegal move in hurling), women can drop their hurley for a hand-pass, side-to-side charging (tackling) in not allowed, and because it is an exclusively female sport all participants must wear skirts or skorts at all time (shorts are not permitted).
Camogie is officiated by the Camogie Association which was formed in 1905 when the official rules of the sport were first put in place. The sport gets its name from the Irish names for the hurleys. In hurling, the Irish called the hurleys “camans” and women used a shorter version of the camans which were called “camogs. ”
Every year in Ireland the All Ireland Camogie Championships are held, which are highly publicized and attended by over 30,000 people each year. Additionally, the championships are watched diligently by almost 10 per cent of the Irish population.