The ancient sport of hurling comes to WSU

Not to be confused with curling, hurling is a common sport in Ireland and has its roots in ancient heroism and mythology.

But far from Ireland, a hurling club at Washington State University was established by a transfer student.

“I just wanted to play while at school, I didn’t want to have to wait 10 months out of the year, so I said ‘screw it, I’ll start a team,’” WSU hurling club founder Sam Mahan said.

Mahan came to WSU looking to start his own team and show people what hurling was all about. Mahan’s interest in hurling dates back two years to when he first discovered the sport.

“Basically I just saw a video of hurling online a couple years back, and I lived in Tacoma at the time,” Mahan said. “So I just looked up Tacoma Hurling on Google, and it turned out that a team was starting in my hometown.”

Hurling originated in Ireland and is considered one of the fastest sports on earth. The objective of the game is to hit a small ball, referred to as a sliotar, with a wooden stick, referred to as a hurley, between the opponent’s crossbar either below or above the goalpost. If the ball is shot below it, three points are awarded, and if the ball is hit above it, one point is awarded.

The sliotar can be carried in-hand for no more than four steps. Once those four steps are used, players can balance the sliotar on the end of their hurley, bounce it off the ground, strike it into the air or pass it. The sliotar can also be kicked and slapped when it is on the ground with an open palm.

Helmets are worn at all times while playing due to the physicality of the game and because the sliotar can be shot at speeds of more than 100 mph.

The game can be played with anywhere from seven to 15 players per team. The WSU Hurling club will compete with 11 players on fields similar to the size of soccer fields.

While hurling can be a complicated and technical sport, there are also more simplistic details one can enjoy while watching it.

“I like just wacking (the sliotar) as hard as you can down a field, it’s really fun,” said Justin Brundage, the current president of the WSU Hurling club and the first member Mahan recruited.

“Sam is actually my next door neighbor in my dorm, and I met him the first day I moved in,” Brundage said. “He talked about hurling, he showed me the hurl, he showed me a couple things and I thought it looked cool so I decided to try it and I love it now.”

The first practice was held on the Sunday of Week of Welcome and about five or six people turned out. Since then, the team has grown to 11 members.

“We got most of our recruitment by foot-traffic,” Brundage said. “People saw us playing and they thought it looked cool.”

One of the members reeled in while passing by was Aaron Crandall. Crandall is a computer science professor at WSU and is now the club’s adviser.

“I saw them practicing their very first practice as I was driving by, so I jumped out and ran up and talked to them and found out that they were looking for an adviser and starting the club, and I said ‘Sure, I’ll do that,’” Crandall said.

Crandall had seen hurling on video and TV before, but had never played.

“I have really just come to enjoy getting to use the stick,” Crandall said. “Getting better at manipulating it, to carrying the ball, to striking it. It’s really fun.”

Hurling is a sport that takes lots of practice and will require lots of conditioning, but the end result is worth it, the members agreed.

If you are interested in either joining or simply watching the hurling club, they practice at 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Valley Road Playfields.