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Ireland’s native sports of hurling and camogie added to Unesco list

Hurling and camogie were included in the UN body’s intangible heritage list on Thursday.


Ireland’s national sport of hurling is played in Croke Park in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Ireland’s national sport of hurling is played in Croke Park in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Ireland’s national sport of hurling is played in Croke Park in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Ireland’s native sports of hurling and camogie have been added to Unesco’s list of protected cultural activities around the world.

The field games, which are among the oldest and fastest sports in the world, were granted the special cultural status by the international body on Thursday.

Hurling denotes the entire game, including camogie, which is played by women. Adults and children play the sport across the country.

Players use a wooden stick (hurley), similar to a hockey stick but with a flat end, and a small ball (sliotar), with the aim being to use the hurley to strike the sliotar and hit it into the opposing team’s net.

Irish President Michael D Higgins said the decision was a “global acknowledgement of the unique cultural significance of this part of our national culture, and of the important role gaelic games play in Irish society”.

“It is, too, a tribute to the gaelic sports associations, whose work and volunteering ethos form the beating hearts of so many communities all over the island of Ireland, and further afield, as gaelic games are now played on every continent.

“Most of all, Unesco’s decision highlights yet again that team spirit, respect for skill, excellence and creativity are at the heart of Irish society, and that our cultural heritage is worth protecting and celebrating.”

The president said every Irish person, both at home and abroad, could be very proud of the country’s native sports.

The Irish Government, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and the Camogie Association worked together on the application which involved a lengthy process.

Hurling is more than just a sport. It is a national treasure.GAA President John Horan

The GAA said it proudly welcomed the decision to grant hurling and camogie the prestigious status.

The sporting organisation’s president, John Horan, said it was an acknowledgement of its cultural, social and sporting importance to the people of Ireland.

“It reaffirms the fact that hurling is more than just a sport,” he said.

“It is a national treasure; an ancient tradition that connects us to our Celtic past and a part of our DNA.

“At a time of unprecedented popularity for the game here, we owe a debt of gratitude to the generations of people who preserved, protected and promoted the game at school, club and county levels so that it would survive and thrive for our benefit.”

Ireland’s Culture Minister Josepha Madigan said she was delighted.

“For centuries, hurling has been an important part of the Irish identity, with men and women passing on this living tradition to each rising generation,” she said

Ms Madigan added: “The inscription of hurling is a wonderful opportunity to share a cherished aspect of Irish culture with others.”

In its announcement Unesco said the field game, played by two teams, dates back 2,000 years and features strongly in Irish mythology, most notably in the epic saga of Cu Chulainn.

The organisation said hurling formed an “intrinsic part of Irish culture” and played a central role in promoting health and wellbeing, inclusiveness and team spirit.

The Unesco list is designed to promote visibility, awareness and diversity in cultural heritage internationally.

Hurling is the second Irish addition to the intangible heritage activity protected list. The first was the Uilleann Piping, the national bagpipe of Ireland, which was included last year.