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Posted 04/13/2022 in Category 1

How hard do players work during a hurling match?

How hard do players work during a hurling match?

Hurlers play hurling with a ball (‘sliotar’ in Gaelic) and a stick (‘hurley’). If you have never seen hurling before, it resembles field hockey and lacrosse. Although the game is amateur, the hurlers work assiduously to maximise their potential to play at the highest level. The game is dynamic, action-packed and intense. The game is one of Ireland’s national games alongside Gaelic football, camogie, and ladies (women’s) football and it runs through the culture and history of Ireland. 

Fifteen hurlers in each team play this intense, dynamic, invasive game across 70 minutes at the elite level. Through watching the action, you would think that the players never stop moving in the game, but what exactly is happening for players during the game. With 15 players in 15 unique positions, how hard are they working to play the game to its maximum over 70 plus minutes. 

Collins and colleagues explored this question to establish the work-rate of elite hurling match-play. What they were hoping to understand is what exactly is happening during a hurling game. Previously, researchers have extrapolated the requirements for hurling training from other similar invasive games. One extrapolation is from Gaelic football because of the same number of players on each team, the same pitch dimensions and the same playing time of 70 minutes. In Gaelic football, the distance covered amounted to 8,815 metres plus or minus 1,287 metres during a match. But what do we know about hurling, in contrast? Using 94 players and a GPS (global positioning system) device, these researchers examined various work rate facets over 12 games. 

The researchers divided the players according to the line of the pitch in which they played. These lines begin with the goalkeeper and then follow with the full-back line, centre-back line, midfield line, centre-forward line and the full-forward line. Players are free to roam; however, they hold these lines during a game. The distance covered amounted to 7,617 metres plus or minus 1,219 metres. They attained a maximum speed of 29.8 km/hr plus or minus 2.3 km. The mean speed was 6.1 km per hour. As one can imagine, the greatest intensity came in the first quarter of the game. The first quarter had a high speed running distance of 330 metres with 271 in the second quarter, 278 in the third quarter and 255 in the fourth quarter. There are plus and minus differences with these high speed running distances; however, the first 17 minutes is quite demanding physiologically for players with a statistically significant drop in distance to the other quarters. 

Similar to soccer, for example, the midfielders undertook the highest volume of work. Most of the play comes through the centre of the field. Next, the players in the centre-back line and the centre-forward line followed by the full-forward and full-back lines. The decrease in high-speed running distances in the second quarter of each half is significant, and the difference in positional lines means that the work profiles and training profiles of players differ and require tailored training to meet their positional demands. 

Teams and squads train together. This notion is valuable for togetherness, companionship and team cohesion. But there is a line drawn in preparation to allow each player in his position to train for the demands of that position and allow him the chance to compete on competition day. Knowing these demands through this study helps all teams to know what preparatory needs meet the needs of their players. This research is valuable to coaches and fitness trainers across the island of Ireland and beyond. The bottom line is to tailor physical fitness to the needs of the player and now we know what players need.


Collins, M. (2018). The work-rate of elite hurling match-play. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 32(3), 805–811. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001822

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