UNESCO decision on hurling 'yet another high point in what has been a quite exceptional 2018 for the game'

It makes us rage, despair and on some wonderful days, it makes us weep with joy - and now hurling has been granted special cultural status by UNESCO.

At a meeting in Mauritius, the cultural body inscribed hurling and camogie on the wonderfully titled Representative List the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

In the official inscription, UNESCO described hurling as a field game "which dates back 2,000 years and features strongly in Irish mythology, most notably in the epic saga of Cú Chulainn" and was initially "unregulated" and games were played across open fields.

"Hurling is considered as an intrinsic part of Irish culture and plays a central role in promoting health and wellbeing, inclusiveness and team spirit. Today, the skills are promoted and transmitted through coaching and games in schools and clubs," reads the inscription.

Ireland ratified the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2015. Hurling, which is used to denote the entire game, including camogie, as played by men, women and children, is Ireland's second inscription on the Representative List. Ireland's first nomination, Uilleann Piping, was officially inscribed last year.

Confirmation that the great game has been officially recognised as being of global cultural significance delighted Fine Gael junior minister John Paul Phelan.

The Kilkenny man and self-confessed "hurling fanatic" first wrote to UNESCO nine years ago asking that hurling be included on the coveted list of intangible cultural heritage. The campaign was subsequently backed by culture minister Josepha Madigan and her predecessor Heather Humphreys.

“Those of us who love the sport tend to take it for granted just a little bit. But anyone from outside of Ireland that I’ve ever brought to a hurling or a camogie game is stunned by the speed of the game, the skill level and the fact that they are voluntary codes."

“The idea came to me when I was staying with a friend in Spain after the European Election defeat. A form of human pyramid making, Castellers, was added to the list at the same time. It was extremely popular in the Catalonia region. Everyone was delighted. I thought… why not do the same for Camogie and Hurling? As soon as I came back, I put in the bid," he said.

GAA president John Horan said the decision "is yet another high point in what has been a quite exceptional 2018 for the game".

"It reaffirms the fact that hurling is more than just a sport. 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. All of us involved in the Association are charged with ensuring that the promotional work we undertake preserves hurling for future generations," he said.

President Michael D Higgins also welcomed the decision, describing hurling as having "unique cultural significance".


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