Kilkenny and Galway will meet again in a replay of this year’s All-Ireland Hurling final at Croke Park, Dublin. The two last met three weeks ago and that game ended in a draw. Kilkenny have appeared in 11 of the last 13 All-Ireland finals and have won seven since 2000, whilst Galway last played in an All-Ireland final back in 2005. The last time Galway won was back in 1988.
The game will be televised live and available on the internet this Sunday, September 30 at 14:30GMT (07:30PDT) and the following are informative notes and statistics to help viewers enjoy what should be a wonderful game.
Hurling is the fastest field game in the world and a very skilful contact sport, requiring exceptional hand-eye co-ordination and stamina, and as a spectator sport, hurling has few equals. The game is poetry in motion.
The history of hurling in Ireland dates back at least 2,000 years and resembles the Scottish sport of shinty, somewhat. Unlike field hockey, players can catch the ball and strike it overhead or on the ground and from either their left or right sides. Ice hockey may have developed from attempts by Irish exiles in Newfoundland to play hurling on ice. Gaelic football is another indigenous Irish contact sport, and is more popular in Ireland than hurling. The ball is spherical and all players may handle it as well as kick it. It is a size smaller than a soccer ball. The scoring system, the number of players and the dimensions of the pitch are the same as in hurling. Australian Rules football shares its origins with Gaelic football.
The Gaelic Athletic Association was founded in 1884 and administers the rules of both hurling and Gaelic football and organises the annual schedules of games. The players are amateur in status. The first All-Ireland Finals were played in 1887 and since then, 24 counties have won at least one All-Ireland in either football or hurling. Of these, 13 counties have won at least one hurling final and 19 have won at least one football final. Among the 24, eight have won finals in both codes.
The field of play usually measures 140 metres by 85 metres. Each team has 15 players and up to five substitutions may be made in a game. Each half of a game lasts 35 minutes. The playing sticks, called “hurleys”, are handcrafted from the pliant roots of ash trees and the ball is nearly as large but not as heavy as a cricket ball.
This is where the action takes place - Croke Park in Dublin. Taken during the All-Ireland Final in 2004.
A high-scoring game, the aim is to drive the ball with a hurley between goalposts at either end of the field. A point is awarded when the ball is sent over the crossbar of the goalposts. A goal is scored when the ball goes under the crossbar. A goal is worth three points. This leads to interesting mental arithmetic during a game.
And now the statistical bit.
Five counties — Kerry (KY), Cork (CK), Kilkenny (KK), Tipperary (TP) and Dublin (D) — have dominated the historical list of counties who have won the most finals. The leaderboards show that Kerry have won 36 football titles and Kilkenny have won 33 hurling crowns.
Let X be the number of football titles won by a county and Y be the number of hurling titles won by the same county.
Then, the straight line y = 32.37 – 0.94x fits the data for the top five counties well. Those data also satisfy the second-degree inequality 37 > SQRT(X2 + Y2) > 23.
The data form two distinct clusters of (a) Kilkenny (KK), Cork (CK) and Tipperary (TY); and (b) Kerry (KY) and Dublin (D). This suggests that it is difficult for a county to perform well at the highest level in both national games.
The data points for the next four counties in the rank order of successes — Galway, Wexford, Limerick and Offaly — satisfy the inequality 11 > SQRT(X2 + Y2) > 4.
Another 15 counties have won at least one final. They satisfy one or other of the first-degree inequalities 8 > X > 0 or 4 > Y > 0.
Nine counties — Antrim, Fermanagh, Monaghan, Sligo, Leitrim, Longford, Westmeath, Wicklow and Carlow — have yet to record a win in an All-Ireland final.
In the light of their supremacy in football over the following 120 years, it now seems strange that Kerry (KY) won one hurling final, as long ago as 1891. Curiously, London (L) won the All-Ireland hurling final in 1901.
Where x is the rank order of winning counties, and y the inverse of the number of wins. The following are the models that best fit the historic data.
Hurling1 y = 0.026exp(0.303x)
Football2 y = 0.049exp(0.164x)
Both football and hurling y = 0.026exp(0.166x)