Posted by: mdmusingsie | September 30, 2012

Irish Sport is Educational

The Irish are just as fond of sports as the United States (US) and they have an equal, albeit different variety.  Soccer, called football, and rugby are probably the most well known.  Closely behind those are the Gaelic sports including hurling, football, and camogie (women’s version of hurling).

Having recently watched the Super Bowl versions of Gaelic Football, the Sam Maguire Cup (which was modeled on the Ardagh chalice) and Hurling (takes 1 and 2), the Liam McCarthy cup, I thought it time to talk a little about Irish sport.

I’m becoming quite fond of Gaelic football – an interesting cross between football/soccer, volleyball, and basketball.  Hurling is equally entertaining, combining a bit of field hockey with bat swinging elements of American baseball.  Hurling could also be described as Gaelic football with sticks and a smaller ball.

One of the unique features of Gaelic sports is that games that end in a tie during the playoffs do not go to overtime.  Instead they are re-played at a future date. All the people who bought tickets, traveled, possibly booked hotels and took days off must go through the whole process again; all with no guarantees they will get tickets next time around (except for possibly season ticket holders or corporate sponsors).  If the replay is tied, they do play a short overtime period, and if it’s still tied, there’s another replay.  The hurling championship this year went to a replay, but was decided the second time around.  To their credit, the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) reduced prices on the Hurling replay game this year.    A replay of the Super Bowl where fans would have to re-purchase tickets and travel would never fly in the US, though it would give a small number of folks an opportunity to see a final game, not to mention the revenue it would generate.

The other fascinating characteristic is how these sports are scored.  In American Football, touchdowns are worth 6 points, field goals 3 points, points after touchdown 1 or 2 depending on whether scored via kick or run/pass.  All those points are accumulated into a single score.  Thus, two touchdowns and two kicked extra points plus a field goal is shown as 17 points.

This isn’t the case in Gaelic football, hurling and camogie.  They have goals which are scored by placing the associated ball through the soccer-style goal area.  Other points can be scored via passing the ball through field-goal like uprights.  Goals are worth three points and the field-goal one point.  Instead of accumulating the points into a single score, they are shown as X goals and Y single points.  For example, if a team scores 3 goals and 7 single points, it’s shown as 3-7.   If the opponent has a score of 2-10, does that mean they won, lost, or tied?  In order to find out, essentially you need to do the math.  Three goals at 3 points each are 9 points plus 7 single points equal a total of 16 points.  Two goals = 6 points plus 10 single points also equals 16, so in this case they would be tied.

Not only can you enjoy your sporting event, but you can practice your math and keep your mind sharp at the same time.  Of course, that may depend on the amount of Guinness you drink during the game, but someone in the pub or wherever you’re watching the game should be sober enough to do the calculation.


Postscript:  When in Ireland, you won’t hear these activities referred to as sports; instead they use the singular sport to refer to multiple games.  The same is true of things like cloud for clouds and a similar but slightly distant variant of veg for veggies or vegetables.  However, when it comes to arithmetic they use the plural maths instead of math.  It’s much like the Irish language.  Just when you think you know the rules, they throw in an exception (or two, or three…).


  1. Reblogged this on Brave New Hurl.

  2. […] the way they rack up scoring in Gaelic Games and they way they process election votes, you have to admit, the Irish love their maths (that’s […]

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