Hair Hurling Balls

Ireland's oldest hurling balls and hurley on display in Co. Tipperary - winners of the Liam McCarthy Cup, 2016.


This National Museum of Ireland exhibition Hair Hurling Balls – Earliest Artefacts of Our National Game features 14 hurling balls made from matted cow hair with a plaited horsehair covering.

Hair Hurling Balls, Clockwise from top - Lavally, Co. Sligo; Toornageehy, Co. Kerry; Tooreen, Co. Kerry

Hurling was popularly played cross-country, on river-fields, on beaches and in bogs. However, until this research was carried for Hair Hurling Balls, very little was known about the hurling balls used throughout the country.

The Museum’s oldest-known hurley was on display. All the balls dated to the late seventeenth century or earlier. The earliest was made in the second half of the twelfth century – that’s 800 years old!

The exhibition uncovers the story of each one - where they were found, how they were made, their age and how they measure up to the modern ball.

The exhibition also centres on the scientific research used to untangle the mysteries of these balls. The scientific analysis and research undertaken by the Museum showed us what goes on behind the scenes in Museums. This revealed so much more than the naked eye could see...

Munster features strongly with finds from Clare, north Kerry, west Limerick and Tipperary (One is in Cork Public Museum and one is in Kerry County Museum). There are also balls from east Sligo and the latest ball into the National Museum of Ireland collection is from north Mayo. All were found through hand cutting turf in bogs over the past 100 years.

The popular exhibition, first presented in the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life in Turlough Park, also includes examples of hurleys from our recent past and sliotars from our hurling legends of today. See it in the Tipperary County Museum in Clonmel until 23rd October 2016.

This exhibition has travelled to the following museums:

GAA Museum - Croke Park 

Galway City Museum