Hurling might be the coolest sport you've never heard of, with rules and terminology that seem like something out of Harry Potter.
"It's 3,000 years old," says Michael Statz, general manager of the Madison Hurling Club. "They say it's the longest continuously played sport in the world. They also call it the fastest game on grass."
The ancient Gaelic sport is typically played with two teams of 15 members on a 140-yard field, but the Madison club has adapted it to a football field with eight-men sides. The object is to get the ball, called a sliotar, either through the uprights of an H-shaped goalpost for one point, or into the goal formed by the bottom half, and protected by a goalkeeper, for three points. Players can handle the ball with their hands and feet, but must use a stick called a hurley to pick it up off the ground.
A skilled player can scoop the sliotar off the grass and smack it goalward past defenders in one fluid motion. Play is physical, but players can only check each other shoulder to shoulder. Other pushes and fouls result in a "free," where the fouled team can take an uncontested shot.
The Madison Club has about 25 players, enough for a two-team league that plays at 5 p.m. on Sundays at Memorial High School and a traveling squad that will compete in the national championship in Chicago over Labor Day weekend.
"We might not beat anybody," says Bill Jones, a Madison attorney who helped start the club three years ago. "But we'll hold our own."