As Clare and Cork prepare for this year’s All-Ireland Hurling Final, the National Museum of Ireland is preparing for its own special hurling event. A new exhibition, 'Hair hurling balls: Earliest artefacts of our national game',will open in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co Mayo on Thursday 5th September.
The exhibition features 14 hurling balls made from matted cow hair with a plaited horsehair covering. All the balls have been dated to the late seventeenth century or earlier. The earliest was made in the second half of the twelfth century – 800 years ago! The museum’s oldest-known hurley, from Co Offaly, will also be on display
Munster features strongly in the exhibition with finds from Clare, north Kerry, west Limerick and Tipperary (with loans of balls from Kerry County Museum and Cork Public 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.
These balls are the predecessors of the modern leather-covered sliotar. The exhibition will also include examples of hurleys from our recent past and sliotars from our hurling legends of today.
Cú Chulainn played hurling: we have always known that hurling was part of our ancient past. This exhibition examines these bog finds in relation to where in the country they were discovered, how they were made and how they measure up to the modern ball. New research on these balls revealed radio-carbon dates of the earliest to 800 years ago! The exhibition also centres on the scientific research used to untangle the mysteries of these balls.
This exciting new exhibition firmly establishes the antiquity of our national game of hurling.
The exhibition will run from 6th September until Spring 2014.