A sliotar (or sliothar - may derive from Irish "sliabh", meaning "mountain" and "thar" meaning "across"), pronounced IPA|/ʃlʲɪt̪ˠəɾˠ/, is a hard solid sphere slightly larger than a tennis ball, consisting of a cork core covered by two pieces of leather stitched together. Sometimes called a "puck" or "hurling ball", it resembles an American baseball with more pronounced stitching. It is used in the Gaelic games of hurling, camogie, rounders and shinty.

Early (pre-Gaelic Athletic Association) sliotars used various materials, depending on the part of the country:

* hollow bronze
* wood and leather
* wood, rope and animal hair

In the Autumn of 1884, Michael Cusack founded the Gaelic Athletic Association with Thomas Croke as its first patron and Thurles as its birthplace. Cusack's endeavors to nurture hurling resulted in a hurling tournament at Tubber in 1885 (won by Kilchreest) and an inter-county game in Dublin in 1886 between south Galway and North Tipperary. North Tipperary won but the leather made for the match was made by Ned Treston (Gort), became the standard for hurling matches and remains so to the present day.

Johnny McAuliffe is the Irishman who is credited with the modern design. Born in Tullybrackey, Bruff, Co. Limerick in 1896 he was both a hurler and a mender of some note.

Before his improvements the ball had the following general characteristics:

*Non-uniform: Poor manufacturing produced inconsistent shapes
*Heavier: Minimum weight of 7 ounces (200 grams) as prescribed by Gaelic Athletic Association rules
*Cumbersome: Large horse-hair packed ball tended to lose shape during play
*Non water-resistant: Ball tended to become soggy during wet play
*Low-visibility: Brown ball tended to "get lost" against Cusack Stand, Croke Park (constructed in 1937)

McAuliffe made the following changes, still present in the modern ball:

*High-standard: Cork core, 2 piece pigskin with lip stitching
*Sure-flight: Maintains shape over course of game leading to safer play
*High-visibility: Hard-wearing white tanned pigskin impervious to grass stains
*Lighter: Weight of approximately 3.5 ounces (100 grams) - about half the original
*Water-resistant: Does not become heavy in wet weather leading to consistent handling

Given these changes, faster playing surfaces and fitter players hurling was transformed into the modern high-scoring game loved today.


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