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Gaelic handball( ; also known as handball, Irish handball, court handball, alley handball or wall handball) is a sport similar to Basque pelota, racquetball and squash and it is one of the four Gaelic games organised by the Gaelic Athletic Association. The game may be played with two, three, or four players. The important difference between it and racquetball and squash is that the players hit the ball with a gloved hand instead of a racquet. Either the left and right hand can be used, depending on where the ball is hit. This major difference is what makes handball a much more complex and difficult game. American handball is almost identical to Irish handball.


A typical Handball court
Handball is played in a court, or "alley", the most common form of which measures 12.2 m by 6.1 m (40 feet by 20 feet) with a front wall 6.1 m (20 ft) high, off which the ball must be struck. In Ireland, there is a version of the game which uses a larger court, measuring 18.3 m by 9.15 m (60 feet by 30 feet).

The objective of a game is to score a set total of points before your opponent does. Points are only scored by the person serving the ball. In other words, if a player wins a rally but did not serve at the start of that rally they only win the right to serve, and thus the chance to score after a subsequent rally. The serving player has two opportunities to hit the ball, from the "service area" (between the two parallel lines), off the "front wall" and across the "service line" (which is located exactly half-way down the court from the front wall).

Players take turns at hitting the ball off the "front wall" before the ball bounces twice following their opponent's previous shot. Most handball games take place in a four-walled court but there are also three-walled and one-wall versions of the game.


Handball-like games have originated in several places at different times. Hieroglyph in the temple of Osiris in Egyptmarker portray priests taking part in a game very similar to handball. Mesoamerican civilizations in South and Central America had a form of handball-like game, which was a large part of pre-Columbian culture.

The modern game of handball originated in Irelandmarker and Scotlandmarker. The earliest written record of a handball game is in the town statutes of Galwaymarker, which in 1527 forbade the playing of ball games against the walls of the town. On the west coast of Ireland, Galway had many trading links with Spainmarker, especially the Basquemarker regions, where the similar game of pelota is played. It is highly likely that one game is derived from or influenced by the other.

Irish immigrants brought the game to many countries in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It is still played in the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker, Mexicomarker, Australia, New Zealandmarker, South Africa, Walesmarker and Englandmarker.

Handball today

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