Hurling and camogie have been added to UNESCO's list of protected cultural activities around the world.

The games, among the oldest and fastest field sports in the world, were chosen after a lengthy process.

UNESCO maintains that cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions, inherited from ancestors and passed on.

Hurling is an example of intangible cultural heritage, said UNESCO.

Camogie, considered by UNESCO as "a form of hurling played by women", is also protected in the new status.

By adding hurling to the list, the Government commits to keeping the game alive, ensuring respect for it and raising awareness about its importance.

The GAA has said that this will help the profile of the game, especially overseas.

As an intangible cultural heritage activity, hurling joins uilleann piping, which was last year added to the list.

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"Hurling or camogie is a field game played by two teams which dates back 2,000 years and features strongly in Irish mythology, most notably in the epic saga of Cú Chulainn," said UNESCO in its announcement.

"It is played throughout the island of Ireland, particularly in more fertile agricultural areas, as well as overseas.

"Hurling is considered as an intrinsic part of Irish culture and plays a central role in promoting health and wellbeing, inclusiveness and team spirit," it added.

Former president of the GAA Nickey Brennan said the UNESCO recognition for hurling and camogie was an important one.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Brennan said the sport is an indigenous and important one that goes back many centuries. 

He added that there is something very unique about hurling, that has been engrained in Irish society over many years and is mentioned in folklore.

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan also welcomed the news.

She thanked the Camogie Association and the GAA for their work with her Department on achieving "this prestigious international recognition" of the national game.