September saw the return of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championships, and as ever the Sportsfile team came up trumps with show-stopping images captured on their Nikon kit. We caught up with award-winning sports photographer and Sportsfile director Ray McManus, who let us in on what goes on behind the lens when capturing the action from the side-lines….

For those who aren’t familiar with hurling, can you explain the sport in a nutshell?

Hurling is the fastest and oldest field game in the world, contested by two 15-a-side teams where the object is to shoot the ball with hurleys (bats) between two goalposts at either end of the field for a point or into a netted goal beneath the crossbar for a goal - which is equal to three points. The sliothar – or ball - can travel at speeds of up to 150kmph.

Hurling has been dubbed as the most fast-paced sport in the world - what are the main challenges you face when shooting at these games?

Ultimately the speed is the challenge, as the sliothar can travel so fast. We have a house rule 'no ball - no picture' and with that in mind it is vital to get the sliothar in the frame. Remember the game is played on grass but spends most of the time in the air.

What do the Sportsfile team have in their kit bag?

Every photographer has as standard: two x D4s, a 24/70mm NIKKOR lens, a 70/200mm NIKKOR lens, two SB-900 speedlights and usually a 500mm or a 600mm. I personally also carry a 200 – 400mm f4 lens in addition to the above. Some also carry a 'short lens' - a 300mm f2.8. On an All Ireland Final, one photographer would sit near the goal with a 70/200mm short and a 600 long and perhaps a remote on about 35mm or sit out wide with a 500 or a 200-400mm.

Do you have a favourite shot from this year’s championship?

Each year the game throws up many a good shot, and while my selection is not from a senior championship game it is taken just before a Munster GAA Hurling Minor Championship game. Two year old Killian Buckley, from Borrisoleigh, Tipperary, warmed his hands before taking a 'line ball' on the pitch before the game in Thurles one night. As it happens Thurles is the town where the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded in 1884.

You’ve racked up an impressive collection of awards during your career with some iconic shots, so what’s the best piece of advice you would give to aspiring sports photographers?

I do not believe that photography can be taught in school or college. Yes, one can get to know the mechanics, but ultimately the best advice I can give is to borrow the phrase 'practice makes perfect'. Another major suggestion would be to sit down. As a general rule (and yes rules are made to be broken), sports pictures do not work when taken from a standing position.

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