Gaelic Football

By: Brooke Hrouda

It is the favorite sport of the Irish and the most-practiced with more than 2,800 clubs and approximately 250,000 players in all of Ireland. I was searching around the Internet when I found this unique sport, and I wanted to share it with you because it is something that most Americans have never heard about. Between rugby and football, the gaëlic football is a fast and physical sport requiring a lot of skills. The gaëlic football is a sport that has been practiced in Ireland for a long time, with the first written mentions dating back to 1527 and the first official meeting dates from 1712.

Gaelic Athletic Association

Created in 1884 by Michael Cusack and Maurice Davin, Gaelic Athletic Association (often called GAA) is sportsmen’s body amateurs whose purpose is to protect and to make gaelics sports known: gaelic football, hurling, and handball. The association had for a long time a very nationalist political approach. The games that were not gaëlic were forbidden to its members. The members of the Services of the Britanic Crown were excluded from the association and the stadiums of the GAA exclusively reserved for the gaelic games. Moreover, the ” foreign games, ” which we call football and rugby, were forbidden. With 800,000 members and more than 2,800 sporting clubs, the association is the biggest in Ireland and has an important influence on the social and cultural life of the country.

The rules :

The game has two teams of 15 players: a goal keeper, 6 defenders, 2 circles of ground and 6 aggressors. Every team can make up to 3 substitutions in the match. The matches are in two halves and last 60 or 70 minutes, according to the competition. The ground is the same as hurling: 137 meters long for 82 wide, since its played in Ireland they measure in meters. The rules look like those of rugby, with the exception of nets under the bar, and there is a goalkeeper. The purpose of the game is to send the ball (similar to a soccer ball) between posts and under the bar (what corresponds to a goal, that is 3 points), or between posts over the bar (1 point) . When a player has the ball, he can keep it in his hands only on 4 consecutive steps. Then he has to make one dribble around or to make a toe-tap, which consists on making the ball bounce on his foot and sending it back to his hands. He can then take 4 more steps. Obviously he can also make a pass, with his foot or his hand: in this last case the ball must not be thrown, but propelled, a bit like the cuff in volleyball. When the ball is on the ground, it’s forbidden to collect it with its hands; you must pick up the ball with your feet. To take the ball from an opponent, you have to strike the ball. Shoulder to shoulder contact is allowed.

Competitions :

The teams are made up of amateurs only. The season includes two competitions: the championship (Bank of Ireland Football Championship), which takes place from May to September, and the league (Allianz NFL) which takes place during the “cold season.” The championship is the most prestigious competition. It starts by a series of eliminating heats at the country level, then four provinces (Munster, Leinster, Connacht and Ulster), which leads to the final. The All Ireland Final, takes place in Croke Park in Dublin on the 3rd Sunday of September, and the atmosphere is indescribable. Believe it or not, about 80,000 people attend. The winner wins the cup which is called “Sam Maguire.”

Overall, it’s a fascinating sport that few Americans have heard of. They take pieces of nearly all American sports — soccer, baseball, football, rugby, basketball — and combine them to make one nationwide sport that the whole country loves to play and watch. It is interesting to see that there are sports like gaelic football that are comparable to football here in America. These Irish people live for this sport, and I think it is important to share traditions like these with the world simply because it is something we are not used to seeing or hearing about. I’ve attached a short clip of a gaelic football game for your viewing pleasure. Hopefully after watching you’ll understand why I wanted to share this awesome sport with you.


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