GAA Hurling i GAA Football – more than a sport

Before our move to Ireland I was familiar with the existence of hurling and different footballs, but never actually had a chance to see the whole game and get hooked. 🙂

This post will be nothing new for Irish readers, but it might be interesting to others not familiar with Irish sports.

Irish sports are gathered under the “GAA” name in Ireland which stands for “Gaelic Athletic Association” and sports here are called “GAA sports” or more common in non Irish world – Irish sports. Irish sports are played all over the Island, not only in Republic of Ireland and most well known games are GAA Football, Hurling and Camogie and then GAA Handball.

GAA Football

Most popular GAA game is GAA Football. It’s a team game where each team consists of 15 players in the field that looks similar to regular soccer field, except it has H form goals. Goals are made of two parts, lower with the net and goalkeeper which has a value of 3 points. Upper part of the goal (part above the bar and till the end of the universe) which has a value of 1 point. There’s obviously no goalkeeper up there, but might be a good enhancement. 🙂 Scores are in form “Goals – Overs”, so results look like 2-18 vs 1-16, in which case 2-18 wins with a total of 24 points vs 19 points on the other side.


Our first game was a county game played between Dublin and Kildaire. Besides scoring, game is a bit different in general. 🙂 Players are allowed to use hands and technically there’s no foul. At least fouls are more loose than in regular soccer where almost the smallest contact is a foul. In GAA football, the goal of the game is to run faster then your opponents, and not allow them to foul you. 🙂 All in all, much more action, much more scoring, and loads of fun. 🙂 Even the doctor doesn’t carry medical equipment but just a bottle of water to refresh the injured players. 🙂

On St. Patrick’s day we went for clubs finals, where we watched our second GAA football game. I would love to see two best European football clubs (let’s say Barcelona, and Partizan 🙂 ) visiting Ireland, and playing GAA football. I guess it would completely ruin everything that soccer players are used to. If nothing because GAA football is played more similar to basketball or handball (at least it looks like that) then to a regular soccer.

GAA Hurling

Even though internet and information available talks about GAA football being most popular Irish sport, I have a feeling that people talk and enjoy more a Hurling game.


First game on GAA finals was the Hurling game between Mount Leinster Rangers and Portumna. It was our first and only Hurling game so far. Hurling is played on the same pitch as GAA football but with much smaller ball called sliotar. Sliotar is similar to a baseball (ball) and players use hurleys (wooden sticks) to carry the sliotar, shoot it and score goals. Game is played in similar way as GAA football, 15 people running on a huge pitch and trying to score the goal or over. Scoring is the same as in GAA football.


Camogie is the female version of Hurling with slightly different rules.

We still did not figure out where to watch GAA handball, but will do so.

Football and Hurling are first played locally among clubs then “globally” among counties. St Patrick’s day is reserved for clubs finals while first weekend of September is reserved for hurling county finals, and third weekend in September is grand finale of GAA season and football match is played. All the finals are played on a very special place – Croke Park.


Croke Park is most likely the largest stadium for amateur sports on the planet earth, and with 83000 seats is currently 31st largest world stadium. Yep, theoretically GAA sports are all amateur sports and you play for your local club where you live and then if you are good enough you play for your local county. Transfer between clubs and counties are extremely complex and require a bit of paperwork and different boards approvals, so are not that common. Usually they occur only due to practical reasons when player moves to another part of the country and can’t be on the home ground for training with his team. (EG, moving because of work from smaller place on north west coast to Dublin).

Photo (c) Mark Mansfield

The whole thing, playing any of two mentioned GAA sports, and representing your own club and county is a matter of national pride, so fights and simulations like in professional sports are rare even though heavy injuries and blood is seen more often. They are not just rare but are actually very against Irish pride, so a big “no no” as you don’t want to disappoint your family and friends watching. From the same reason you will find extremely good GAA player playing for a bad club and county with low chances to win any title.

Usually, your family is on the stadium, and since all GAA sports are very Irish there is no fans segregation. Even better, it is common to see part of the family supporting one team, and the other part supporting the other since both parents are not necessary from the same county.

Photo (c) Mark Mansfield – Celebration in Kilkenny last year

That being said, except for the Croke Park, it’s common to celebrate with your team, congratulate them after a great game and have a little chat with players on the pitch, like on the photo from Kilkenny.

Attendance on GAA games is pretty high when the end of the season approaches. For example, the club finals on St. Patrick’s day gathered 30 000 people, Saturdays exhibition match of American Football brought 52 000 people to the stadium and on Sundays semi finals when Dublin unexpectedly lost from Donegal stadium had 80 000 fans supporting their teams.

Besides organizing national sports, GAA association protects Irish language and culture and all signs and materials on Croke Park are in Irish language. Even the interviews with players speaking Irish language is done in Irish. 🙂


As mentioned, first weekend in September is reserved for hurling finals, and this year’s finalists are the greatest hurling rivals Kilkenny and Tipperary. That means in a few days we’ll again have 80 000 fans running around the city. 🙂

Well, unfortunately, we will not be on the stadium for this year’s finals, but you never know… 🙂

Since GAA signed a deal with SKY, I guess those having better IP TV in Croatia might be able to watch and enjoy the finals. 🙂

I will definitely enjoy it with a Kilkenny (beer) 🙂

Till next time



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