Gaelic Football: What Is It and Where to Catch a Game

Players fun after the ball in a game of Gaelic football.
Players run after the ball in a game of Gaelic football. Photo credit: Martin Brückner

There’s probably already enough football confusion when you’re traveling through Europe — are people talking about American football with field goals and helmets, or European football, better known in the US as soccer? Well, Ireland adds another level of complexity to the mix: Gaelic football, the most popular spectator sport in the country.

A player is about to throw the ball in a game of Gaelic football.
A player is about to throw the ball in a game of Gaelic football. Photo credit: Kanchelskis

Gaelic football is an ancient sport specific to Ireland. Various forms of the game have been played since the 1300’s, but Gaelic football in its current incarnation has been around since the 19th century. The game resembles other sports than just the two suggested by its name: the field and tackling rules are similar to rugby and the ball resembles a volleyball. Plus, the players can both kick and hold the ball during play. Each team consist of 15 players each playing on a rectangular field and the sport is strictly amateur, meaning no players can be financially compensated for their participation.

Croke Park, also known as Croker, is a Gaelic Athletic Association stadium in Dublin.
Croke Park, also known as Croker, is a Gaelic Athletic Association stadium in Dublin where Gaelic football is played. Photo credit: Tolivero

The biggest event of the Gaelic football season is the All-Ireland Final in late September. Regularly drawing over 80,000 spectators, this historic tournament and final match has been around since 1887, and the winner gets the ultimate bragging rights in Ireland’s athletic world. Dublin has the second-highest win total under its belt, holding 26 All-Ireland titles, though they still have a bit to go before they catch up to Kerry’s 37 wins.

Ready to take a journey to the green isle? Book your activities in Ireland with PlacePass!

Looking for more to do in Europe? Check out our blog post on glacier hiking in Iceland.

 

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