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Gaelic football

Gaelic football is a competitive sport played mainly in Ireland.

Table of contents
1 Origins
2 Pitch, Scoring
3 Leagues and Team structure
4 The All Ireland Final
5 Notes


Though it has existed for centuries, it was formally arranged into an organised playing code by the Gaelic Athletic Association in the late nineteenth century. Male and female leagues of the game exist.

Pitch, Scoring

The game itself is played on a ground similar to a rugby pitch. Its rules are most similar to Australian rules football, a sport which it is believed evolved from a version of it brought to Australia by Irish people. Today, an international rules competition takes place, in which a compromise version created from both sports is played. Modern gaelic football is played with a round leather ball, similar to that used in soccer.

In Gaelic football, the goals, located at each end have a scoring system involving posts that are shaped like a letter 'H'. If the ball is kicked into the lower section (which is guarded by a goalkeeper), a goal is scored. If the ball goes over the bar, one point is scored. One goal is valued at three points. Scores are recorded in the format {goal total} - {point total}. For example, if a team scored 1 goal and 14 points, it is written as 1-14 which would produce a total of 17 points. The winning team is the one which has the highest total score, when the points total is calculated.

For example, in a conjectural match between Meath and Dublin (two real-life rivals), the final scores would be written

Dublin 1-12 Meath 2-14

The result would be spoken as "Dublin one twelve, Meath two fourteen".

Leagues and Team structure

All Gaelic sports are amateur, that is, played by unpaid players who have other careers. The basic unit of each game is organised at parish level, with various local teams playing to win the County Championship.

On a national level, the team is organised on the old Irish county system [1], producing 32 teams representing the original 32 counties that used to cover the island of Ireland. Though Ireland was partitioned into two states in 1920, gaelic sports (like most cultural organisations and all religions) continue to be organised on an all-island basis. A team of 15 players plus substitutes is formed from the best players playing at parish level. Teams play against each other in a knockout tournament known as the All Ireland. These knockout games are organised on the four Irish provinces of Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht. In the past, the best team from each would play one of the others, at a stage known as the All-Ireland semi-finals, with the winning team from each game playing each other in the All Ireland Final. A recent re-organisation now provides a 'back door' method of qualifying, with knocked out teams getting another chance to win back into the competition.

The All Ireland Final

The final game of the county series is the All Ireland Finals which usually take place in September in Croke Park. Over a series of weeks, All Ireland Finals in men's football, women's football, hurling and camogie take place, each on a Sunday. Crowds of up to eighty thousand turn up. Guests who attend include the President of Ireland, the Taoiseach (prime minister) and leading dignatories. Two level of the game are played at each All Ireland, the senior team and the minor team (consisting of younger players, usually under the age of 21, who have played their own Minor All Ireland competition.)

The wining senior male football team wins the Sam Maguire cup, while the senior male hurling team withs the Liam McCarthy cup.

See also: football

The sport is organised by the Gaelic Athletic Association which was founded in 1884. It also organises other gaelic sports such as Hurling and Camogie. Its headquarters is at Croke Park, which is the location of the main stadium of all gaelic games organised by the GAA. After a major rebuilding programme, the Croke Park stadium is generally regarded as one of Europe's finest stadia.


[1] In the nineteenth century, local government units called counties were created. The counties as originally created remain the basic unit of the GAA even though in reality the counties have been rearranged in the twentieth century. Northern Ireland's original six counties are now divided into 26 county units, while the Republic of Ireland 26 counties have since been redrawn, leading to a modern local governmental unit total of 33. The GAA sticks to the original 32 counties (ie, 26 + 6).