As the Football and Hurling Championships take off this month in Ireland I thought I would share a little bit about these two great Irish Sports for those not in the know. The GAA stands for Gaelic Athletics Association and is the main sporting association in Ireland. The two Sports involved are Gaelic Football and Hurling. Both games include point scoring (over the bar) and goal scoring (worth 3 points).
The best way I can describe hurling is Ice Hockey without the skates. Now don’t be fooled into thinking this is field hockey – Hurling is a much faster and all together more exciting game. Check it out in this clip…
Gaelic Football cannot be compared to any other game as it is a truly original sport. You can pick up the ball but only using your foot and while you can run with the ball you can only do so for a few steps after which you must bounce/kick the ball – this is called soloing. You can pass the ball but cannot simply throw it, as you can imagine it’s a pretty unique game and one that requires a great deal of skill.
The GAA are responsible for all levels of these sports throughout Ireland from local GAA clubs which have teams of all ages right through to Senior County Level where the best of the best of the local teams line out wearing their County Colors. The players who make the cut at this level are as dedicated as any professional players in any sport however they play on a purely voluntary basis. The holy grail for any youngster starting out is the chance to represent your County at Croke Park in an All Ireland Final.
If you are on Vacation in Ireland while the GAA Championships are being played try to get to see a match. While All Ireland tickets are like gold dust you could certainly get tickets for some of the qualifying matches along the way. Failing that you can get a taste of the excitement by watching a match in an Irish pub – ensure you are in one of the Counties taking part – for maximum excitement go to a pub bordering two rival counties – Cork and Kerry for Football or Kilkenny and Tipperary for Hurling are always good bets.
One final warning – if you are not a sports fan (and even if you are) you probably want to avoid Dublin on the first and third weekend in September. This is when the All Ireland Finals take place in Dublin and as 2 entire counties converge on Dublin for these events it’s usually best to leave the city to them!
You can learn more about the GAA at www.gaa.ie