This section's factual accuracy is disputed. (April 2011)
The man credited with much of the original impetus for founding the GAA was a Clareman named Michael Cusack. Born in 1847, Cusack pursued a career as a teacher at Blackrock College, in Dublin. In 1877, set up his own cramming school, the Civil Service Academy, to prepare students for examinations into the British Civil Service. "Cusack's Academy," as it was known, and its pupils, did extremely well, resulting in soaring attendance. Pupils at the Academy were encouraged to get involved in all forms of physical exercise. Cusack was troubled by falling standards in specifically Irish games.
To remedy this situation, to re-establish the ancient Tailteann Games as an athletics competition with a distinctive Irish flavour, and to re-establish hurling as the national pastime, Cusack met with several other enthusiasts on Saturday, 1 November 1884, in Hayes' Hotel, Thurles, County Tipperary.
The seven founder members were Michael Cusack, Maurice Davin (who presided), John Wyse Power, John McKay, J. K. Bracken, Joseph O'Ryan and Thomas St. George McCarthy. Frank Moloney of Nenagh was also later admitted to have been present by Cusack, while the following six names were published as having attended in press reports: William Foley, a Mr. Dwyer, a Mr. Culhane, William Delehunty, John Butler and William Cantwell. All these six were from Thurles except Foley, who like Davin was from Carrick-on-Suir.
The foundation day was chosen for its mythological significance: according to legend, Samhain (1 November) was the day when the Fianna's power died. Cusack meant this choice of day to symbolise the rebirth of the Irish heroes, and the Gaelic Athletic Association for the Cultivation and Preservation of National Pastimes was established, its name subsequently shortened to Gaelic Athletic Association.
Within a few weeks of the organisation's foundation, Thomas Croke, the Roman CatholicArchbishop of Cashel, gave it his approval and became its first patron. Its other patrons included both Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell. Cusack was a difficult man to get along with, but in the first few months of the organisation he proved to be an excellent organiser. He did not, however continue to run the association for long after its foundation. Within eighteen months he was obliged to resign as a result of his failure to submit accounts for auditing. Croke introduced a new rule which forbade members of the GAA from playing "foreign and fantastic games" such as tennis, cricket, polo, and croquet.
Over the next few years the GAA evolved even more. In 1886, county committees were established. These became the units of representation for the new All-Ireland championship. Later, new rules for Gaelic football and hurling were drawn up by the Association and were published in the United Irishman newspaper. The year 1887 saw the first All-Ireland Championships being held in both codes of sport. 13 GAA counties of the 32 counties of Ireland entered, although only five competed in hurling and eight in football.
Up to the twentieth century most of the members were farm labourers, small farmers, barmen or shop assistants. But from 1900 onwards a new type of person – those who were now being influenced by the Gaelic League (1893) — joined the movement. They tended to be clerks, school teachers or civil servants. In 1922 it passed over the job of promoting athletics to the National Athletic and Cycling Association
1887: Tipperary and Limerick won the first All-Ireland Hurling and Football Finals respectively.
1892: The rules of hurling and football were altered: Goals were made equal to five points and teams were reduced from 21 to 17-a-side. Inter-county teams were introduced to the All-Ireland championships. Congress granted permission for the winning club to use players from other clubs in the county, thus the inter-county teams come into being.
1896: The value of a goal was further reduced from five points to three points.
1925: The declaration rule now meant that players could play for their county of birth, rather than their county of residence. Galway won Connacht's first All-Ireland Football title after a series of objections.
1926: The first radio broadcast of a GAA match took place when Galway play Kilkenny.
2001: Rule 21 barring members of the British Army or the RUC from playing GAA was deleted.
2001: The "back door" system was introduced into the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. Galway became the first football side to win the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship by springing through the "back door".
2002: The redeveloped Cusack, Canal End and Hogan Stands were officially opened.
2005: The re-development of Hill 16 was completed and is functional for the All-Ireland Senior Championship Finals.
2005: The GAA relaxed Rule 42, which gave temporary permission for soccer and rugby internationals to be played at Croke Park from 2007 while Lansdowne Road, the home of both sports, was being rebuilt.
2007: The first game to be played in Croke Park under lights. The largest league attendance ever of 81,678 was also recorded – Dublin are beaten 0–10 to 0–11 by Tyrone.
2013: Hawk-Eye was introduced for Championship matches at Croke Park. It was first used to confirm that Offaly substitute Peter Cunningham's attempted point had gone wide 10 minutes into the second half of a game against Kildare.
2013: The first Friday night game in the history of the Championship occurred – a first round qualifier between Carlow and Laois.