Gaelic Athletic Association
|Motto||"Be There All The Way"|
|Formation||1 November 1884|
|Purpose||The management and promotion of Gaelic games, and promotion of Irish culture and language|
|Headquarters||Croke Park, Dublin|
|500,000+ (as of 2014)|
|Aogan O' Fearghail|
|Limited full-time staff|
The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) (Irish: Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, [ˈkʊmˠən̪ˠ ˈl̪ˠuh.xlʲæsˠ ɡeːl̪ˠ] (CLG)) is an Irish and international amateur sporting and cultural organisation, focused primarily on promoting Gaelic games, which include the traditional Irish sports of hurling, camogie, Gaelic football, handball and rounders. The Association also promotes Irish music and dance, and the Irish language.
Gaelic football and hurling are the most popular activities promoted by the organisation, and the most popular sports in the Republic of Ireland in terms of attendances. Gaelic football is also the largest participation sport in Northern Ireland. (GAA competitions, activities and structures are organised on an all-Ireland basis, without reference to the border drawn in 1921.) The women's version of these games, ladies' Gaelic football and camogie, are organised by the independent but closely linked Ladies' Gaelic Football Association and the Camogie Association of Ireland respectively. GAA Handball is the Irish governing body for the sport of handball, while the other Gaelic sport, rounders, is managed by the GAA Rounders National Council (Irish: Comhairle Cluiche Corr na hÉireann).
Since its foundation in the late 19th century, the Association has grown to become a major influence in Irish sporting and cultural life with considerable reach into communities throughout Ireland and among the Irish diaspora.
Foundation and History
On the 1 November 1884, a group of Irishmen gathered in the Hayes' Hotel billiard room to formulate a plan and establish an organisation to foster and preserve Ireland's unique games and athletic pastimes. And so was founded the Gaelic Athletic Association|GAA. The architects and founding members were Michael Cusack of County Clare, Maurice Davin, John K. Bracken, Thomas St George McCarthy, P.J. Ryan of Tipperary, John Wise-Power, and John McKay.
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.
While some units of the Association outside Ireland participate in Irish competitions, the Association does not hold internationals played according to the rules of either Gaelic football or hurling. Compromise rules have been reached with two "related sports".
International Rules Football matches have taken place between an Irish national team drawn from the ranks of Gaelic footballers, against an Australian national team drawn from the Australian Football League. The venue alternates between Ireland and Australia. In December 2006, the International series between Australia and Ireland was called off due to excessive violence in the matches, but resumed in October 2008 when Ireland won a two test series in Australia.
The association has had a long history of promoting Irish culture. Through a division of the association known as Scór (Irish for "score"), the Association promotes Irish cultural activities, running competitions in music, singing, dancing and storytelling.
Rule 4 of the GAA's Official Guide states:
The Association shall actively support the Irish language, traditional Irish dancing, music, song, and other aspects of Irish culture. It shall foster an awareness and love of the national ideals in the people of Ireland, and assist in promoting a community spirit through its clubs.
The group was formally founded in 1969, and is promoted through various Association clubs throughout Ireland (as well as some clubs outside Ireland).
The Association has many stadiums scattered throughout Ireland and beyond. Every county, and nearly all clubs, have grounds on which to play their home games, with varying capacities and utilities.
The hierarchical structure of the GAA is applied to the use of grounds. Clubs play at their own grounds for the early rounds of the club championship, while the latter rounds from quarter-finals to finals are usually held at a county ground, i.e. the ground where inter-county games take place or where the county board is based.
The provincial championship finals are usually played at the same venue every year. However, there have been exceptions, such as in Ulster, where in 2004 and 2005 the Ulster Football Finals were played in Croke Park, as the anticipated attendance was likely to far exceed the capacity of the traditional venue of St Tiernach's Park, Clones.
Croke Park is the Association's flagship venue and is known colloquially as Croker or Headquarters, since the venue doubles as the Association's base. With a capacity of 82,300, it ranks among the top five stadiums in Europe by capacity, having undergone extensive renovations for most of the 1990s and early 21st century. Every September, Croke Park hosts the All-Ireland inter-county Hurling and Football Finals as the conclusion to the summer championships. Croke Park holds the All-Ireland club football and hurling finals on every St. Patrick's Day.
The next three biggest grounds are all in Munster: Semple Stadium in Thurles, County Tipperary, with a capacity of 53,000, the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick, which holds 50,000, and Páirc Uí Chaoimh, County Cork, which can accommodate 43,500.
Other grounds with capacities above 25,000 include:
- Fitzgerald Stadium, in Killarney, a capacity of 43,180.
- MacHale Park in Castlebar, the largest stadium in Connacht (and in the northern half of the country), a capacity of 42,000.
- St Tiernach's Park in Clones, County Monaghan, hosts most Ulster finals, a capacity of 36,000.
- Kingspan Breffni Park, in Cavan Town, County Cavan, which hosted International rules football series games in 2013, a capacity of 32,000.
- Casement Park, in Belfast, a capacity of 32,600.
- O'Moore Park, in Portlaoise, County Laois, a capacity of 27,000.
- Healy Park, in Omagh, County Tyrone, a capacity of 26,500.
- Pearse Stadium in Galway, which has hosted International rules football series games, a capacity of 26,197.
Research by former Fermanagh county footballer Niall Cunningham led to the publication in 2016 by his website, gaapitchlocator.net, of a map of 1,748 GAA grounds in Ireland, ranging from 24 grounds in his own county to 171 in Cork.
Nationalism and community relations
Cross-community outreach in Ulster
The Association points out the role of members of minority religions in the membership throughout its history. For example, the Protestant Jack Boothman was president of the organisation from 1993 to 1997, while Sam Maguire was a Church of Ireland member. Nonetheless, to address concerns of unionists, the Association's Ulster Council has embarked on a number of initiatives aimed at making the association and Gaelic games more accessible to northern Protestants. In November 2008, the council launched a Community Development Unit, which is responsible for "Diversity and Community Outreach initiatives". The Cúchulainn Initiative is a cross-community program aimed at establishing teams consisting of Catholic and Protestant schoolchildren with no prior playing experience. Cross-community teams such as the Belfast Cuchulainn under-16 hurling team have been established and gone on to compete at the Continental Youth Championship in America. Similar hurling and Gaelic football teams have since emerged in Armagh, Fermanagh, Limavady. Professor David Hassan from the University of Ulster has written quite widely on the cross community work of the Association and other sporting bodies in Ulster, and highlighted the positive work being done in this field.
The 'Game of three-halves' cross-community coaching initiative was established in predominantly Protestant east Belfast in 2006. Organised through Knock Presbyterian Church, this scheme brings Association coaches to work alongside their soccer and rugby counterparts to involve primary school children at summer coaching camps. The Ulster Council is also establishing cross-community football and hurling teams in schools and is developing links with the Ulster-Scots Agency and the Church of Ireland. The Council has also undertaken a series of meetings with political parties and community groups who would have traditionally have had no involvement in the Association.
Other community outreach
In January 2011, the then President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, announced the launch of an island-wide project called the "GAA Social Initiative". This aims to address the problem of isolation in rural areas where older people have limited engagement with the community. The initiative was later expanded by teaming up with the Irish Farmers Association to integrate that organisation's volunteers into the initiative.
Winter training ban
To address concerns about player burnout, the Association adopted a rule in 2007 that prohibited collective training for inter-county players for a period of two months every winter. This has proven to be controversial in that it is difficult to enforce, and in the drive to stay competitive, managers have found ways to get around it, such as organising informal 'athletic clubs' and other activities that they can use to work on the physical fitness of players without overtly appearing to be training specifically at Gaelic games.
- List of Gaelic Athletic Association stadiums
- GAA GPA All Stars Awards
- Michael Cusack
- Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh
- Micheál Ó Hehir
- Féile na nGael
- Sport in Ireland
- List of All-Ireland Senior Football Championship finals
- List of All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship finals
- Jugantar Indian contemporary in the early 20th century
- "From Sam Maguire to Dr Maguire – St Eunan's and Naomh Conaill do battle in County Final". Donegal Daily. 4 November 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
A huge crowd is expected at MacCumhaill Park at a time when gaelic games in the county have never had a higher profile. Nothing beats being there, as the GAA slogan goes, but for the neutrals who can't be in Ballybofey, the game is live on TG4 from throw-in at 4pm.
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- Hughes, Brendan. "The land of saints and scholars and GAA pitches". The Irish News. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
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- John O'Brien (20 February 2011). "No more hiding places in the battle against rural isolation". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
- "GAA Social Initiative to Expand with Stronger Links Between IFA and GAA". Irish Farmers Association. 2 March 2011. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
- William Nestor (3 December 2010). "The winter training ban, player expenses and burn-out". JOE.ie. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
- Eugene McGee (3 January 2011). "Eugene McGee: Stop driving players away – scrap winter training ban". Irish Independent. Retrieved 10 March 2011.