Traditional Sport's a 21st Century Game
Ask most Irish people what the most important event in our sporting calendar is and they'll likely respond "the All-Ireland final". Over 80,000 sport enthusiasts of every age gather at Croke Park stadium in Dublin to will their county team on to victory in both the Gaelic football and hurling finals. From local clubs to county level, the teams' performance in Gaelic football and hurling is a matter of pride in towns, villages and cities across the island. Each county has their own colours and on match day it's common to see flags draped on family homes or flying from cars, and a sea of jerseys. As the championships progress, deep passions and rivalries emerge within communities, not just on these shores but around the globe.
Over 3,000 years old, Hurling is still the fastest field sport in the world. Played with a long wooden stick and a small, white leather ball called a sliotar, it's a game that requires tremendous speed and skill.
How fast is fast? Technology can now measure exactly how quickly the ball travels and an incredible speed of 181.1 kilometres per hour was hit by TJ Reid of Kilkenny in 2014. This might, of course, explain why players wear helmets.
Pre-dating football and rugby, Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Ireland and as with hurling, there are 15 players on each team. The ball is similar to a football but unlike in the beautiful game, it can be handled. With a match played on a pitch larger than a rugby field, Gaelic football is also said to have been an influence on Australian rules football.
Founded in 1884, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has been at the forefront of the development and revitalisation of what has become a movement, more than a game. Unlike many others, the sports remain resolutely amateur, so are fuelled by real dedication and commitment.
Every county has nicknames too - ask a GAA fan for help translating if it's Mayo for Sam or Up the Dubs, who the Cats are and why the Rebels are battling the Kingdom.
Around the world there are over 400 GAA clubs supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs, in countries as far afield as China, New Zealand, India, Canada, Finland, Palestine, Argentina and South Africa, helping Ireland’s national sporting passion become a global one too.