An Introduction to Gaelic Football

Gaelic football, commonly referred to as football or Gaelic, is an Irish team sport. It is a form of football derived from traditional Irish ball games. It is played between two teams of 15 players on a rectangular grass pitch. The objective of the sport is to score by kicking or punching the ball into the other team’s goals (3 points) or between two upright posts above the goals and over crossbar metres above the ground.

Players advance the football, a round leather ball, up the field with a combination of carrying, bouncing, kicking, hand-passing, and soloing (dropping the ball and then toe-kicking the ball upward into the hands). In the game, two types of scores are possible: points and goals. A point is awarded for kicking or hand-passing the ball over the crossbar, signalled by the umpire raising a white flag. A goal is awarded for kicking the ball under the crossbar into the net, signalled by the umpire raising a green flag. Positions in Gaelic football are similar to that in other football codes, and comprise one goalkeeper, six backs, two midfielders, and six forwards, with a variable number of substitutes.

Gaelic football is one of four sports (collectively referred to as the “Gaelic games”) controlled by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), the largest sporting organisation in Ireland. Along with hurling and camogie, Gaelic football is one of the few remaining strictly amateur sports in the world, with players, coaches, and managers prohibited from receiving any form of payment. Gaelic football is mainly played on the island of Ireland, although units of the Association exist in other areas such as Great Britain and North America.

Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Ireland in terms of attendance, and the final of the All-Ireland Senior Championship, held annually at Croke Park, Dublin, draws crowds of over 80,000 people. Outside Ireland, football is mainly played among members of the Irish diaspora. Gaelic Park in New York City is the largest purpose-built Gaelic sports venue outside Ireland. Three major football competitions operate throughout the year: the National Football League and the All-Ireland Senior Championship operate on an inter-county basis, while the All-Ireland Club Championship is contested by individual clubs. The All-Ireland Senior Championship is considered the most prestigious event in Gaelic football.

Under the auspices of the GAA, Gaelic football is a male-only sport; however, the related sport of ladies’ Gaelic football is governed by the Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association.

Gaelic football was first codified in 1887, although it has links to older varieties of football played in Ireland and known collectively as caid. Consequently, the name caid is used by some people to refer to present day Gaelic football.

The first legal reference of football in Ireland was in 1308, when John McCrocan, a spectator at a football game at Novum Castrum de Leuan (the New Castle of the Lyons or Newcastle) was charged with accidentally stabbing a player named William Bernard. A field near Newcastle, Co. Dublin is still known as the football field. The Statute of Galway of 1527 allowed the playing of “foot balle” and archery but banned “‘hokie’ — the hurling of a little ball with sticks or staves” as well as other sports.

By the 17th century, the situation had changed considerably. The games had grown in popularity and were widely played. This was due to the patronage of the gentry. Now instead of opposing the games it was the gentry and the ruling class who were serving as patrons of the games. Games were organised between landlords with each team comprising 20 or more tenants. Wagers were commonplace with purses of up to 100 guineas.

The majority of adult football and all minor and under-21 matches last for 60 minutes, divided into two halves of 30 minutes, with the exception of senior inter-county games, which last for 70 minutes (two halves of 35 minutes). Draws are decided by replays or by playing 20 minutes of extra time (two halves of 10 minutes). Juniors have a half of 20 minutes or 25 minutes in some cases. Half-time lasts for about 5 or 10 minutes.

Teams consist of fifteen players] (a goalkeeper, two corner backs, a full back, two wing backs, a centre back, two mid fielders, two wing forwards, a centre forward, two corner forwards and a full forward) plus up to fifteen substitutes, of which five may be used. Each player is numbered 1–15, starting with the goalkeeper, who must wear a jersey colour different from that of his or her teammates. Up to fifteen substitutes may be named on the team sheet, number 16 usually being the reserve goalkeeper.

If the ball goes over the crossbar, a point is scored and a white flag is raised by an umpire. A point is scored by either kicking the ball over the crossbar, or fisting it over, in which case the hand must be closed while striking the ball. If the ball goes below the crossbar, a goal, worth three points, is scored, and a green flag is raised by an umpire. A goal is scored by kicking the ball into the net, not by fist passing the ball into it. However, a player can strike the ball into the net with a closed fist if the ball was played to him by another player or came in contact with the post/crossbar/ground prior to connection. The goal is guarded by a goalkeeper. Scores are recorded in the format Goal Total-Point Total. To determine the score-line goals must be converted to points and added to the other points. For example, in a match with a final score of Team A 0–21 Team B 4–8, Team A is the winner with 21 points, as Team B scored only 20 points (4 times 3, plus 8).

Some of the benefits of playing Gaelic Football are Fun, fitness and ball handling skills development. It’s also played at a quick pace so speed will improve through set drills coached weekly. For soccer players we see that their ball retention is improved as dribbling improves. For rugby enthusiasts we see that ball handling, particularly in the air improves greatly. It doesn’t help cricket much though . . .

Background to Gael Londain

Dia Dhuit A Chairde,

Trí Mhí ó shin fuair 4 daoine le chéile ag an baile Londan Irish, Hazelwood. ‘Cén fáth nach bhfuil a leag muid rud éigin ar bun, tá a fhios agaibh, club CLG?’ Bhí an cheist. Cad iad na freagraí ní raibh muid ábalta a phriontáil mar chuid de na teanga a bhí go leor ildaite, ach go raibh sé seo an chatalaíoch 4 daoine, Mary Fyfe, Kieran Walsh, Liam Kearney agus Paul Charles a dhéanamh ar an gcinneadh a chur ar bun ‘Proper club Peile Gaelaí ‘ag an baile Londan na hÉireann i Sunbury, Hazelwood.

Three Months ago 4 people got together at the home of London Irish, Hazelwood. “Why don’t we set something up, ye know, a GAA club?” was the question. What the answers were we couldn’t print as some of the language was pretty colourful but this was the catalyst to 4 people, Mary Fyfe, Kieran Walsh, Liam Kearney and Paul Charles in making the decision to set up a “Proper Gaelic Football club” at the home of London Irish in Sunbury, Hazelwood.

And so it began with meetings, setting up an Executive Committee, splitting tasks, more meetings, becoming a club with the help of some newly made friends at County level at London GAA, setting up a taster session at Hazelwood on 19th March of 2016 with the help of our friends at Tir Chonaill Gaels and St Kiernan’s where we had over 120 children play the great game for the first time with superb enthusiasm and great commitment. We all knew then that we were on to something special and progressed to ask for help on our executive board with Padraig Connolly coming on to the executive committee board. Now 5 strong we progressed to create the club and attended our first meeting to set up and name our GAA club based at London Irish’s home Hazelwood. We were now called Gael Londain and we were based from Hazelwood in Sunbury Upon Thames.

We began our journey three months ago at Hazelwood; this is where we launch our club on the 6th May 2016 with the assistance of our very special guest Dan Mulhall, Irish Ambassador to the UK, some very special guests and our new GAA family who will be in attendance to watch their children’s first Gaelic Football training session.

You are very welcome to our club, go raibh mile maith agat,

An Coiste Feidhmiúcháin, The Executive Committee

Gael Londain