Make your own free website on

Sports in Ireland - A Cultural Phenomenon

Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA)

Gaelic Athletic Association
Gaelic Football

GAA Official Website
GAA Official Website Banner


Born in Carron, County Clarke, in 1847, Michael Cusack spent his life as an Irish schoolteacher. After spending a few years in the United States, he returned to Ireland and began teaching in Newry, Blackrock College, and Clongowes Wood. Troubled by the declining participation in many indigenous Irish games, Cusack began meeting with sports enthusiasts throughout all of Ireland, most notable Maurice Davin, to attempt to remedy the situation (Clare). Together with Davin, he called a general meeting in Hayes'; Commercial Hotel in County Tipperary on November 1, 1884. It was in this meeting that the Gaelic Athletic Association or GAA was founded.

The initial goal of the GAA was to resurrect the Tailteanne Games, an ancient sporting event held in Ireland in honor of Queen Tailte (who reigned in the sixth century B.C.E. [Tailte]), and establish an Irish organization for promoting athletics. At its conception, the GAA had three distinct goals, which are stated as follows:

1) To foster and promote native Irish Pastimes.

2) To open athletics to all social classes.

3) To aid in the establishment of hurling and football clubs which would organize matches between counties.

Today, the associations aim has changed slightly. Although it continues to support hurling and football, it has broadened its scope to include many more athletic events. Its primary purpose today is "the organization of native pastimes and the promotion of athletic fitness as a means to create a disciplined, self-reliant, national-minded manhood. The overall result is the expression of a people's preference for native ways as opposed to imported ones" (GAA Guide).


The Gaelic Athletic Association is a democratic association consisting of various councils, boards, and committees organized in a structural hierarchy and are run from its world headquarters at Croke Park. Although all of the association's activities are governed by an Official Guide, each distinct county board may have its own by-laws and regulations. However, no such regulations may conflict with the code set forth by the Official Guide. The hierarchy of rule is as follows (GAA):

Annual Congress
Central Council
Provincial Councils
County Board
Club Committee


Since the historic meeting at Haynes' Hotel, the GAA has grown to become the most popular organization in Ireland, possessing over 800,000 members. Organizing competitive games at all levels from youth all the way up to adult senior and the inter-county All-Ireland Championships, where all 32 counties of Ireland compete to win Provincial Championships, the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, and the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, the GAA has become a cultural phenomenon. Not only has it created a unified athletic system, it has also saved the ancient game of hurling from certain extinction. Today, it has over 2,500 clubs and, because these clubs are evenly distributed in both urban and rural areas throughout the country, it is clear that the GAA's presence is a major player in the sporting and cultural life of Ireland.

For more information on the GAA, you can follow the links provided below:

Clare, Clare People: Michael Cusack. 25 Jan. 2007.

GAA Guide, Official Guide of the Gaelic Athletic Association. 26 Jan. 2007.

Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). GAA. 2006. 10 Nov. 2006

Tailte, Proposal for The Teltown Fair and Commemorative Funeral Games - 2000. 25 Jan. 2007.

GAA Crest
GAA Official Crest

"The GAA has been very helpful with keeping organization in Ireland's sports. Without it, they would surely fall apart" says a sports enthusiast.

"Sports do not build character. They reveal it."

John Wooden (American, b.1910)