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Sports in Ireland - A Cultural Phenomenon

Gaelic Athletic Association
Gaelic Football


Irish Flag

From the beginning of their initial conception, sports were never meant to be just fun and games. Dating as far back as the beginning of recorded history, sports have always been an integral part of human life. In ancient Egypt, monuments to the Pharaoh's indicate the presence of sports such as swimming and fishing (Tour Egypt). In ancient Rome, massive coliseums display the prominence of gladiatorial bouts (Crystalinks). And in ancient Greece, the creation of the Olympic Games in 776 B.C.E. proved how culturally significant sport had become (Culture). Since those times, the world of sports has changed. However, the virtues and ideals that have always already been apparent to them have remained the same. Today, the world of sports is more prominent among the cultures of the world then ever before. For many people, sports represent much more then mere fun and games; they represent a way of life.

Since antiquity, people have been fascinated by entertainment, particularly the world of sports. Over time, such fascination has led to the integration of the sporting world into the cultures they represent. Here in America, we do not consider our national pastime democracy, even though it is a staple of our culture. Rather, when we refer to our national pastime, we refer to baseball. Clearly, sports are of great cultural significance. They provide windows into the past, our history, and are one of the few aspects of our world that have remained constant throughout time. Empires crumble, cities may burn, but our games never change. In Ireland, as it is in America, the world of sports holds the same cultural importance. Although the games may be different, at their root, the concepts are the same. Sports, as a form of entertainment, provide excitement and joy to countless numbers of people. However, their presence in Irish culture is not limited to entertainment. They bring people together in a way nothing else does, creating a sense of unity and distinctiveness, and are reflective upon the traditional values and historical contexts apparent to Ireland and its people.

From the ancient sport of hurling to the modern day version of soccer, the history behind Ireland and sports is both rich and compelling. In many ways, sports and games are part of the cultural foundation in Ireland, much like it is in various cultures throughout the world. At their roots, however, the world of sports and games are nothing more then mere entertainment, activities to pass the time. However, if they are just a form of entertainment and nothing else, how can they ever be considered an integral part of any culture? The fact of the matter is, is that over time, people give them meaning, reasons to hold a place in their lives. In the traditional game of hurling, two villages would pit themselves against each other in a match of competitive rivalry. Although, in every aspect, the game was just a game, it was also a source of great pride. At this moment, the sport moves beyond the realm of fun and games. It gains significance for the people playing it and engrains itself into the culture surrounding it.

In many regards, the love for competition is a bond shared by all the cultures of the world. Even though our languages may not sound the same, our fashion styles different, or our lifestyle's polar opposites, the love that we all have for sports unifies us in a way nothing else could. Every two years, the Olympics showcase some of the finest athletes in the world, from nearly every country in the world. During that time, the world unites in competitive harmony. Clearly, the world of sports has taken on a life of its own. These meaningless games have become something more than mere entertainment. In Ireland, as it is anywhere else, they have become a cultural phenomenon, as much a part of the culture as the parliament that runs it.

This site provides you with a closer look into some of Ireland's most prominent sporting events. From the ancient sport of hurling to golf, the pages that follow offer a glimpse into one of Ireland's most heralded pastimes. Below is a synopsis of every sport covered on this site:

Hurling - Ireland's oldest sport/game and pastime. Although the original game was far more brutal, it remains one of the most dangerous sports on earth and is known by many to be the "fastest paced." Similar to today's hockey and lacrosse.

Gaelic Football - Another Irish pastime. Although it predates both games, it can be described as a mixture of soccer and rugby.

Soccer - One of the most popular sports in all of Ireland. It is not indigenous to Ireland and is played throughout the world. Today, soccer remains as one of the most influential sports in existence.

Rugby - Brought over to Ireland from England in 1878. Today, it is one of Ireland's most popular sports.

Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) - An organization comprised of councils, boards, and committees that sought to revive some of Ireland's oldest sports (i.e. hurling and gaelic football). Today, it promotes participation among various sports throughout Ireland.


Crystalinks, Ancient Rome Recreation & Sports. 25 Jan. 2007

Culture, The Olympic Games. 25 Jan. 2007

Tour Egypt, Ancient Egyptian Sports. 25 Jan. 2007


"Sports are what keep me going every day" says Brendan O'Sullivan, Galway native.

"Without [sports] and people's love for them, I would have nothing. They are who we are as a people" says Kevin Fitzpatrick, owner of a sports store in the city of Limerick.

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

John Wooden (American, b.1910)