The Gaelic Athletic Association. - a unique Irish Organisation
is a boast of the Gaelic Athletic Association that it is
the largest amateur sports organisation in the world. Proof
of that claim can be found in travels through villages,
towns and cities in the country where the GAA ground is
very often the focal point for the community.
humble beginnings almost 120 years ago, the GAA has become
a major influence on Irish life. Its major sports of Gaelic
Football and Hurling are by far the most popular in Ireland,
while the organisation also promotes the Irish language
and Irish culture.
was through a friendship between prominent Irish nationalist
P.W. Nally from Mayo and Michael Cusack at the beginning
of the 1880s that the idea for the formation of the Gaelic
Athletic Association was formed. The two men regularly discussed
the formation of a body to control Irish athletics and to
revive the national games of Gaelic Football and Hurling.
a native of Clare who ran his own school in Dublin, had
been heavily involved in attempts to organise athletics
on a formal basis. As Cusack himself put it later, there
was a need to form a body such as the GAA "for the
preservation and cultivation of the national pastimes of
Ireland." His vision for a new organisation was
not just as a parent body for hurling and football but athletics
The first official meeting took place in Hayes' Hotel in
Thurles on November 1st, 1884. The history books are not
exactly clear on the size of the attendance but it is confirmed
that seven people attended. They were Maurice Davin, Cusack,
John Wyse Power, John McKay, James Bracken, Joseph O'Ryan
and Tomas St George McCarthy.Wyse Power was editor of the
Leinster Leader newspaper and would play a big role in the
fledgling organisation. McKay was also a journalist, while
Bracken was a building contractor who was heavily involved
and St George McCarthy took no active part in the GAA following
the first meeting. Davin, Ireland's best known athlete of
the time, with his high profile and popularity was appointed
president and Cusack, Wyse Power and McKay were appointed
the playing fields the real strength of the new association
could be found. Playing rules were adopted in 1885 and the
first known game played under the auspices of the GAA was
at Feagh, near Tynagh in Galway when Killimor beat Ballinakill.
1887 the first entries for the All-Ireland football and
hurling championship were sought. It was agreed that the
winner of the local championship in each county would represent
the county in the All-Ireland
championships. Twelve counties entered although only five
actually contested the hurling championship. The administrative
squabbling meant that the finals were delayed until 1888,
the hurling final taking place on April 1st in Birr between
Meelick (Galway) and Thurles (Tipperary). In the official
record it is shown that Thurles won by 1-1 to 0-0. The football
final was played in Clonskeagh in Dublin between Commercials
of Limerick and Dundalk Young Irelands of Louth. Commercials
won by 1-4 to 0-3. Gate receipts for the final were £200.
the 1920s the GAA had become firmly established in every
county in Ireland and the games were being played in the
United States and in Britain too.
Ireland the GAA embarked on a policy of providing proper
facilities, especially in the major towns. Gradually the
GAA became the central organisation in each community.
The fledgling State was grateful for the existence of the
GAA. While the organisation ensured that the games were
played, they also provided a focus for the people. Significantly
too the GAA built community halls through voluntary effort
that the state could not afford to provide. While the GAA
organised Gaelic Football and Hurling, it was also responsible
for other games such as Handball, Camogie (Hurling played
by women), and Rounders, the latter being an Irish version
of baseball or softball. In modern times Ladies Football
has also been promoted by the GAA.
it has remained a strictly amateur organisation, with just
a small number of paid officials, the GAA has grown enormously
and is enjoying more popularity than ever. The attendance
figures for the major fixtures are greater than ever before
and despite intense competition from other sports, Gaelic
Football and Hurling remain the two most popular pastimes
stadiums have been built throughout the country and the
(largely Government funded) re-construction of the GAA headquarters
at Croke Park in Dublin is a monument to the status of the
GAA in Ireland. Croke Park is the spiritual home of Gaelic
Games and has hosted the All-Ireland finals almost unbroken
since the 1920s. Every youngster dreams of one day playing
for his county in Croke Park. The new stadium, at a cost
in the region of £150 million, is nearing completion
and will have a capacity of almost 80,000. It is one of
the most modern stadiums in Europe, with a three-tiered
stand covering three sides of the ground.
Although uniquely Irish, Gaelic Games are played all over
the world. Both New York and London compete in the major
competitions as well as running their own events. The North
American Board of the GAA is very strong, while Gaelic Games
are played in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Dubai and in
various parts of Europe.
new international dimension to the games has been developed
over the last two decades. There is now an annual hurling
fixture between Ireland and a Scotland team chosen from
Shinty players, Shinty being a form of hurling played extensively
in the Scottish Highlands. And the annual football test
series under International Rules between Ireland and Australia
has become immensely popular, attracting sell-out crowds
in Melbourne, Adelaide and Croke Park in the last two series.
Ireland visits Australia later this year for the 2001 series
seeking to avenge defeat in 2000.
a new century, the GAA is now an ultra-modern organisation
ready to fulfil its role in society and prepared for the
challenges of the future.
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