Gaelic Football: Ireland’s Most Popular Sport

Gaelic_Pitch.pngGaelic football was first played in Ireland in 1802 and has grown to be the most popular sport in Ireland. If you’re taking a
vacation to Ireland, you should put seeing a game of Gaelic football on your to-do list! Gaelic football is one of the sports that is included in the “Gaelic games” (along with hurling, Gaelic handball, and rounders), which is controlled by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). It is played on a pitch that is 145m long and 90m wide (the same pitch that is used for hurling) with 15 players on the field.

The Ball

The ball used is similar to a volleyball but a bit larger. It is round and made out of 18 stitched leather panels and weighs between 13-15oz. Players may either kick the football or use their hands to pass it. If carrying the football, the players may only take four steps and then must pass to another teammate.


The object of the game is to get the ball either under or over the crossbar; getting the ball under the crossbar is a goal, which is worth three points, and getting the ball over the crossbar is worth one point.


Slapping the ball from an opponents hand is allowed in Gaelic football, as well as shoulder to shoulder contact.  With that said, there are many forms of tackling that are not allowed, such as:

  • Pushing
  • Sliding tackles
  • Tripping
  • Jersey pulling
  • Wrestling

Players are also not allowed to touch the goalkeeper when he is inside the small rectangle. Gaelic football is for males only, but there is a separate ladies Gaelic football, which is controlled by a different organization, the Ladies Gaelic Football Association. This is one of the only remaining sports that is still strictly amateur; no one involved (players, coaches, managers) receive any form of payment.

Interested to see Ireland’s most popular game while you’re on your vacation to Ireland? Pack your bags, read our helpful travel tips, and enjoy an amazing trip to Ireland!

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