GAA and Gaelic Football in Ireland

The Gaelic Athletic Association known as GAA is Irelands largest sporting organisation. It is part of the Irish culture and plays an influential role in Irish society. It was founded on November 1st 1884 at a meeting in Thurles, Co. Tipperary by a group of Irish men. Within six months of that famous meeting, GAA clubs began to spring up all over Ireland and people began to play games and took part in athletic events with pride. The association today promotes Gaelic games such as Hurling, Football, Handball and Rounders. The GAA works with sister organisations to promote Camogie and Ladies Football. It also promotes Irish music, dance and song and the Irish language is an important part of its aims. The GAA club has over 2200 clubs in all 32 counties of Ireland.

Gaelic Football is the most popular of the Gaelic games and is played by a team of fifteen on a rectangular shaped pitch with H-shaped goals at each end. The game is played with a round ball, slightly smaller than a soccer ball. Both hands and feet are used to control and pass the ball. The aim of the game is to score by driving the ball through or across the bar of the goals. If the ball goes under the bar this is three points for the team and if the ball goes over the bar this is one point for the team.

About Gaelic Football The ball can be carried in the hand for a distance of four steps and can be kicked or ‘hand-passed’. This is a striking movement with the fist. After every four steps the ball must be passed or ‘solo-ed’. This is the action of dropping the ball onto the foot and kicking it back into the hand. You may not bounce the ball twice in a row. Physical contact is allowed shoulder to shoulder. Players advance the football up the field towards the opposite goals through a combination of carrying, kicking, bouncing, hand passing and soloing. A goal is signalled by raising a green flag placed to the left of the goal. A point is signalled by raising a white flag placed to the right of the goal. 

Facts about Gaelic Football Croke Park is a Gaelic games stadium located in Dublin often referred to as Croker by GAA fans and locals. It is both the principle stadium and headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association. It also hosts concerts from time to time.The game is said to have come from ancient Irish football known as Caid which dates way back to 1537 although the modern game took shape in 1887. It is the most popular sport in Ireland in terms of attendance and the final of the all-Ireland Senior Championship held yearly at Croke Park draws in a crowd of more than 80,000 people. The female version of Ladies Gaelic football is very similar to the men’s with a few minor changes to the rules.


Animals unique to Ireland

Irish Red Setters are hunting dogs. They are known for their stunning appearance and are equally known for their rollicking attitude. They are clownish rogues of the dog world. Setters are lively, clever and come with a great sense of mischief. Rich red in colour with floppy ears, they have a lifespan of between 10-15 years and have lots of energy, meaning they require a considerable amount of exercise as they love to run. Setters are a good size dog, between 25-27 inches in height. They stand tall and elegant in appearance and are a high spirited dog with a kind temperament which makes them great family dogs.


Red foxes are common throughout Ireland in both rural and urban habitats. They live in a single family unit and hunt alone. They are elusive and largely nocturnal. The foxes usually stay well-hidden and many people go about their lives completely oblivious to the proximity of this striking mammal.

Galway Sheep our a breed from the West of Ireland. In appearance their faces are completely white and they have a characteristic bob of wool on their head and wool on their legs. The outer lips are a dark colour and dark spots on ears are common.

The Connemara Pony is a breed originating in Ireland. They are known as Capaillín Chonamara. This breed is a strong, yet kind natured and is unique to the West of Ireland. They are of Scandinavian descent and were brought to Ireland by the Vikings. Up until the 20th century these ponies were a core part of Irish households and were used to pull ploughs , carry turf and bring family to mass on a Sunday. They have a calm temperament making them popular for trekking and riding and they are also fabulous at show jumping. Now bred internationally, they are the largest of pony breeds. The first Connemara pony was imported to Australia in 1963 who share a massive love for this breed.


The Irish Hare- Lepus Timidus

The Irish mountain hare is one of Irelands longest established indigenous species of mammal. They are found on mountain tops and in bog land areas. They are distinguished by having a stockier build, pure white tail and shorter ears. They are much larger than rabbits and have a more upright stance. Hares have developed senses of hearing and smell and have good vision. Their long powerful hind limbs allow them to outrun most predators. Females will usually have 2/3 litters per year and approximately 2-4 young in each.

The lizard is noted for being the only species of reptile native to Ireland but can be found throughout the United Kingdom .

There are in total 9 native Irish dog breeds– four terriers, three gun dogs and two hounds. They were all working dogs but formed an integral part of Irish family life and were excellent companions.

Glen of Imaal Terrior is a strong independent dog breed. They are named after the remote isolated valley in Irelands Wicklow mountains where the dogs originated. Sometimes the name is reduced to just Glen. Bred to hunt fox and badger and to keep homes free of rodents, the Glen is a skilled and cunning hunter.

Irish Water Spaniel is a hunting dog known for its red curls, rat like tail and naturally oily coat. It is a breed of dog that is one of the largest and one of the oldest of spaniels.

Irish Moiled Cattle The name comes from the Gaelic word ‘maol’ meaning bald, relating to the fact that these cows do not have horns. They are usually red with white areas along the back and underside and flecked faces with a dominant dome shape on forehead. They are a low breed and named for their rounded head. This distinctive breed originated within the counties of Sligo, Donegal and Leitrim and is considered one of the oldest Irish cattle types. The largest population of Irish moiled cattle is actually in Finland.

Kerry Bog Pony is a small mountain and moorland breed that originated in Kerry but is now found all over Ireland. Numbers are very low and the breed is still critically endangered. They are known to have a good temperament making them a good child’s pony.














Old Halloween Traditions


Colcannon was a traditional Halloween dinner. Colcannon is boiled potatoes, curly cabbage and raw onion. Coins were wrapped in baking paper and placed in the potato for the children to find and keep.


Halloween cake

A traditional Halloween cake is call barnbrack, which is a fruit cake. Each family member gets a piece. Great interest is taken in the outcome of this activity. There is a piece of rag, a coin and a ring in each cake, with each item having a meaning behind it. The rag suggested your financial future is in doubt. The coin is a positive sign and suggests a prosperous year. A ring is also positive and suggests impending romance or continued happiness.



The Ivy leaf

Each member of the family puts a perfect ivy leaf in water and leaves it undisturbed for the night. If the leaf is perfect in the morning and has not developed any spots then this person can be sure of good health for 12 months.Blind date

Blindfolded local girls would go out into a field and pull up the first cabbage that they found. If the cabbage had a sustainable amount of earth attached to the roots their future loved one would be wealthy. Eating would reveal the nature of the future whether bitter or sweet.






Halloween in Ireland

Halloween originated in Ireland. It comes from the ancient Celtic festival Samhain which is pronounced sow- in. This is old Irish and means end of summer. The 1stof November became known as- All Saints or All hallows day which was a day to honour for all the saints and martyrs. This resulted in the night before being called All- hallow-eve which later became known as Halloween.

The Samhain festival was an important fire festival that is celebrated over the evening of 31stOctober and throughout the following day. Due to how the Celtic calendar worked, Samhain went from sundown on 31st October  to sundown on the 1st November. This festival is believed to be over 2000 years old and is said to mark the ending of the summer and the beginning of winter months.

The Celts believed that during this festival spirits could possibly pass between two worlds on this night. This was essentially believed to be the last day of the year and was a time when the souls of the dead would return to their former homes  and spirits would be set free from other worlds and would become visible to mankind.

During this festival the crops would be gathered and stored somewhere safe for the winter. Animals would be brought in from the fields. Holy water was placed on farm animals to keep them safe during the night. People would deliberately make a lot of noise in a bid to unsettle spirits and force them away. The timid and more shy would rather leave food out in their homes hoping that their kindness would pacify them. For some the ritual of leaving food and a spoon out- which was usually a plate of champ or colcannon was instead about offering hospitality to their own ancestors.

While some beliefs and traditions are a thing of the past some still remain a part of our Halloween celebrations to date.

Dress up

A tradition that still remains is dress up at Halloween which came from this festival. People would wear ugly masks, animal skin and various disguises in an attempt to protect themselves against evil spirits roaming around and to prevent the dead from recognising individuals.


Many households particularly those with children, still leave out a pumpkin and enjoy the activity of scooping out the inside and carving a face onto it. However, this carving dates back to the 18th century and the idea started with a turnip. An Irish black smith named Jack plotted with the devil and was refused entry into heaven. He was sentenced to wander the earth but requested that the devil give him some light. He was given a burning coal ember which Jack placed into a turnip that he had gouged out himself. Thus the tradition of Jack Lanterns was born, the wandering blacksmith. Villagers in Ireland hoped light in their window would keep Jack away. However, when the Irish emigrated to America in their millions there was not a great supply of turnips so pumpkins were used instead.

Snap apple

Snap apple is a common party game to this day. An apple is suspended on a piece of string. The children are blindfolded and try to bite the apple. The child that manages the biggest bite first receives a prize.


Bonfires are traditions that still occur. People used to light bonfires in an attempt to ward off bad spirits and guide good spirits. The idea behind lighting a bonfire was to encourage dreams of who your future wife or husband was going to be. The person would drop a cutting of their hair into the bonfire and then dream of their future loved one.