Gaelic football is an Irish team sport and one of six sports (collectively referred to as “Gaelic games”) controlled by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), the largest sporting organisation in Ireland. Along with hurling and camogie, Gaelic football is one of the few remaining strictly amateur sports in the world, with players, coaches, and managers prohibited from receiving any form of payment.
Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Ireland in terms of attendance, and the final of the All-Ireland Senior Championship, held annually at Croke Park, Dublin, draws crowds of more than 80,000 people.
Gaelic football as it is known today dates back to the late 19th century, various kinds of football were played in Ireland before this time and the first legal reference to football in Ireland was in 1308. Gaelic football is mainly played on the island of Ireland but has been spread by Irish emigrants to 70+ countries. Although strongest in Great Britain, North America, and Australia, the game is experiencing rapid growth in Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia.
It is played between two teams of 15 players on a rectangular grass pitch. The objective of the sport is to score by kicking or punching the ball into the other team’s goals (3 points) or between two upright posts above the goals and over a crossbar 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) above the ground (1 point). Players advance the football, a spherical leather ball, up the field with a combination of carrying, bouncing, kicking, hand-passing, and soloing (dropping the ball and then toe-kicking the ball upward into the hands). Positions in Gaelic football are similar to that in other football codes, and comprise one goalkeeper, six backs, two midfielders, and six forwards, with a variable number of substitutes.
Under the auspices of the GAA, Gaelic football is a male-only sport; however, the related sport of ladies’ Gaelic football is governed by the Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association. The rules of both sports are very similar although deliberate physical is not permitted in the female version.
Similarities between Gaelic football and Australian rules football have allowed the development of international rules football, a hybrid sport, and a series of Test matches has been held regularly since 1998.