What is Gaelic Football?

Gaelic football is an Irish team sport. It is a form of football derived from traditional Irish ball games.

It is typically played between two teams of 15 players on a rectangular grass pitch although here in North America we play smaller sized games to suit the smaller sports facilities available.


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).

In the game, two types of scores are possible: points and goals. A point is awarded for kicking or hand-passing the ball over the crossbar, signalled by the umpire raising a white flag. A goal is awarded for kicking the ball under the crossbar into the net, signalled by the umpire raising a green flag.

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.

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Gaelic football is one of four sports (collectively referred to as the “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 mainly played on the island of Ireland, although units of the Association exist in other areas such as Great Britain and North America.

Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Ireland in terms of attendance, with the 2011 All-Ireland Senior Championship Final, held at Croke Park, Dublin, drawing an attendance of 82,300 people. Outside of Ireland, football is mainly played amongst members of the Irish diaspora.

Gaelic Park in New York City is the largest purpose-built Gaelic sports venue outside of Ireland. Three major football competitions operate throughout the year: the National Football League and the All-Ireland Senior Championship are operated on a county basis, while the All-Ireland Club Championship is contested by individual clubs.

The All-Ireland Senior Championship is run as a knock-out competition, with the top two counties meeting in the All-Ireland Football Final, considered the most prestigious event in Gaelic football.

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.