Gaelic Football is a field sport developed in Ireland that is akin torugby and soccer, with a little bit of basketball to boot. The game isimmensely popular in its home country, with a rabid fan base for thetop-level teams.
In the U.S., it’s a niche sport that enjoys some success in largercities and in many colleges. On the local level in the U.S., it is oftenfostered by the local immigrant Irish population.
Officially, the game is played on a pitch that is larger than asoccer field, but in the United States, such fields are not very common,so most local games are played on soccer or American football fields.
American football fields are often used because goal posts for thatgame are about the right size for those used Gaelic Football.
THE BASICS OF GAELIC FOOTBALL
Gaelic Football teams have 15 players on each side, including onegoalkeeper. Play is divided into two halves of 35 minutes each.
Scoring varies depending on how the ball passes through the goal. Ifthe ball goes through the “soccer goal” area, it is scored as threepoints. This is called a goal.
If it is kicked above the goal area, but between the goal posts, it counts as one point. This is called a point.
However, scores are not listed as totals. Instead, spectators seescores such as “0-12, 1-15.” In this particular match-up, team 1 didn’tscore any goals, but it scored 12 over-the-crossbar points. Team 2scored one goal and 15 points. This means team 2 beat team 1, with afinal score of 18 -12. Yes, it’s some math that American spectatorsaren’t used to, but it’s easy math.
To advance the ball down the field, players can run four steps withit, kick it or “hand-pass” it. A hand-pass isn’t a simple throw, butmore of a bunt to another player.
HOW TO PLAY GAELIC FOOTBALL IN THE UNITED STATES
Gaelic Football clubs are located throughout the United States, andare largely coordinated by local chapters of the Gaelic AthleticAssociation. The North American GAA has a list of clubs at its website,and if there isn’t one nearby, its fairly easy to start one, especiallyif your area has even a moderate-sized Irish population.
Your best bet to gather players is to contact your local Irish pub,Catholic diocese or Catholic schools and universities. Why contact aCatholic institution? The sport, along with Hurling,is largely played by Irish Catholics, and was even targeted foreradication in Ireland by the English. Contacting a Catholicorganization will help you get support, and you may even find an Irishimmigrant or two who are eager to get back to playing.
WHERE TO WATCH GAELIC FOOTBALL IN THE UNITED STATES
In the U.S., watching a game from Ireland can be a bit difficult. For a short time, Setanta, the premium rugby and soccer channel, carried games through the season, but Setanta’s U.S. channel has folded.
As of 2010, MHZ, a cable network based in Washington, D.C., carries games,but these are often broadcast a week or so behind schedule and at oddhours. Additionally, MHZ is only available on a few cable systems. Itisn’t available on Dish Network.
Setanta has continued to broadcast live games through its super-premium “pub channel,” but venues are limited in the United States. You can see if any local pubs offer the channel here.
Sometimes the best bet for viewing games is to watch the abbreviated ones provided by Irish broadcaster RTE, a special embedded webcast player can be found in the football section of the RTE site.
For more information
- The Gaelic Athletic Association
- “Ireland’s Professional Amateurs: A Sports Season at its Purest” by Andy Mendlowitz
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