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GAA 101 – Your Guide To Understanding Irish Sports

a group of hurling players on a field

 What Is The GAA?

The Gaelic Athletic Association, or GAA, consists of four indigenous Irish games: Hurling, Gaelic Football, Handball and Rounders. Hurling and football are the most widely played, with some matches shown all around the world. Handball and Rounders, despite not being as common, are equally as fascinating.

What Is Handball & Rounders?

Handball is like squash, but instead of a racquet, you use your hand to strike the ball! Games are played in singles or doubles within an enclosed court. The ball must be returned before it bounces twice and must hit the front wall before hitting the ground. It is a game played around the world and, naturally, Ireland is home to some of the world’s finest players.

Rounders is Ireland’s answer to baseball, the rules are almost identical! The only difference is that instead of a baseball, a sliotar is used as the ball of play.

Though not as common as hurling and football, these sports are engrained in Irish culture and are incredibly fun to both watch and play. If you happen to stumble upon a game, be sure to hang around and watch, you won’t regret it!     

a group of people playing football on a field


a group of young men playing a game of frisbee









What Is Hurling & Gaelic Football?

Hurling and Gaelic football are a massive part of Irish life. They are the most popular pastimes amongst young people around the country. They have been played for over 130 years with the passion and commitment to both as strong as ever.


The game of hurling has to be seen to be believed. It is the fastest moving ball game in the world, where 30 players (15 on each team) battle through hell for 70 minutes to see who wins. Players use hurleys to strike, control and pass the ball around a pitch roughly the same size as a soccer pitch. A hurley is a long, flat, flexible piece of ash that is carved to suit the player using it. Teams can score 1 point by hitting the sliotar over the bar or 3 points for scoring a goal – sticking the ball in the back of the net!


Clare: 3:14 = 3 goals (9 points) + 14 points = 23 points

Tipperary: 1:12 = 1 goal (3 points) + 12 points = 15 points

Clare wins!!!!!!

Hurling is most popular in the mid and south west of Ireland. Places like Cork, Clare and Tipperary have passion for hurling running through their veins and will worry little about anything else.

a group of hurling players on a field

Shane O’Donnell hurling for County Clare

Gaelic football:

The basic rules of gaelic football are the same as hurling, the game is played for 70 minutes with a goal worth 3 points and a point worth 1. However, the game is played much differently. The ball is much bigger; players use hand and foot passes to move the ball around the pitch and score. As the ball doesn’t move as fast as in hurling, players are much fitter and stronger and do much more running with the ball. Football is more popular than hurling in Ireland, and equally as exciting to watch. It takes terrific skill and athleticism to play gaelic football, so would be well worth enjoying while visiting Ireland. Football strongholds would be seen in places like Dublin, Kerry and Tyrone, where the rivalries are strong and the battles fierce!

a man playing a game of football

David Clifford playing football for County Kerry

What Makes The GAA So Popular?

The GAA goes hand in hand with life all around Ireland. It starts with the local community, in rural towns and villages around Ireland. People live and die for playing for their local clubs and maybe even county! It is an amateur game, fuelled purely by commitment and dedication to the sport and the people involved. Children begin playing from the age of 5-6 and can continue until well into their 30’ or 40’s if they are lucky enough.

It is a diverse and welcoming community, where everyone is encouraged to give it a go. Winning a championship with your local club can be the highlight of people’s lives. It really is what makes Ireland great!

a group of people playing football on a field

Children playing GAA from the age of 5 years old

What is the most important event in the GAA?

The All Ireland final for Hurling and Gaelic Football are the biggest events on the GAA calendar. The games are held on separate weekends in Croke Park (Dublin). The 82,000 seater stadium sells out every year with millions tuning in on radio and tv.

a stadium with a large crowd of people

Croke Park on All Ireland Final Day – full with 82,000 people.

How Can I Experience This?

At Ollie’s Tours, we offer unique workshops where you can try your hand at hurling and football in a fun, safe environment. We will show you the basic skills of the games while offering fascinating insights about the history and story of the games. Book now and don’t miss out!

a group of people practicing hurling in a room

Ollie’s Tours Irish culture workshop – Try Out Hurling!