Sometimes described as a hybrid game of soccer, rugby and basketball, Gaelic football (GAA) is one of the leading sports in Ireland both in terms of participation and fan support, and nowhere will you find a more fanatical following of the sport than within County Mayo. If you’re on a break in the region, why not attend a gaelic football game in Mayo North?
It is one of the five amateur sports which make up the GAA, or Gaelic Athletic Association – the others being hurling, handball, rounders and camogie.
Played usually on a grass pitch by both men and women, this fast, energetic field game is made up of two teams with 15 players on each. Similar to other sports, the objective is to outscore your opponent during the hour’s play. This is done by sending the ball (which is somewhat similar in size to a soccer ball) through the goals. The goals themselves look similar to rugby posts, with two vertical posts and a crossbar. One point is awarded for sending the ball through the posts and over the crossbar, while there are three points on offer to the team who scores a goal (between the posts and under the crossbar).
Competitions and games are played at two distinctive levels, club and county. All players play for their local club team first and foremost, and these club teams are drawn primarily from the parish in which the player lives.
Unlike professional sports where there are contracts of employment and movement of players from club to club for transfer fees, Gaelic Footballers will in the vast majority of cases stay with the one club throughout their lives. From these clubs, the best players can be called to represent their county team. These teams then play in their own separate competitions against other counties culminating in the All Ireland final in Croke Park on the 3rd Sunday in September each year.
North Mayo has a rich tradition in Gaelic football with there being some records of the games being organised between parishes since the creating of the GAA in the late 1884. Throughout the decades, Gaelic football has continued to flourish and grow in our area, with the local GAA club often being the main sporting and social focal point in a parish.
For the visitor, Gaelic Games can provide a memorable, mesmerising sporting experience, and games can be caught at a whole host of venues throughout North Mayo nearly all year round, but the summer months tend to be the busiest and best period of the year to witness the passionate and pulsating action.
If you and/or your group are just exploring our area, why not just call into a match and discover one of North Mayo’s and indeed Ireland’s greatest treasures?
Local radio and newspaper advertisements can be a great source of information as to what games are on in the area, or you’ll find all fixtures listed on www.mayogaa.com.
Look out in particular for local derby fixtures such as Ballina Stephenites vs. Knockmore, or Crossmolina Deel Rovers vs. Lahardane MacHales to get a real flavour of local pride, honour and sporting endeavour, and a sense of the passion that ensure that the GAA club lies at the heart of every single community in Ireland.
Header photo and photos of Ardnaree Sarsfields vs. Killala courtesy of John Mee Photography.
Crossmolina Deel Rovers vs. Knockmore courtesy of James Wright Photography.