Gaelic Athletic Association

GAA redirects here. For the ice hockey statistic, see Goals against average.
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Gaelic Athletic Association

The Gaelic Athletic Association (The GAA) (Irish: Cumann Lúthchleas Gael) is an organisation which is mostly focussed on promoting Irish sports, such as hurling and camogie, Gaelic football and handball, and rounders. The organisation also promotes Irish music and dance, and the Irish language as an integral part of its objectives. The organisation is largely based, both functionally and in terms of competition, on the traditional counties of Ireland.


Foundation of the GAA

The man directly involved in the founding of the GAA was a Clareman named Michael Cusack. Born in 1847 Cusack went on to pursue a career as a teacher at Blackrock College, in Dublin. In 1877 he set up his own cramming school, the Civil Service Academy, to prepare students for examinations into the British Civil Service. "Cusack's Academy" as it was known and its pupils did extremely well with the result that the numbers attending it soared. Pupils at the Academy were encouraged to get involved in all forms of physical exercise and, as a language enthusiast, Cusack was troubled by falling standards in specifically Irish games. To remedy this situation and to re-establish hurling as the national pastime, Cusack met with several other enthuasiasts and the Gaelic Athletic Association was established on Saturday, November 1, 1884 in Hayes's Hotel, Thurles, County Tipperary.

Within a few weeks of the foundation of the association, Archbishop Thomas Croke of Cashel gave it his approval and became its first patron. Its other patrons included both Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell. Cusack was a difficult man to get along with but in the first few months of the organisation he proved to be an excellent organiser. He did not, however continue to run the association for long after its foundation. Within eighteen months he was obliged to resign as a result of his failure to submit accounts for auditing. Croke introduced a new rule which forbade members of the GAA from playing "foreign and fantastic games" such as tennis, cricket, polo, and croquet.

Over the next few years the GAA evolved even more. In 1886 County Committees were established becoming the units of representation for the new All-Ireland championship. Later, new rules for Gaelic football and hurling were drawn up by the Association and were published in the United Irishman newspaper. The year 1887 saw the first All-Ireland Championships being held in both codes of sport. 12 of the 32 counties of Ireland entered, although only five competed in hurling and eight in football.

Bloody Sunday, 1920

Sunday, November 21, 1920 was a black day for the Gaelic Athletic Association and a black day in the history of the War of Independence. Dublin had been scheduled to play Tipperary on that day, however, on the night before the match the leader of the Irish revolutionary forces, Michael Collins, had ordered the assassination of the "Cairo Gang", 14 British intelligence officers sent to infiltrate his organisation under the guise of commercial travellers. In revenge for these assassinations the British forces decided to go on a killing spree in Croke Park.

Shortly after the ball was thrown in at 2.45 pm an airplane flew over the ground and a red flare was shot from the cockpit. Black and Tans then raided the ground and an officer on top of the wall fired a revolver shot. The crowd thought at first they were firing blanks but then machine gunfire was fired in increasing volume. Two of the players, Michael Hogan and Jim Egan, failed to make it off the pitch.

Aims of the GAA

  • 1. To prevent the decline of native pastimes.
  • 2. To open athletics to all social classes.
  • 3. To aid in the establishment of hurling and football club which would organise matches between counties.

The GAA in the Twentieth Century

Up to the turn of the century most of the members were farm labourers, small farmers, barmen or shop assistants. But from 1900 onwards a new type of person — those who were now being influenced by the Gaelic League (1893) — joined the movement. They tended to be clerks, school teachers or civil servants. In 1922 it passed over the job of promoting athletics to the National Athletic and Cycling Association.

The Achievements of the GAA

  • 1. The ancient game of hurling was saved from extinction and both it and Gaelic football were standardised.
  • 2. As a result of the GAA native games were taken out of the hands of the landlords and police and passed to the nationalists.
  • 3. A spirit of local patriotism was awakened in Ireland.
  • 4. In its democratic constitution it helped prepare the country for self-government.
  • 5. The GAA played an important part in the forging of a national identity in the early years of the twentieth century.

Sectarianism and the GAA

The GAA is often accused of being a sectarian organisation, usually by hardline unionists in the Six Counties. They maintain that its establishment was based on political nationalism and republicanism and the Catholic Church. In fact, the GAA has always promoted Irish rather than Catholic identity, and has had members of minority religions playing an active role from its inception up to the present day. Initially, members were prohibited from playing "foreign" sports, and up until recently, such sports were officially barred from using GAA grounds. In practice, however, the ban is applied only to soccer and rugby. Since the 1960s, GAA has allowed its flagship stadium, Croke Park, to be used for International rules football — a compromise between Gaelic football and Australian rules — in matches between Ireland and Australia. And in the 1980s, Croke Park was the venue for an American football game between Notre Dame and Navy.

However on 16 April 2005 the GAA's congress voted to suspend its Rule 42 ban on foreign games to enable the Football Association of Ireland and the Irish Rugby Football Union to play their international fixures at Croke Park while their own stadium, Lansdowne Road is being rebuilt. Delegates from five of the six counties of Northern Ireland strongly opposed the change, as well as those from County Cork but they were outvoted by delegates from the rest of the country. It is now up to the the Central Council to decide when matches can take place. First soccer and rugby games in Croke Park are expected to take place in early 2007.

A ban (Rule 21) on members of the British security forces from playing Gaelic games was lifted on 17 November 2001 after the creation of the new Police Service of Northern Ireland and after much lobbying from the more progressive majority in the association. Only one of the six counties (County Down), voted for its removal. The nationalism of the GAA made its members and clubhouses particular targets for unionist terrorists during the Troubles.

The GAA Today

The GAA is the largest amateur sports association in Ireland. The GAA has more than 3,000 member clubs and runs about 500 grounds throughout Ireland.

GAA Internationals

Strictly speaking, the GAA doesn't hold true internationals, however, hurlers play an annual fixture against a national Shinty team from Scotland, and — as mentioned above — Gaelic footballers have also played Australian national teams drawn from the Australian Football League on a number of occasions, under hybrid rules.

Important Dates of the GAA

  • [[1884]: The Gaelic Athletic Association is founded on November 1 in Hayes's Hotel in Thurles, County Tipperary
  • 1886: Wexford County oard becomes the first GAA county organisation in the country.
  • 1887: Tipperary and Limerick win the first All-Ireland Hurling and Football Finals respectively.
  • 1892: The rules of hurling and football are altered. Goals are made equal to five points and teams are reduced fro 21 to 17-a-side.
  • 1895: Cork introduces inter-county teams in the All-Ireland championships. Before this the champion club represented the county.
  • 1896: The value of a goal is further reduced from 5 points to 3 points.
  • 1900: The provincial councils of Munster, Leinster, Connacht and Ulster are sanctioned.
  • 1904: New rules for camogie are drawn up.
  • 1912: The Junior Championships are introduced at All-Ireland level.
  • 1913: The Jones's Road Ground, Dublin, is purchased by the GAA and renamed Croke Memorial Park.
  • 1920: Twelve spectators and a player, Michael Hogan, are killed in Croke Park during a raid by Black and Tans.
  • 1923: Galway hurlers win Connacht's first All-Ireland.
  • 1924: The Tailteann Games are held in Croke Park.
  • 1925: The declaration rule now means that players can play for their county of birth, rather than their county of residence Galway win Connacht's first All-Ireland Football title after a series of objections.
  • 1926: The first radio broadcast of a GAA match takes place when Galway play Kilkenny.
  • 1927: The Railway Cup competition is introduced.
  • 1931: The name Cumann Lúthchleas Gael is adopted.
  • 1932: The first All-Ireland Camogie Championship takes place.
  • 1935: the GAA enters its second half century. A crowd of 50,000 attend the All-Ireland Finals.
  • 1938: Micheál Ó Hehir commentates on fis first GAA match
  • 1939: The Cork V. Kilkenny hurling match is remembered as the "thunder & lightning final" as the climax is played in a storm. On the same day World War II begins.
  • 1947: The Cavan V. Kerry All-Ireland Football Final is played in the Polo Grounds, New York.
  • 1954: A record 84,856 attend Croke Park when Cork play Wexford in the hurling final.
  • 1959: The 75th Anniversary of the GAA is commemorated with the opening of the first cantilevered New Hogan Stand at Croke Park.
  • 1961: A record 90,556 attend the Down V. Offaly All-Ireland Football Final at Croke Park.
  • 1962: The first GAA match is broadcast live on Telefís Éireann (now RTÉ).
  • 1967: The first International rules football game against an Australian side.
  • 1976: Páirc Uí Chaoimh is opened in Cork City. It is the first purpose-built GAA stadium.
  • 1984: The Centenary year of the GAA. The All-Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Offaly is played in Semple Stadium, Thurles.
  • 1993: A grand plan to completely re-construct Croke Park was launched.
  • 1996: The new Cusack Stand was opened.
  • 2002: The redeveloped Cusack, Canal End and Hogan Stands are officially opened.
  • 2005: The new Hill 16 is officially opened.

Presidents of the GAA

# Name Took Office Left Office County
1.Maurice Davin 1884 1887 Tipperary
2.Edward Bennet 1887 1888 Clare
Maurice Davin (2nd term) 1888 1889 Tipperary
3.Peter Kelly 1889 1889 Galway
4.Frank Dineen 1895 1898 Limerick
5.Micheal Deering 1898 1901 Cork
6.James Nowlan 1901 1921 Kilkenny
7.Daniel McCarthy 1921 1924 Dublin
8.Patrick Breen 1924 1926 Wexford
9.Liam Clifford 1926 1928 Limerick
10.Seán Ryan 1928 1932 Dublin
11.Seán McCarthy 1932 1935 Cork
12.Robert O'Keefe 1935 1938 Laois
13.Pádraig MacNamee 1938 1943 Antrim
14.Séamus Gardiner 1943 1946 Tipperary
15.Dan O'Rourke 1946 1949 Roscommon
16.Michael Kehoe 1949 1952 Wexford
17.Vincent O'Donoghue 1952 1955 Waterford
18.Séamus MacFerran 1955 1958 Antrim
19.Joseph Stuart 1958 1961 Dublin
20.Aodh Ó Broin 1961 1964 Wicklow
21.Alf Ó Muirí 1964 1967 Armagh
22.Séamus Ó Riain 1967 1970 Tipperary
23.Pádraig Ó Fainín 1970 1973 Waterford
24.Donal Ó Cianáin 1973 1977 Roscommon
25.Con Murphy 1976 1979 Cork
26.Pádraig Mac Floinn 1979 1982 Down
27.Pádraig Ó Bogaigh 1982 1985 Kilkenny
28.Mick Loftus 1985 1988 Mayo
29.John Dowling 1988 1991 Offaly
30.Peter Quinn 1991 1994 Fermanagh
31.Jack Boothman 1994 1997 Wicklow
32.Joe McDonagh 1997 2000 Galway
33.Seán McCague 2000 2003 Monaghan
34.Seán Kelly 2003 Current Incumbent Kerry
35.Nicky Brennan 2006 2009 Kilkenny

Major GAA Grounds

See also

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