Gaelic Football From the 1800s to the Present

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Over the last few centuries, the Irish have been fiercely protective of their unique identity in light of continuous encroachment from England and global culture in general. Many view this as a losing effort in the long run, but the Irish have at least had success in the area of sport, where the uniquely Irish sports of Gaelic football and hurling have remained the most popular games in the country.

Gaelic football and Irish culture

Gaelic football evokes passion among the Irish, and it is a major source of national pride, but it still hasn’t spread to other countries in a big way. There are pros and cons to this. On the pro side, its lack of global success has prevented it from becoming tainted by international culture. On the con side, star players don’t typically get famous outside of Ireland, and this prevents them from getting the international stardom and endorsement deals that players in internationally popular games get.

Of course, this latter point can be viewed as a pro. When players aren’t worried about making big bucks or achieving global stardom, this ensures that the game itself remains the main focus. Even at the top levels of the game, it remains amateur in character, and teams maintain strong bonds to their local communities, which of course leads to rabid fandom.

Gaelic football history

Gaelic football evolved into its current form out of traditional Irish games that have been around for hundreds or even thousands of years. In the 1800s, there was a popular version of the game that spanned miles of open countryside and often involved large fistfights and intense wrestling. The events were largely social, and many of the players were drunk by the time the game really got going.

The Gaelic Athletic Association, the body that oversees Gaelic football, was founded in the late 1800s during a time of intense resistance to British encroachment into Ireland. The organization secured high-powered sponsorships from the Catholic church and became wildly popular in short order. Since then, although it has been invariably tied in with the politics of the conflict between the Irish and British, Gaelic football has been an essential part of Irish culture. It’s a national ritual that practically everyone gets behind, and the passion the Irish hold for the game is unmatched anywhere else in the world.

And this love affair shows no sign of letting up any time soon. The game just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and it has even showed signs of spilling over into places like Australia, the U.S., and East Asia.

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