The Core of Irish Culture: The GAA

Well folks, I caved. After a combined 33 months of living in Ireland, it finally happened. I went to a real live GAA match at Croke Park! And then another a few weeks later!

And, to let you in on a little secret, I kinda liked it…

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The GAA (pronounced ‘gah’) is a uniquely Irish thing, steeped history, both of the athletic and political persuasion. The GAA was officially formed in the late 1800s as a direct response to English rule and Irish culture being eliminated. The GAA doesn’t only promote and preserve Irish sport, but Irish culture, traditions, dance, music, and especially language. If you are interested in the more turbulent aspects of this history, check out the Gaelic Athletic Association Museum.

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Just one of the many side streets that are jammed on match days. Croke Park has over 80,000 seats!

The sport we saw was Gaelic Football, which is sort of a mixture of football (soccer) and rugby. We saw the quarter finals in August and the replay of the semi final between Dublin and Mayo in September. But the GAA also includes hurling, camogie, handball, and rounders.

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Comhghairdeas (“Congratulations” in Irish)

One of the things I love about the GAA, is that Irish really is the first (and sometimes only) language of it. The counties’ names are only in Irish. Many of the announcement and signs are in only Irish. Even though Irish and English are both official languages of Ireland, one can guess that knowledge of Irish isn’t imperative to everyday life. It was nice to the focus placed on it.

I honestly cannot believe it took me almost three years to get to know this integral aspect of Irish life and culture. *Shamed* So do yourself a favor, no matter how much time you spend in Ireland, learn about the GAA through a local club match, a social event, or check out the GAA Museum.

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