Gaelic football is one of the oldest and most popular sports in Ireland, played by men, women and children all around the country. The ball game is played between two teams, each with fifteen players. In simple terms the game looks like a mixture of rugby union and soccer; like rugby there are fifteen players per team and every player can use both their hands and feet, but they use a round ball similar to one used in soccer. One unique aspect of this sport is that a player can carry the ball as long as they want but they must bounce or ‘solo’ the ball (drop the ball on to the foot and kick it back into the hand) every four steps. In Gaelic football there are two different types of score possible, in the form of goals and points. A goal is awarded when a player kicks or punches the ball past the goalkeeper and into the net, and the umpire behind the goalposts confirms that a goal has been scored by raising a green flag. A point is awarded when a player kicks or hand-passes the ball between the posts but over the crossbar, and this is confirmed by the umpire raising a white flag. Each point is worth one, and a goal is worth three points. Unlike soccer and rugby, Gaelic football is one of the few remaining amateur sports in the world. This means that Gaelic footballers, coaches and managers do not receive any form of payment for playing.
In September of every year the final of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship is played in Croke Park stadium in Dublin. The final has been played in Croke Park for well over 100 years as Dublin is the capital of Ireland and the stadium can hold over 80,000 people. All 32 counties in Ireland, plus London and New York, compete in the championship and the two best county teams in Ireland face each other in the ‘All-Ireland’ final for a chance to win the Sam Maguire cup. As in every Gaelic football championship match, the All-Ireland final lasts seventy minutes in total with two halves of thirty-five minutes each, and injury time can be added on at the discretion of the referee. There is always a fantastic atmosphere at these matches as the supporters chant and proudly wear the jersey of their local club or county. County Kerry has had the most success in winning the Sam Maguire cup; they have won the competition on thirty-seven occasions. Other counties in Ireland have not been so lucky and some have never won it at all!
Have you ever watched a Gaelic football match? Have you ever played Gaelic football?