A beginner's guide to Gaelic games
So you're new to Gaelic games! That's great news, welcome to a whole new set of sports and the wonderful community that surrounds them. Right off the bat, you're probably wondering what these weird sports are—whether you saw hurling (with the stick and the little ball) or Gaelic football (soccer with hands)—and how you can play them.
What are these games?
There are two primary sports that we play: hurling and Gaelic football. Both games are played by men and women, with only slight rule differences. Both sports are traditionally played on a field approximately 150 by 90 yards, almost twice the square area of an American football field!
Hurling and Gaelic football have the same scoring system. At each end of the field is what looks like a soccer goal with tall posts on top. Hitting or kicking the ball above the goal through the uprights (think of kicking for the extra point in American football) earns your team one point, and getting the ball into the net past a goalkeeper (just like in soccer) earns you three points.
Hurling is played with a stick with a flat end (a hurl or hurley) and a ball called a sliotar. The sliotar is akin to a baseball, with a cork center and leather covering. Players can run with the ball in their hands for four steps, then touch the ball off their hurl, then carry the ball for four more steps. After that, you have to pass it off to a teammate. To move the ball, you can either strike it with your hurl, or do what's called a hand pass, slapping the ball with your hand. No throwing is allowed! Players can score by hitting the ball over the crossbar or into the goal. Hurling played by women is called camogie, and there are a few minor rule differences, but overall the spirit of the game is the same!
Gaelic football is played with a round ball somewhat like a soccer ball, though it's harder and a bit heavier. Players can run with the ball in their hands for four steps, but then have to either dribble the ball off the ground (like in basketball) or kick the ball back to themselves. Unlike in hurling, players can continually solo the ball like this as long as they want. To move the ball, players can either kick the ball or pass it by hitting it with your palm or fist. Again, no throwing the ball is allowed. Players can score by kicking or hitting the ball over the crossbar for one point, or kick it into the net for three points. Women and men both play Gaelic football, with just a few small rule differences.
At this point, you probably just want to see what this all looks like! Wait no longer: here's two great examples of the games in action.
Can I play them?
Absolutely! We want you to join our club! Whether you've played other sports before or not, we're always happy to invite new players into our teams. Joining the Gaels is a great option because it gets you into a new community of people and gives you an opportunity to play sports in an environment that's both competitive and friendly to newcomers.
The best way to keep in touch with us is via social media and our newsletter. If you have specific questions, you can always either email the public relations officer at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can send DMs or messages to any of our social media channels. We'll often post when we have games, training, or just casual meetups to kick or hit a ball around for fun. You're always welcome to pop by any of these to get to know some of your future teammates!
Find us below on social media and feel free to drop your email to join our newsletter list:
Where did they come from?
Hurling and Gaelic football are both sports that originated in Ireland and are wildly popular there. Both sports are all-amateur games and community-centered, pulling teammates only from the local area. Hurling in particular is a game that has a history going back centuries, even millennia.
If you're interested in the history of these games, check out this podcast we made with Paul Rouse, a professor and historian of Gaelic games:
That's the basics!
If you've made it this far, you've officially gotten your first explanation of Gaelic games! We're looking forward to seeing you out on the pitch with us. Again, if you've got any questions, just send us a DM or messages on social media, or send an email to email@example.com, no question is too simple!