GAA Going Global

Saw this on Joe. Read about the the GAA’s plan of action recently on this. Gaelic Football would easier to spread around the world obviously due to it’s simple skills. Hurling would require one hell of an effort.
Pity Ireland were never a superpower and invaded a few countries to spread gaelic games the same way soccer spread throughout the world in British clonies.

There’s quite a bit of it to read, apologies.
Wexford v Barcelona could happen yet!

By Denis O’Brien

One day in the not too distant future the idea of International GAA matches might change from mere dreamtime to becoming reality.

Instead of the only show in town being the Aussies taking on the Irish in a foreign game – International Rules ain’t exactly home baked – we could see in its place the real deal, the likes of Ireland taking on an All Britain or Europe team in Gaelic football.

Surely I jest, you protest!

To explain - At the moment the GAA is undertaking its biggest effort yet to introduce and develop Gaelic games around the globe. Whatever about complacency in the past in such efforts, practical steps to develop Gaelic sports have been initiated within the past two years.

Worldwide plan of action

In tangent to the steps being taken – we’ll get to those in a minute - part of any worldwide development equation has to involve a certain plan of action. You see, for the best part of …well…126 years…such a plan, any plan had been missing.

Now, however, that has changed, as at present, a certain strategic world vision plan is being hatched. This is taking place in conjunction with GAA clubs all over the world and it is hoped to unveil the plan to the GAA world sometime next Spring.

Two elements for the foundation of such a plan were laid during Sean Kelly’s reign as GAA President. The first saw the introduction of the Provincial Council Twinning Programme. This saw provincial councils ‘partnering’ with international units offering refereeing, coaching and administrative courses and clinics to the five GAA Overseas units.

The arrangement sees North America twin with Munster GAA; UK and New York with Connacht GAA; Europe, Asia and Australasia (Australia & New Zealand) with Leinster GAA, while Canada, London and Warwickshire hurling have entered into a partnership with Ulster GAA.

Collaboration with Department of Foreign Affairs

The second step in the foundation for a plan sees one of the most ambitious developments ever initiated by the GAA since its birth. In 2007, The Department of Foreign Affairs launched a new policy aimed at financially assisting the Irish Diaspora abroad.

In turn, the GAA teamed up with the department and they invested €250,000 each to assist GAA activities on a global basis. Since the program’s commencement, the joint funding has been used for varied purposes. One of the most exciting of these endeavours has been the employment of 10 Community Development Administrators (CDA), whose job is to introduce and promote Gaelic games to communities in each of the seven county board regions of Britain.

The new officers give coaching clinics within clubs, schools and universities. The hope is to grow games participation, improve club player levels and introduce a structured approach to Gaelic games into schools throughout the UK.

United Kingdom

The programme has been a phenomenal success, as in the past two years in London alone, both hurling and football activities are taking place in no less than 63 schools across the city. Another success of the programme has been the introduction of Gaelic games to universities and colleges the length and breadth of Britain.

Associated with the GAA for the past 50 years in the UK, London GAA Chairman Tommy Harrell stated in a recent interview that the introduction of Gaelic games to London schools was very positive as it “had never happened before”. The spread of games into universities has also witnessed rapid growth. The GAA’s UK Universities programme has seen it grow from a one-tier competition in men’s Gaelic football to today’s three division February championship.

Last year, a total of 40 teams competed in the finals with 24 teams alone at Division 3 level - that is mostly University teams with a non-Irish makeup. Already this year, there are three more college teams competing at present in the early league. The university setup also sees 25 ladies football teams, along with twelve in hurling and seven in camogie, taking part in competition.

Community Development Administrator, Shane O’Hanlon, who is responsible for games development at University level, is excited about the future. “There has been a further increase in teams this year, so we are getting busier all the time,” he said recently.

GAA Overseas Chairman and former President of the GAA Joe McDonagh is delighted with developments in Britain, saying:

“The community development officers have been doing outstanding work, and particularly in the universities where there has been huge growth. The programme is one of the most exciting developments seen in the GAA in some time.” He added that the strategic alliance with the Department of Foreign Affairs has been “hugely beneficial.”


But Britain isn’t the only place that has seen growth; across the bigger pond to the west in America, Gaelic sports are being increasingly taken up by not only young Americans, but by adults as well.

While I will be looking in depth in upcoming articles as to what exactly is taking place on the ground in America, particularly in the case of hurling ‘hooking’ Americans left, right and centre, a window presently on the goings on at youth level gives an indication as to why the GAA is planning a global approach to Gaelic games.

Traditionally, GAA clubs in America depend on Irish summer immigrants to play with clubs and keep the games going across the Atlantic. With the advent of the infamous ‘Celtic Tiger’ attracting Irish back home, combined with stricter immigration rules in the wake of 9/11, clubs did find it difficult to maintain numbers and keep going.

While this summer import model is still very much in place, particularly in the traditional Irish cities of New York, Boston, and Chicago, the North American GAA and the New York GAA (separate entities) have realised – and for quite some time now - that such a model would not be sustainable for the future.

As a result, Youth Boards and youth development programs initiated locally have been set up across the States and now, with the introduction of six full time Games Development Administrators (GDA’s) - in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and New York - through proper structures (never really in place in the past), the possibility for Gaelic games at grassroots level is indeed exciting.

The topic of access to consistent media coverage of Irish games for Americans learning to play Gaelic games is a real issue but will be dealt with in detail in another article.

Continental Youth Championships (CYC)

Returning to the subject of growth at grass roots level in America, however, positives can be seen in the growth of the Continental Youth Championships of North America (CYC).

Began in 2004 in association with Croke Park, it was decided to get a kind of Féile North America that would include New York and Canada (with guests from Ireland and London) and so the CYC was born. In 2005, some 65 teams participated in the championship. This summer in Long Island, New York, that figure had grown to 140 teams, where some 2000 players from ages 8-18 took part in hurling, football, ladies football and camogie competitions.

Outside of Féile in Ireland, this competition is now the biggest underage GAA championships in the world and points to a more structured approach to doing business in the future.

“We are on a completely different plane to when I set out on my journey back in 1997 and it’s wonderful to see and witness it at first hand,” imparts McDonagh, who attended the CYC back in August.

Growing popularity

The GAA’s world landscape has indeed changed, for according to the GAA’s Strategic Vision & Action Plan 2009-2015, if we look at the number of affiliated GAA clubs worldwide just 8 years ago, there were some 250 international units in existence.

Today that number has almost doubled with figures in 2008 showing almost 400 clubs affiliated to the GAA worldwide.

Given the explosion of growth, the Overseas Chairman, along with a working group, has been mandated with “plotting and preparing” a global strategic plan for the GAA units abroad in a brave new world for the GAA.

“I have no doubt that we are sowing the seeds for the future and possibly in another 10 years, building on the platform already built, perhaps at the end of the day, what would be our dearly held ambition that we are moving towards a situation where we will have realistic international competition in Gaelic games themselves,” McDonagh added.

This writer reckons that such an international scenario – whatever the grade - will arrive sooner than one thinks given what’s goin’ on in particular in the US and Europe!

But more on that anon!

You don’t have to hold a global competition to have world finals B)


Unfortunately seems to happen in a lot of sports. Look at all the soccer clubs that are fooked financially. And Bohs might not be around this time next year! :frowning:

Wexford v Barcelona in Tallaght Stadium is the dream.

this is the first year in quiet some time that i missed out on the world series in croke park.

cc @The_Selfish_Giant


If spud hockey hasnt spread out of munster, dont think it will go global bro

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Just copped that your system for hurling semi finals has clicked again this year.

All 4 counties border Tipp :clap:

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Is it just once in your lifetime that Tipperary or a county that borders it hasn’t won the All Ireland @The_Selfish_Giant ?

Just the once mate, a blip