How Many Countries Play In The Rugby World Cup The Greatest Sporting Organization in Ireland is the GAA

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The Greatest Sporting Organization in Ireland is the GAA

As I write, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is about to complete its 125th birthday. There were many celebrations of this milestone in 2009 with thousands of clubs across Ireland celebrating in their own unique way.

The GAA organization and its games are truly unique in the world of sport. No other country in the world has a set of games, played by amateur men and women to very high levels of fitness, and a huge level of skill that attract huge audiences in Ireland, yet continue to is almost unknown in any country around the world. With the exception of ex-pats organizing games in the US, UK and Australia, these great games are ignored by mainstream media around the world. And boy, what are they missing!

For those who may not know about Ireland’s national games a brief introduction is in order. Gaelic games are basically divided into football, hurling, camogie (effectively women’s hurling), women’s football and handball (similar to squash without rackets). The first two mentioned are the main games, played by men.

The core of the whole GAA system is the parish club and the amateur ethos. There are over 2,500 clubs in the 32 counties of Ireland. No player in any of the sports is paid and officials who fill full-time positions only receive salaries and expenses at the highest administrative level.

The attitude of the organization’s volunteers is incredible. Mentors and officials at club and county level work passionately to ensure the continuity of the games through generations as other sports compete to attract the children who will make the future. For a sport confined to the island of Ireland, the allure and enormous power it wields is a phenomenon not seen anywhere else in the sporting world.

The amateur aspect is also key to his success. Gaelic sporting heroes are tangible, ordinary men and women who perform heroically on the playing field, watched by thousands, and by a much larger television audience. And yet, they have jobs to go on Monday, whether it’s a construction site, or an accountancy practice, a teaching job or a place at university. These young men and women are touchy-feely people you meet in the pub having a pint, largely ignored by their local peers, but big stars in the media national. They live ordinary lives with their feet firmly planted on the ground. There is little room for posers in the GAA changing rooms and the unwavering attitude of most players, famous or not, is one that is instilled in them from a young age.

As a huge force for good in every community, whether it’s a small village or a big town, it’s impossible to calculate the huge cultural and personal benefits that come from the presence of a GAA club.

At a higher level, the success of the game has enabled the GAA, and Ireland, to have one of the world’s great stadiums – namely Croke Park, on the north side of Dublin. This stadium has a long history, but the foresight of the upper echelons of the GAA to demolish it practically in stages, while maintaining the championship fixture schedule and rebuild it completely by 2005 with a capacity of 82,000, was a feat tremendous for an amateur. organization. But there is not only Croke Park, but there are many great stadiums around the country, such as the stronghold of hurling Semple Stadium in Thurles, Pairc O Caoimbh in Cork, and Clones in Monaghan to mention a few.

It speaks volumes about the quality of the people running the organization when you see the shambles their counterparts in the FAI have made of football at local and national level, despite the great years of the 80’s and 90s, when the football profile was so high. with the success that Jack Charlton brought to the team and the country. The incompetent incompetents parading around as professional administrators in the FAI could take a lesson from what the football brigade sneers at as the Grab All Association.

It should be more accurately described as the Giving Away Society when one sees the money that seeps down to ground level, creating high quality amenities in every village and small town, while the football clubs still dragging behind the ditch and the national team homeless!

A very ancient administrative system where the existence of County Boards, Provincial Councils, and the management layers of the Central Councils are often criticized for their inability to move matters forward quickly. There is more than a degree of truth in that, and this has often led to a stalemate when trying to reach important decisions. More than anything else than the complicated and controversial decision to open Croke Park to facilitate the playing of football and rugby, games that were once alien to GAA culture due to the British occupation of Ireland when the Association was founded in 1884.

This mentality was reinforced by the memory of a barbaric act by the British forces in 1921 when they entered Croke Park in armored cars, and opened fire on spectators and players without warning. Thirteen people were killed on that day of shame, including one player, Michael Hogan, after whom the Hogan Stand is now named.

After that, members of the British forces were not allowed to be members of the GAA. As the state evolved into what it is now, the Republic of Ireland of 26 counties and the separate province of 6 counties in Ulster, governed by the British, the ban applied until recent years to members the RUC at the time (now the PSNI). .

The most controversial aspect of GAA rules that continued from the 1920s was what was known as “Prohibition”. This rule prevented players of Gaelic games from taking part in so-called “foreign games”, namely football and rugby. These two games were considered British games and therefore foreign to Irish culture. This was the most ridiculous rule ever devised by the GAA and it was broken so many times, by so many different methods, that public opinion forced the organization to revoke the rule in 1972.

That the rule has lasted so long is not something the GAA should be proud of.

Therefore, the controversy surrounding the opening of Croke Park to football and rugby was rooted in events many years ago. It took three years to approve the proposal to allow this to happen, and history has shown that progress can be very slow.

Nevertheless, one of this writer’s great memories was watching Ireland beat England in the 6 Nations Rugby Championship in 2006 in a cauldron full of emotion and indescribable pride.

May these wonderful, unique games be with us to enjoy and as 2010 brings the GAA to its 126th year of existence, may the volunteer attitude always remain!

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