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Saint Brendan's Gaelic Football Club, Monroe, Orange County, NY

Gaelic Football

Gaelic Football can be described as a mixture of soccer and rugby, although it predates both of those games. It is a field game which has developed as a distinct game similar to the progression of Australian Rules. Indeed it appears that Australian Rules evolved from Gaelic Football. The result of many thousands of Irish who were either deported or emigrated to Australia from the middle of the ninetheen century. Australian and Irish footballers have competed against each other over recent years,. Such challenges are conducted by alternative games in which each have to play by the other's rules and fooball.

Gaelic Football is played on a pitch approximately 137m long and 82m wide. The goalposts are the same shape as on a rugby pitch, with the crossbar lower than a rugby one and slightly higher than a soccer one.

The ball used in Gaelic Football is round, slightly smaller than a soccer ball. It can be carried in the hand for a distance of four steps and can be kicked or "hand-passed", a striking motion with the hand or fist. After every four steps the ball must be either bounced or "solo-ed", an action of dropping the ball onto the foot and kicking it back into the hand. You may not bounce the ball twice in a row. To score, you put the ball over the crossbar by foot or hand / fist for one point or under the crossbar and into the net by foot or the hand / fist in certain circumstances for a goal, the latter being the equivalent of three points.

Each team consists of fifteen players, lining out as follows: One goalkeeper, three full-backs, three half-backs, two midfielders, three half-forwards and three full-forwards. The actual line out on the playing field is as follows:

Goalkeeper Right corner-back Full-back Left corner-back Right half-back Centre half-back Left half-back Midfielder Midfielder Right half-forward Centre half-forward Left half-forward Right corner-forward Full-forward Left corner-forward Players wear a jersey with their team colours and number on the back. Both teams must have different colour jerseys. The goalkeepers' jerseys must not be similar to the jersey of any other player. Referees normally tog out in black jerseys, socks and togs.

Goalkeepers may not be physically challenged whilst inside their own small parallelogram, but players may harass them into playing a bad pass, or block an attempted pass.

Teams are allowed a maximum of three substitutes in a game. Players may switch positions on the field of play as much as they wish but this is usually on the instructions of team officials.

Officials for a game comprise of a referee, two linesmen (to indicate when the ball leaves the field of play at the side and to mark '45'' free kicks and 4 umpires (to signal scores, assist the referee in controlling the games, and to assist linesmen in positioning '45' frees).

A goal is signalled by raising a green flag, placed to the left of the goal. A point is signalled by raising a white flag, placed to the right of goal. A '45'/'65' is signalled by the umpire raising his/her outside arm. A 'square ball', when a player scores having arrived in the 'square' prior to receiving the ball, is signalled by pointing at the small parallelogram.

Goalkeeper poised for save?

What is that gentleman by the goalpost doing? He appears to be blocking photographers viewing thus preventing them from capturing a precious moment in time.

He belongs, as does his counterpart who covers the opposite upright of the same net. These two gentlemen are acting as officials but have taken some liberties on this day's play. Such officials typically wear white coats and each is required to cover a goalpost. Their positioning is to ensure that an "over or under the bar" score is fairly and faithfully earned. Flags are waved to to signify such scoring, a white flag signals a point, and a green flag to signify a goal having been scored. The geometry involved in a high dropping ball that is deemed to be "over the bar " or one that "has gone wide" of its mark, necessitates those with a keen sense, spatial acumen. Maybe in time a beam positioned, aimed towards the heavens can more precisely detect close call situations..

History of Gaelic Games

The Gaelic games of hurling and football have their origins deep in the ancient times of Ireland. Legendary figures such as the great warriors CuChulainn and Fionn MacCumhaill were recorded playing hurling over a thousand years ago. Hurling and Gaelic football were popular sports throughout Ireland and the playing fields were frequently the center of social life, particularly in rural Ireland. By the latter half of the 19th century, Ireland experienced great social upheaval, economic and political repression. The Great Hunger of 1845-'48 and the subsequent economic depression and depletion of rural communities, together with the political climate, and the lack of organized education and support in Irish culture and sports endangered Gaelic games with gradual extinction. In 1884 a few dedicated individuals, led by a teacher from Co. Clare, Michael Cusack, rallied against this tide and established the Gaelic Athletic Association on the first of November in Hayes Hotel in Thurles, County Tipperary. The GAA is credited with the grass roots revival of not only Irish games and traditional cultural activities but the re-birth of a spirit of local pride and nationalism. The organization grew rapidly from its inception. Cusack reported that by 1886, "the association swept the country like a prairie fire". Three years later it had over 50,000 members. One of the earliest supporters of the GAA was Archbishop Croke of Cashel who became the GAA's first patron. Croke Park in Dublin, the official home field of the GAA, was named in his honor. In 1904 the game of camogie (akin to hurling) was established and women began to play a more significant part in Gaelic sports and the organization. Today, all thirty-two counties of Ireland are each represented by teams competing for the All-Ireland Hurling, Gaelic Football and Camogie titles.

More Gaelic Game Material