Gaelic football rules

Gaelic football is one of Ireland’s most popular sports, with each major team playing for their county. In addition, it can be practiced by both men and women, but it has the peculiarity that each player can only defend one team during his entire life.

Irish football is run by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), which is the largest sports institution in the country, so it has the most influence. While in traditional football the peak of popularity occurs during the World Cup, in Gaelic it occurs in the final of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, which is one of the most famous tournaments in the sport. However, to learn more about the characteristics of Gaelic football, it is necessary to consider its history.

Brief history of Gaelic football

The first game of Gaelic football dates back to the 18th century in the year 1712, when the counties of Louth and Meath opposed to play a game very similar to football. However, the first official Gaelic football rules were written by Maurice Davin, who was the founder of the GAA in 1884. The rules were later published in the United Ireland magazine on February 7, 1887. 

Since then Gaelic football has become a staple game in Irish sport. For this reason, most counties in Ireland have their own regional clubs and teams. In this sense, since the first championship in 1887, the team that has accumulated the most trophies has been Kerry, which obtained its first victory in 1903 and since then has recorded a total of 33 games won.

Principles of Gaelic football

Gaelic football is made up of 2 30-minute halves for Irish Football League matches or 2 35-minute halves for Championship matches. It is important to mention that, although it is a game with characteristics similar to hurling and rugby, Gaelic football is not as violent. However, shoulder-to-shoulder contact is permitted.

One of the basic rules is that players cannot take more than 4 consecutive steps while having the ball in their hands. If a player has a clear field and wants to move to the opposite side, he can bounce the ball on the ground, similar to the movement in basketball. Also, to advance the player can do toe-tap, which consists of bouncing the ball with the ball of the foot . In this way, it is possible to take 4 new steps and so on.

It is important to mention that the player has the right to carry the ball in his hands, but he cannot pick it up from the ground with them. In this case, it is allowed to use any part of the body except the hands. In general, to pick up the ball, the player usually performs a pick up, in which he takes the ball off the ground with a kick.

To pass the ball, the player can throw it, either kicking it or hitting it with the fist or palm of the hand. In this sense, it is forbidden to throw it as it would happen in rugby or make blows with the forearm, as in volleyball. In any of these cases, the movement is penalized. 

Also, it is forbidden to push the goalkeeper in his zone , so it is only possible to hinder the passage. Similarly, the ball cannot be snatched from the hands of another player, but there is the possibility of hitting the ball so that it falls.


Gaelic football players use a spherical ball that is slightly smaller in size than a soccer ball. In this sense, the official ball must have a diameter of approximately 25 cm, a circumference between 68 and 73 cm and a weight of 370 to 425 g. Officially, in Ireland this type of ball is manufactured by the O’Neill brand.

The land

The field used to play Gaelic football is the same as the hurling field, which is why it measures 137m long and 82m wide. Also, the point posts are H-shaped and the score is counted in the same way as in the Celtic sport. In this sense, the team scores a 3-point goal when the ball goes under the crossbar, while 1 point is obtained when the ball is thrown over the crossbar.

The team

If you are wondering how many players there are in Gaelic football, you should know that each team is made up of 15 players , among which we can find 6 defenders, 6 attackers, 2 midfielders and 1 goalkeeper. Likewise, 3 substitutions are allowed during the game.

On the other hand, one of the peculiarities of Galician football is that the players must have assigned numbers in a certain range. Therefore, the goalkeeper is 1, the defenders are 2 to 7, the midfielders are 8 to 9, and the attackers are 10 to 15. In addition, the goalkeeper must wear a shirt with a different design than the rest of the players in his team. equipment.


The rules are enforced thanks to the opinions of 6 officials, made up of 2 judges and 4 referees who indicate the points by raising flags on the left in case of goals and white flags on the right for points. If a dispute occurs between the two teams due to the opinions of the 6 officials, then a field referee must make the final decision.

Finally, it is worth noting that Gaelic football is one of the typical sports in Ireland and also one of the most popular. Although many of its rules and positions are the same as those of other well-known sports, this sporting activity is very unique and is very exciting for its followers.

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