Is This A Sport?! – The Rules of Gaelic Football

Gaelic football
  • The real football for Irish people
  • Ireland’s most popular game
  • A code between rugby and soccer

Have you ever wondered what this overly exciting game is about? Now you can learn the rules of Gaelic football with the help of our sport review piece.

Gaelic football is a brilliant code that is virtually only played by amateurs in Ireland. It has some characteristics resembling to rugby and others to football. However, this footballing concept is far more spectacular than those two and because it’s dazzling speed, usually has a lot more scoring plays to cheer for. Read our guide to learn the rules of Gaelic football and start following this amazing football game!

What ’football’ really implies to in Ireland

Gaelic football vintage

Gaelic football has been played for ages in Ireland (Photo: Croke Park)

Gaelic football (Peil Ghaelach or caid in Irish) is the most popular team sport amongst those who bet on sports in Ireland. It is supervised by the GAA, the Gaelic Athletic Association alongside three other games that are collectively referred as ‘Gaelic games”. It is a strictly amateur sport like hurling and camogie, so players and coaches are prohibited from accepting any payments.

The game has medieval roots in Ireland. “Foot balle” has been allowed to play legally since the 16th century, though it became temporarily banned in the 1700s. Landlords organized games between each other with a score of tenants in their teams. Betting on these matches was a common practice.

In the second part of the 19th century, rugby and association football became increasingly popular in Ireland. Gaelic football temporarily declined, but it was codified at least and the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded. During the Irish war of independence, the Bloody Sunday massacre happened during a Gaelic football match in 1920 when British forces attacked Croke Park, the home of Gaelic games.

Gaelic football today is the most popular sport in Ireland based on attendances. The final of the All-Ireland Senior Championship, the most prominent Gaelic football competition in Ireland, is played in front of 82,000 people every year. It is also big regarding internet betting wagers placed on the competing teams.

The basic rules of Gaelic football

Gaelic football field

A Gaelic football field (Photo: Geocaching)

Gaelic football played by 15 players (one goalkeeper and 14 outfield players) on a rectangular pitch that is 130 to 145 metres long and 80 to 90 metres wide. There are H-shaped goal posts at each ends of the pitch with a 6.5×2.5 metres goal with a net in the bottom. The game lasts for 60 minutes (70 for inter-county seniors), consisting of two halves.

The ball is a round, leather ball that is similar to a soccer ball in size, but usually lighter and resembles to a ball used in volleyball. You can either catch the ball or pick it up from the ground with your foot. You can carry the ball for four steps, than you have to bounce, solo, hand-pass or kick it. Soloing is releasing, than kicking the ball back to your own hands. Bouncing the ball twice in a row qualifies as a foul, and a free kick (often referred as ‘free’ only) is awarded for the other team. Continuous soloing is legal. Hand-passing the ball is striking it with a closed fist.

Tackling in Gaelic football is a bit more liberal than in soccer, though far less rough than in rugby. Caid is all about shoulder to shoulder, but pushing, holding, is not permitted, just like sliding or two-handed tackles and blocking a shot with the foot. Wrestling the ball from an opponent’s hand is not allowed, however, you can slap it from his/her hands legally.

Scoring in Gaelic football

Gaelic football net

A pass into the net is a goal (Photo: The 42)

Kicking or hand-passing the ball above the crossbar, between the posts is a point. It is signaled by the umpire raising a white flag. Kicking the ball or hand-passing a rebound or pass into the net is a goal. A goal worth three points and signalled by the umpire raising a green flag. Score-lines display Goals-Points for each team, so Kerry 2-9 Donegal 0-12 means Kerry won by scoring 2 goals and 9 points worth 15 points in total, while Donegal racked up 12 points only.

Is Gaelic football similar to Aussie rules?

Aussie rules

Gaelic football teams can compete against Aussie rules clubs (Photo: Wikipedia)

Yes, the two codes have considerable similarities, although their mutual origins are disputed. There are main differences too, but there is a compromised code between the two concepts. This is called international rules football (inter rules in Australia and compromise rules in Ireland), and enables Gaelic football teams to compete with Aussie rules clubs in international test matches.

Can I bet on Gaelic football?


You can bet on Gaelic football at Bet365 Sportsbook (Photo: Boston Globe [Edited])

Of course, you can! Many major online sportsbooks in the UK, Ireland and worldwide offer Gaelic football odds, just like Bet365 Sportsbook. Bet365 Sportsbook offers online betting odds for the All-Ireland Senior Championship as well as for matches of Irish provincial inter-county competitions. Read the Bet365 Sportsbook review in our online betting guide for more on this top internet betting operator, sign up and bet on Gaelic football!

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