Gaelic games are the most popular sporting events in Ireland and consist of three main sports: hurling, Gaelic football, and handball. Hurling is the oldest stick and ball game in the world with a history that dates back to 1000BC. The objective is to hit a ball through an H-shaped goalpost, or guarded net, with a wooden stick called a Hurley.
Much like hurling, Gaelic football is played on the same pitch, or field, and the object is to hit or punt a larger ball through the same H-shaped goal. It could be considered the grandfather to American football, soccer, and rugby. The last game, Gaelic handball, can trace its origins to the early 14th century. Many occupying forces have tried to ban handball and the tradition it represents, yet it survives to this day.
Gaelic athletes are born into their team and compete for the pride of their county. The games are played strictly by amateurs and the athletes‚Äô names are not sewn onto the jersey, because the focus is not on the players but on the heritage of the sport.¬† Instead, the athletes are given numbers that correspond to their position. All profits from major and minor league matches are donated to local Gaelic athletic clubs.
Gaelic games are more than a sporting event in Ireland, they are a way for the Irish to remember their history and culture. Semester at Sea students had a unique opportunity to visit Na Fianna, a Gaelic athletic club in Dublin and learn first hand the history of the games and how to play them.