The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is Ireland’s largest sporting organisation. It is celebrated as one of the great amateur sporting associations in the world.
It is part of the Irish consciousness and plays an influential role in Irish society that extends far beyond the basic aim of promoting Gaelic games.
It was founded on November 1 1884 at a meeting in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, by a group of spirited Irishmen who had the foresight to realise the importance of establishing a national organisation to make athletics more accessible to the masses and to revive and nurture traditional, indigenous sports and pastimes. At that time, it was largely only the gentry and aristocracy who were allowed to meaningfully participate in athletics.
Until then all that was Irish was being steadily eroded by emigration, intense poverty and outside influences. Within six months of that famous first meeting, GAA clubs began to spring up all over Ireland and people began to play the games of Hurling and Gaelic Football and take part in Athletic events with pride.
The Association today promotes Gaelic games such as Hurling, Football, Handball and Rounders and works with sister organisations to promote Ladies Football and Camogie. The Association also promotes Irish music, song and dance and the Irish language as an integral part of its objectives. The GAA has remained an amateur Association since its founding. Players, even at the highest level, do not receive payment for playing and the volunteer ethos remains one of the most important aspects of the GAA.