By the 19th Century, Ireland was in trouble and dire need of help. They had just experienced a big famine that rampaged through their population. The English had taken a full grip over the country, and the Irish were noticeably losing their identity.
They came close to losing their Irish traditions, customs, and cultures, including the Irish language and Irish traditional sports. The problem became so big that Michael Cusack took the step of forming the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) to help preserve and save their traditional Irish sports.
In 1884, the GAA was created to promote Irish games. Now, in the 20th Century, the effects of the move of a patriotic and passionate sportsman can be felt in Ireland and across the globe.
In this piece, we will look at what the GAA is all about, the best betting markets and betting sites.
What are Gaelic games?
Gaelic games are the ancient national games in Ireland. They are made up of four major sports, including Hurling, Rounders, Gaelic Football, and handball.
However, Gaelic mainly concentrates on two of these – Gaelic Football and Gaelic Games of Hurling because of their spectacular nature and uniqueness.
Gaelic games are usually amateur sports and are governed by the GAA, which has grown into the world’s largest amateur sporting platform. The GAA was founded in 1884 to preserve Irish Games, pastimes, and culture. It has over 800,000 members and 300,000 players, and over 2,000 and 300 clubs within and without Ireland.
Ireland consists of 32 counties, with each having a country team representing them in the organization. Also, every county is split into parishes with club teams. The best club player from every county makes up the county team and competes against other counties in the Irish Champions Competition.
The GAA has its headquarters in Croke Park, Dublin. Croke Park is the 4th largest stadium in Europe and can hold 82,500 players.
Formation of the Gaelic Athletic Association
The GAA founders did a great job in maintaining the Irish Sports Culture. But since Ireland was in difficult political times, they had a hard time staying away from politics. They had many members linked to the IRB, and other members are believed to have been part of the 1916 Easter rebellion.
By 1918, the GAA got banned the Englishmen. Luckily, this didn’t stop the Irish from participating in their traditional sports.
The Creation of Rule 21
After going through a hard time, the GAA organization learned its lesson and was able to keep politics separate from their key role of preserving the Gaelic Games. But even with this survival tactic, they still had to set some ground rules to help them achieve their purpose.
And so, in 1897, Rule 21 was created. This rule prohibited persons from the British Forces from becoming a part of the GAA. To many, this rule kept the GAA at the heart of Irish politics, especially in Northern Ireland. The rule was abolished in 2001.
It goes without saying that this is a traditional Irish team sport. Each team fields 15 players on a rectangular pitch.
Every team’s goal is to score by punching or kicking the ball into the opponent’s goals or pass it through two upright posts above the goal but above the crossbar. Passing it through the goal earns a team 3 points while passing it over the crossbar earns a point.
Hand passing or kicking the ball above the crossbar is signalled by a white flag while passing the ball under the crossbar and into the net is signalled by a green flag.
Gaelic football key rules
Below are the main game rules;
- A player can only carry the ball in hand for four steps and can only be passed with a striking motion of the fist or hand (hand passed) or kicked
- After the four steps, a player should either bounce the ball or ‘solo-ed.’ Solo-ed is where a player drops the ball on their foot and kicks it back into their hand.
- A player can only bounce the ball two consecutive times
- Players cannot directly lift the ball from the ground. However, in ladies’ Gaelic football, they can do this. Generally, the toe is used to flick the ball from the ground into a players hands
- If a player illegally gets the ball from the ground, the other team gains possession. They also take a ‘free’ from the position where the foul was committed.
Major GAA Football Competitions
All-Ireland Senior Football Championship
This is a prestigious tournament in GAA football. It occurs annually, and 33 teams contest for the top position. 31 teams are from Ireland, one from England, and one from the USA. The tournament has been active since 1887, and finals happen every September. The winning team receives the Sam Maguire Trophy. Sam Maguire was a former footballer and an influential figure in London GAA.
The tournament starts with different games across the counties in Ireland. From this stage, there are four qualifying rounds made up of the best losers from the various interleague before proceeding to the All-Ireland Championship. This can be considered as the quarterfinals. The teams then proceed to the semis and finals through a standard knockout round.
National Football League
The NFL happens all year round and has 31 teams participating from Ireland and one team from London. The League has been running for close to a century.
The League is played differently because every team faces each other one time. The venues are switched from every game. The teams play through the League before getting into the knockout stage towards the end of the season. Kerry has won the most times in the League.
Like Gaelic Football, Hurling is a team sport. Every team fields 15 players distributed in the field as follows:
- 1 goalkeeper
- 3 players to pair up with the opposition players
- 6 offensive players
- 2 midfielders
- 6 defenders
Gaelic hurling key rules
- The match has two halves, each between 25 and 35 minutes long.
- A player cannot pick the ball (sliotar) directly from the ground with their hand. They have to use the Hurley to jab. Roll, flick or roll the ball into their hand.
- The ball can only be caught midair or bouncing it off the ground
- A player can transfer the ball into their hands only twice. But if they drop the ball, the counts reset
- A player can hit the ball with their Hurley midair or while on the ground
- A player can pass the ball by hand-passing or kicking it. Only one hand can be used for hand passing, and it cannot be thrown
- The ball can only be held for four consecutive steps
- A player can balance the ball on the stick for as long as they want
Major GAA Hurling Competitions
National Hurling League
This is the league format for the Irish Hurling season that has been running since 1925. It has an amateur feel to it and is represented by teams from different counties across Ireland. 34 teams participate in the League and are split into 6 divisors, with relegation and promotion being key elements in the League.
Tipperary has had the most wins this far, and Kilkenny follows closely behind.
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship
This is a prestigious competition in Ireland. It has been around since 1887 and has 14 teams in the running for the Liam McCarthy Cup.
The tournament starts with 32 counties. However, only the 14 best teams get to represent their respective counties in the finals. The tournament is designed as a knockout from the qualifier stages and through the All-Ireland Series. In the latter, there is a quarterfinal, semifinal, and finals. Kilkenny has been victorious 36 times, and Cork follows in closely with 30 wins.
How to bet on GAA events
Betting on GAA events requires you to know the available markets and choose the right betting site. With a few tactics here and there, you should be good to go.
GAA common betting markets
There are lots of betting markets for the various GAA events. Listed below are some of the markets the Irish love best.
This market is loved by punters who have a thing for the underdogs in the tournaments. If there is a team you feel is about to get out of their losing streak to the surprise of everyone else (apart from you), you can place your bets here. Be on the lookout for teams like Dublin footballers.
Hurler and Footballer of the Year
This market gets wild and crazy when the season gains momentum, and player performance starts getting clearer. Even though there’s an option of wagering at the start of the season, most Irish bettors have learned to exercise their patience. They wait for the stats, evaluate the players, and bet on the most likely winner.
If you love football, this is a familiar market. For many, this market is easy because, with proper stats, you can predict which player will score first. To make more money from your bets, you should always look into the not so famous or obvious players.
This is by far the simplest market to wager on. All you need to predict is the team that will win the game. You don’t have to get into the technicalities of the plays or margins. However, if betting on a hurling event, bear in mind that draws are becoming more common. As such, it makes more sense to place accumulator bets even though it affects your cash-out in the end.
Irish punters who love this category can come up with strategies that help them make accurate predictions. You can back any team you wish, but you need to get the margin of the win right. It helps if you pay attention to the booker’s handicap line set when placing your bet.
The Best Gaelic Sports Betting Sites
BoyleSports has become one of the best bookers for GAA betting. Whether it’s Hurling, Football, or Camogie, they are excellent. This Sportsbook’s beauty is that they have a range of markets you can bet on along with numerous special events during big games.
For instance, they once ran a promotion where they doubled odds for winning single bets on Gaelic games where the first goal was scored in the first 10 minutes of the game.
This is the most popular betting site on the globe. Aside from offering great Gaelic games markets, it also has great welcome offers. Moreover, it supports more than 40 different sports. If you want to try your luck on other sports, they have an array of options to get your hands on. And even better, you can live-stream most of the games.
Betfred was formed in 1967 by Fred and Peter Done. Today, they have over 1,300 betting shops across the UK and offer their betting services in many different countries. They are licensed and regulated by the UKGC and the Gibraltar Licensing Authority. Their payouts are comparable to top Asian betting sites at 95.5%. They also offer a sign-up bonus to get you started on the right footing.
This is by far the best bookmaker based on Gaelic Sports Leagues. Even better, Betfair has a 94.83% payout rate and supports live streaming. If you run into problems, you can get help via email, live chat, or phone.
They came onto the scene in 2000 and changed the game. They offered punters a new way to trade and bet on the sports market. Instead of limiting themselves to fixed offs, punters can place bets against each other. This creates a competitive market in the industry.
Can you bet on live GAA games?
Yes, you can. However, a couple of player markets aren’t available for live betting. But when live betting, you should consider the prevailing weather conditions as this may affect the game’s turn out.
When do the GAA competitions take place?
The All-Ireland Senior Hurling and Football Championships take place between May and September. The Hurling finals happens in mid-August, and the football finals follow two weeks later.
On the other hand, the Allianz Hurling and Football Leagues take place between January and March. The All-Ireland Championships occur between June and March, with their finals happening on St. Patrick’s Day.
How to watch the GAA match live?
You can watch the All-Ireland Senior Football and hurling Championships on BBC Northern Ireland, RTE, and Sky Sports. For the Allianz Leagues, RTE, eir Sport, and TG4 have TV rights. However, these games are broadcast for other viewers across the globe on GAAGO’s website.
And there you have it, everything you need to know about Gaelic Games, how to bet, the markets to pay attention to, and the best betting sites for the Gaelic Events. To improve your odds of winning your bets, you should learn how the game is played. Also, come up with betting strategies that’ll improve your chances.