The GAA and the All Ireland Championship

There is a GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) club in almost every parish in Ireland, and in each county teams are drawn from these clubs to contest the annual All Ireland Championships in Football and Hurling, the biggest competitions of the GAA year.

Local Games, National Heroes

Both football and hurling are completely amateur sports and very rooted in the community. The structure of the sport is built around parishes, with almost every parish in Ireland having its own club, teams, grounds and clubhouse, which are a real focus for community activity.

Within each county clubs compete fiercely at various levels for the county title. The winning club teams then go on to compete with winning clubs from other counties for the hotly contested national club title.

However at county level the best players put their club allegiances temporarily to one side and come together to play for their county in the All Ireland Championships. These competitions – for both football and hurling – are easily the biggest events in the Irish sporting calendar.

Hurling and Football CountiesSome counties are traditionally stronger in hurling, others in football.

The map shows counties where hurling predominates in blue, where football is strongest in yellow and where both games are strong in green.

County teams are avidly supported, players are local heroes always, national heroes often, and tens of thousands regularly attend games. When Irish people speak wistfully of ‘September’, they are thinking not of autumn leaves but  of the All Ireland Finals, and hoping they’ll have reason to travel to Dublin to support their county team.

By the time the competitions reach the semi-final and final stages tickets for matches are like gold dust and will be sold out weeks in advance.

And yet the players, names and faces faces famous now all over the country who have gone onto a pitch in front of 80,000+ people and been seen on television by countless thousands more, get up and go to work the next week and tog out for their local team in the next county level game.

There is something very special about that, and it’s what makes the GAA unique.

 Croke Park

Traditionally the home of GAA, this stadium close to the centre of Dublin was redeveloped in four phases between 1993 and 2005 and is now a world-class stadium with capacity for more than 80,000 fans.

Croke Park

While wholly owned by the GAA, and generally only used for GAA games, it played host to both soccer and rugby games while the home stadium for these sports at Landsdowne Rd was being rebuilt in the early 2000s. While this may not sound like a big deal, it was, since for decades not only were GAA players banned from playing those ‘foreign games’, they could even be expelled from the GAA for attending rugby or soccer matches as a spectator.

It is also a popular venue for concerts.

There is a museum of GAA,  with tours of the stadium, at the Croke Park visitor centre, which makes an interesting few hours for any avid sports fan.

Flying the GAA County Flag

Each county has its colours, which will be used in players’ jerseys and seen in flags flying all over the county – especially in years where the county is doing well and has reached the latter stages of the Championships.

You are bound to see some of these flags flying from flagpoles, trees, windows and on cars as you travel around Ireland, particularly in late summer as the finals, which are held in September each year, draw closer.

Most counties also have nicknames,  by which the county, the inhabitants of the county and the team are known. They also often have a song, which fans sing loudly to urge their side on, and even more loudly if they win!!

GAA Colours, Nicknames and Songs

This is a list of the various colours, county names or nicknames and the songs for each county of Ireland.


Antrim: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Saffron County, The Glens
Song: The Green Glens of Antrim


Armagh: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Orchard County, Cathedral County
Song: The Boys from the County Armagh


Carlow: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Dolman County, The Barrowsiders, The Scallion Eaters


Cavan: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Breffni County
Song: Come Back Paddy Reilly


Clare: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Banner County
Song: Oh My Lovely Rose of Clare


Cork: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Rebel County, The Rebels
Song: The Banks of my Own Lovely Lee


Derry: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Oak Leaf County
Song: The Town I Loved So Well


Donegal: Flag, colours and crestNickname: The Tír Conaill Men
Song: Mary from Dungloe


Down: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Mourne CountyThe MournemenThe Ardsmen
Song: The Star of the County Down


Dublin: Flag, colours and crestNickname: The Dubs
Song: Rare Auld Times or Molly Malone


Fermanagh: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Erne County, The Ernesiders


Galway: Flag, colours and crestNickname: The Tribesmen
Song: Galway BayThe West’s AwakeFields of Athenry


Kerry: Flag, colours and crestNickname: The Kingdom
Song: Rose of Tralee


Kildare: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Short Grass County, The Lilywhites
Song: The Curragh of Kildare


Kilkenny: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Marble County, The Cats
Song: Rose of Mooncoin


Laois: Flag, colours and crestNickname: O’Moore County
Song: My Lovely Laois


Leitrim: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Wild Rose County
Song: Lovely Leitrim


Limerick: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Treaty County, Shannonsiders
Song: Limerick You’re a Lady


Longford: Flag, colours and crestNickname: O’Farrell County, Slashers


Louth: Flag, colours and crestNickname: The Wee County


Mayo: Flag, colours and crestNickname: The Westerners
Song: Moonlight on Mayo


Meath: Flag, colours and crestNickname: Royal County, The Royals
Song: Beautiful Meath


MonaghanNickname: Farney County


OffalyNickname: Faithful County
Song: The Offaly Rover


RoscommonNickname: The Sheepstealers
Song: Man of Roscommon


SligoNickname: Yeat’s County, Yeat’s men
Song: The Isle of Innisfree or Down By The Sally Gardens


TipperaryNickname: Premier County
Song: Slievenamon


TyroneNickname: The Red Hand


WaterfordNickname: Decies County, The Deise
Song: Old Dungarvan Oak


WestmeathNickname: The Lake County, Lake men


WexfordNickname: Model County, The Yella’ Bellies
Song: The Boys of Wexford, Boulavogue


WicklowNickname: Garden County
Song: The Meeting of the Waters


London GAA: Colours, flag and crestNickname: The Exiles

New York

New York GAA: Colours crest and flagNickname: The Exiles

Published: December 30, 2008 | Updated: March 31, 2017 | Image Credits

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