DUBLIN’S magnificent Croke Park is the home – both physically and spiritually – of the Gaelic Athletics Association.
As well as big hurling matches, the 83,700 arena hosts the annual all-Ireland Gaelic football final.
That’s the pinnacle of the sport, with the 32 county teams competing to reach the Croke showdown and lift the coveted Sam Maguire Trophy.
Feeding into the county system are more than 2,500 clubs.
“It’s a massive thing over there, and the fact that the sport is strictly all-amateur means there is a lot of loyalty to club and county,” explains Andrew Kitterick.
“Croke Park is a vast stadium, and the atmosphere at an all-Ireland final is unique, absolutely amazing.”
The controversial decision to allow soccer and rugby union to be played at Croke Park, taken in 2005, still rankles with many.
But the influx of money from the matches has helped fund posts such as Kitterick’s.
Two games development officers operate in London and the others are in Hertfordshire, Gloucestershire (where there is also a part-time post), Warwickshire and Lancashire.
As well as England, there are also clubs in America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and mainland Europe.
And it is thought that Australian Rules was based on Gaelic football after the game was taken to the other side of the world by Irish emigrants.