Rules of Gaelic Football

Gaelic football is an Irish team sport that has its origins in traditional Irish ball games. It is often regarded as a cross between rugby and association football, though it is older than both of them.

The basics

Each team is made up of 15 players, just like rugby. However, a round ball is used, so in this case it is similar to football. This sport is the most popular in Ireland. Every team – from the local junior team to the big games played at the magnificent Croke Park Stadium- is passionately supported.

The origins of Gaelic football pre-date recorded history, but the sport’s administrative body (the Gaelic Athletic Association or GAA) was formed in 1884. There are more than 2500 clubs in Ireland alone, and out of these 32 get to compete each year to be crowned as the All-Ireland Champions. It is now played around the world, especially in places where there is a significant community of Irish people.


The team which scores the most points in the game becomes the winner. Three points are awarded when the ball passes between the posts while staying beneath the crossbar. A point is awarded even if the ball flies above the crossbar as long as it is within the posts.

If the teams have the same number of total points, then the game is drawn.


The referee tosses a coin, and the captain who guesses correctly chooses the end that his team will play from in the first half.

Two players from each team stand behind each other while on their own side of the halfway line facing the ref. All players are in their own half of the pitch at this point. The referee will then throw the ball into the air and play begins. This is called a throw-in. If a goal or point is registered, play is started by the goalie of the team that has just conceded.


A normal game lasts for 60 minutes, divided into two halves of 30 minutes. League games at other levels may have longer or shorter playing times depending on the age and seniority of the players. There may be added time at the end of each half if there was a deliberate or incidental delay i.e. injuries or substitutions. Knockout games may have an extra-time of 30 minutes divided into two halves if the teams draw.

Pitch dimensions

The game is played in a rectangular pitch with a length of between 130m-145m and a width ranging from 80m-90m. Younger players may have smaller pitches. There are H-shaped goalposts fixed at either end, with the posts measuring 6m-7m in height and set 6.5m apart. The crossbar connects the two posts at a height of 2.5m.


Each team has 15 players. However, both teams can start with 13 players as long as they have a full compliment at the commencement of the second half. Fives subs are allowed during the game, and if it goes to extra-time, a further three replacements are allowed.

The referee

A total of 7 people are involved in managing a game: one referee, two linesmen and four umpires.

Foul play

The following are all considered as fouls:

-Shoving an opponent

-Sliding tackles

-Tackling with both hands

-Striking an opponent


-Tagging at a opponent’s jersey

-Wrestling the ball from an opponent’s hands

-Blocking a shot with the foot

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