1. Gaelic & Hurling
Although very different, Gaelic football and Hurling are the two most popular sports of Ireland. The two sports are controlled by the same governing body - the GAA. The traditional sports are unique and provide a great spectacle for both players and fans. Gaelic football is probably the more popular of the two. Players use both their hands and feet to get a football in the back of the net or over the bar (like a field goal in American football). Hurling is similar in principle but different in practice - the ball is much smaller (closer to a tennis ball size) and players use hooked shape sticks (hurleys) to hit the ball. The ball constantly soars from end to end of the pitch making it the fastest field sport in the world. Communities take pride in their local clubs and support teams of all levels. Even children’s matches can draw a crowd. Counties gather their best players to compete for the ultimate bragging rights as best team in the world. The All Ireland final takes place for both sports in Croke park, Dublin, and the stadium is packed full with over 80,000 fans watching the two teams battle for the prestigious honour of becoming all Ireland champions. The All Ireland final is simply the pinnacle of Irish sports.
Rugby is a massive part of the Irish sporting culture. In some regions, rugby is even more popular than both Hurling and Gaelic football. The passion the Irish have for rugby has translated marvelously to international success – Ireland are consistently among the upper echelon of international rugby squads. Currently ranked 6th worldwide, the Irish national team achieved their highest position last year as the 2nd best team in the world. Rugby in Ireland is split into the 4 provinces, Ulster, Munster, Leinster, and Connacht. For travelers visiting Ireland it is definitely worth going to see a provincial match which generates fantastic competitive atmospheres. If you happen to be travelling in Spring time be sure to check out the six nations tournament played every year; whether it be live in Dublin or in bars around the country, you will feel the fans rallying in support.
Golf in Ireland continues to be one of the countries proudest pastimes, producing some of the world’s elites such as Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell as well as some of the finest courses to grace the game. The courses in Ireland are renowned for producing some magnificent holes while simultaneously basking in the scenery of the beautiful landscape. A large number of golfing’s finest have expressed their love for the courses around Ireland such as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Irelands influence on the golfing world has finally been recognized and rewarded by being gifted the accolade of hosting the 2019 open, the oldest professional golf tournament. The best golfers from around the world will flock to Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland to compete on one of the world’s finest courses. Travelers journeying to the emerald isle are encouraged to experience the world’s greatest links firsthand (and we can help you with that, of course). Some of the courses open to visitors include:
•The K club
•Royal Co. Down
Soccer is the world’s biggest sport and although not Irelands most popular sport the country is still very passionate about their teams and proud of some world class players who play or have played in some of the biggest leagues in the world. Most of Irelands club teams are feeder clubs to the bigger English Premier League teams. Nevertheless, the Irish national team has been known to give top teams difficulty. Soccer in Ireland is split into two governing bodies: one to govern Northern Ireland and the other the Republic of Ireland. Perhaps more famous than the national team are the notorious fans. In the summer 2016, Ireland received a reward from the people of France for the contribution and behavior of their fans and supporters at the European finals, which was said to bring happiness to a country much maligned in the past year. For travelers crossing the Atlantic we cannot recommend enough that you join in with the fantastic atmosphere of our countries soccer teams and fans.
Horseracing has always proved to be a popular sport across Ireland, producing some of the best jockeys in the world such as AP McCoy and Ruby Walsh. The country has a number of race courses across the land with annual events such as those at Leopardstown, Punchestown, and the Galway races. Horseracing is unique to the other sports as it is more of as business and a showcase than a pastime. Across the country people watch the live races and almost every town will have at least one betting shop to help boost interest in the races. Horseracing has something for everyone, even those who just need an excuse to get dressed up - Lady’s Day at the Galway Races draws crowds of men and women dressed to the nines. Horseracing is a great backdrop to a leisurely day of drinks and Irish craic.