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Gaelic Athletic Association - Oral History Project


gaa oral history project

The first game to be played under GAA rules outside of Ireland took place between Galway and Kerry in Boston in 1886. Prior to the establishment of the GAA, Gaelic games had been recorded to have been played, not only in the United States, but also in places like Argentina and Australia. Traditionally, Britain and the United States were the preferred destinations of Irish emigrants. The clubs that formed in these countries were not only sporting organisations but social outlets and entry points for Irish people into their new communities. During the years of the Celtic Tiger, clubs in these places suffered due to the decline in emigration from Ireland. In the wake of the recent economic collapse, there has been a renewed growth in emigration from Ireland not only to Britain and the United States, but also to places like Australia, New Zealand and Asia. The impact on the GAA has been significant: in 2010, for example, 960 official applications for transfers to overseas clubs were made. While this exodus has provided overseas clubs with fresh impetus, the big challenges for many of these clubs is to attract new members from non-Irish backgrounds – only this will guarantee them a healthy future!

Dubai Celts GAA

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Players from the Dubai Celts GAA club line up before a match in Oman in 2012.
©Dubai Celts GAA

Labor Day

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An advertisement for a GAA fundraiser in aid of a widow in New York in 1932.
©GAA Oral History Project

Eamonn Sweeney
Dave Barrett

Eamonn Sweeney, Scotland, b. 1945

Eamonn discusses the decision to reorganise the GAA in Scotland following a dinner dance in 1984 celebrating the centenary of the Association.
©GAA Oral History Project

Dave Barrett, Brussels, b. 1981

Dave talks about the field that the Craobh Rua GAA club in Brussels use and how members don't mind that there is no facilities, they just want to play.
©GAA Oral History Project

'I think it means everything to the immigrants in New York. If we didn't have the GAA in New York, I don't think we would have met for jobs for people, met all these friends that we have. Oh, I think it meant everything. Gaelic Park, even though it's not what it used to be, meant everything at that time. It was the place to meet. I think if we didn't have it, if the immigrant didn't have it, we'd be lost.'
- Brendan Hynes, New York, b. 1934
©GAA Oral History Project

'It told me, if you like, as a young fella coming over from England who had been involved in the GAA over there, what a huge organisation the GAA was, in its home country, in Ireland. And how it was far more than a sports organisation, it was a national organisation… It probably told me what a huge position the GAA held in Irish life and therefore, if you like, how, you know, sort of, how strange it was for this young English born guy, you know to be involved in that.'
- Tommy Walsh, Liverpool, b. 1930
©GAA Oral History Project

'In the sixties, all the Irish young people, you met them there [The Red Mill Dance Hall] or you met them in Gaelic Park....Gaelic Park that time, you had 3,000 people there every Sunday and you'd always find someone looking for a job or if you knew someone looking for a job, loads of people got work there'
- Dinny Fahy, New York, b. 1945
©GAA Oral History Project

Click here to read a sample of a full length questionnaire: Patrick Somers, b. 1923