Can the GAA really be part of the Olympics though, Liam?
Updated: Aug 12, 2021
A recent post focused on the history and tradition of the GAA.
This post looks at the future.
Last week, former GAA President, Liam O’Neill, argued for bringing Gaelic football to an international stage and has high hopes for the games being part of the Olympics by 2040.
It was a few years after the success of the World Games in Waterford (2009), which not only featured teams of Irish diaspora, but also Irish people abroad who had fallen in love with GAA, that O’Neill first floated the idea of internationalising the Gaelic games.
Now, with 70,000 Irish diaspora worldwide, the GAA has international teams in far flung corners of the world including Argentina, Canada, even Malaysia, and all countries which have a GAA team, had an Olympics team competing this year too.
And lets face it, all on #TeamIreland has at the very least been exposed to the GAA. @NadiaPower played camogie as a child and is an avid GAA Fan. @AoifeORourke only took up boxing originally to enhance her fitness when she played for St Kevins, Castlerea, and @ShaneLowry, who competed in the golf event, is well connected to Offaly GAA.
So, in the aftermath of a very successful Olympics for Ireland, I couldn’t imagine a more seamless way for our games to transition to an international stage.
But did you know that Gaelic football did feature in the Olympics, way back in 1904?
Just 18 short years after Innisfails GAA Club was founded, and twenty years after the GAA itself was founded, Gaelic football and hurling were unofficial sports demonstrated by Chicago’s Fenians FC and our namesake St Louis’ Innisfails Gaelic Football Club. The less said about the result the better, but the idea that international teams demonstrated our national sport over 100 years ago on a global stage, is one that shows just how far and wide our games and culture have spread, and how Mr O’Neill may well be on the right track.
The Olympics Games was set up to cultivate human beings through sport and healthy competition, while the GAA aims to strengthen national identity and preserve and promote our games. I’d argue that both organisations do both.
But while formally internationalising the sport is a worthy and achievable goal, how do we do it without losing the essence of the GAA? How do we make sure we replicate community and all that is special about the GAA rather than simply pitting teams against each other?
We start in our own clubs - that’s how. We welcome all nationalities, all abilities, and all backgrounds to join our communities. We nurture those coming into our communities, like the Irish culture has been nurtured around the globe.
The Innisfails of St Louis may not have had a multinational team but the Innisfails of Balgriffin certainly has. We have Spanish, Portuguese, German, Mexican, Polish, Swedish, American players on our Juvenile teams and these enthusiasts will become the international flag fliers of the future that O’Neill dreams of.
They will be the players to bring the Gaelic games, and the essence of the GAA and Ireland, to the international stage. And we will be there. Right in the heart of it from our small but dedicated North Dublin
GAA club in Balgriffin.