Sports are an important aspect of Irish culture and are deeply ingrained in the social fabric. Be it small towns, villages across the country, or modernised cities, the heavy influence of sports is quite evident. A large part of the Irish population participates in one form of sport or the other on a regular basis.
Ireland has also achieved significant success in multiple sports disciplines, which has also contributed to an overall increase in the popularity of sports. While many forms of sports are prevalent in Ireland, some are more popular than others. In this article, we take a look at five of the most popular sports in the country.
Football In Ireland
As the most popular sport in the world, football’s immense popularity in Ireland is not surprising at all. Although international football matches attract large crowds and have a huge following, domestic league games are not such big crowd-pullers. Currently, Ireland has two domestic leagues; the Irish League in Northern Ireland and the League of Ireland in Southern Ireland. Although these leagues have produced some of the best talents, rarely has a league player made it to the national team.
Football is governed by the Football Association of Ireland in the Republic of Ireland and the Irish Football Association in Northern Ireland. The Irish men’s national football team currently ranks 30th in the world, while the women’s team has secured their latest high to 24th rank in the world this year.
The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have participated thrice in FIFA, while the Republic of Ireland team has also participated thrice in the European Championships.
Gaelic Sports In Ireland
In recent years, the popularity of Gaelic games has surpassed football by a wide margin. These are mostly traditional games played under the patronage of the Gaelic Athletic Association. The Gaelic games include Gaelic football, hurling, camogie, rounder, and Gaelic handball.
Gaelic football was played for the first time around 135 years ago, and presently it is played at the regional level extensively, and interprovincial events are held as well, including the All-Ireland Senior Football Final, organised in Croke Park, County Dublin, every year in summer. Currently, there are more than 2200 cubs for the sport in the country.
Hurling is another native sport that has been played in Ireland for thousands of years. It is the world’s fastest field sport, and like hockey and shinty, it is played with sticks, and a ball called sliotar on a large grass pitch. There are 15 players on each team for hurling and football both.
Camogie is similar to hurling but played mostly by women. It was played for the first time in 1904. The ball used for the game is smaller than that of hurling. Rounders, another Gaelic game, is similar to baseball. Points scored during the game are called Rounders.
Rugby In Ireland
If we were to name one sport that the Irish are exceptional at, it would have to be rugby. Rugby is predominantly popular in the urban areas, including Dublin, Cork, and Limerick, but is played widely at the club and provincial levels. The Irish Rugby Football Union is the national governing body for the sport in the country.
The national team has won multiple tournaments in the past years and is a part of the Six Nations. In 2018, at the World Rugby Awards, Ireland bagged three awards, including player of the year, coach of the year, and the team of the year. As of July 2022, the Ireland national rugby union team is ranked number one in the world.
The Irish rugby team is one of the best in the world, and their continued success internationally has harboured an immense love for the game among the locals. More than 100,000 rugby players in Ireland play in different clubs across the country, including 59 clubs in Munster, 71 in Leinster, 56 in Ulster, and 23 in Connacht.
Athletics In Ireland
Next on our list is athletics. The discipline is managed by the athletic Association of Ireland. Irish are fond of multiple athletic disciplines, including road running, cross-country running, race walking, mountain running, track and field races, etc.
From young kids to professional athletes, the sport is quite popular among all. Ireland organises various marathons across the country, which receive heavy attendance. The most popular are the Dublin Marathon and the Belfast Marathon. Irish athletes also compete in international events, including global competitions.
Golf In Ireland
Lastly, we have golf on the list of the most popular sports in Ireland. Had the list been any longer, we would have surely added equestrian sports to the mix as well. Ireland is home to more than 300 golf courses. The country has also produced some of the most talented golf players, including Padraig Harrington and Graeme Mc Dowell.
While the game is of a much slower and relaxed nature compared to other popular sports, like rugby and football, that thrive on thrill and excitement, a large number of Irish people are very fond of playing golf.