The Gaelic Athletic Association / Cumann Lúthchleas Gael is a 32 county sporting and cultural organisation that has a presence on all five continents.
It is Ireland's largest sporting organisation and is celebrated as one of the great amateur sporting associations in the world today.
The GAA is a volunteer led, community based organisation that promotes Gaelic games such as Hurling, Football, Handball and Rounders and works with sister organisations to promote Ladies Football and Camogie. It is part of the Irish consciousness and plays an influential role in Irish society that extends far beyond the basic aim of promoting Gaelic games. The Association has its headquarters at Croke Park in Dublin where it has been based on a full time basis since 1908. The stadium, which was redeveloped between 1993 and 2003, has a capacity of 82,300 and hosts some of the highest profile events in the Irish sporting calendar.
The first record of Gaelic football is in the Statutes of Galway (1527) which allowed the playing of football but banned hurling. The earliest reported match took place at Slane, Co. Meath in 1712 when Meath played their neighbours, Louth. Foreign visitors to Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries noted that hurling and football occupied an important place in the social life of the community. At that time a team consisted of all the able-bodied men of a town or parish; the number of players on each team ranged from 25 to 100. Frequently the game started at a point midway between two towns or parishes and ended when one team had driven the ball across a boundary line into its opponent's town or parish.
The man credited with much of the original impetus for founding the GAA was a Clare man named Michael Cusack. Born in 1847, Cusack pursued a career as a teacher at Blackrock College, in Dublin. In 1877, set up his own cramming school, the Civil Service Academy, to prepare students for examinations into the British Civil Service. "Cusack's Academy," as it was known, and its pupils, did extremely well, resulting in soaring attendance. Pupils at the Academy were encouraged to get involved in all forms of physical exercise. Cusack was troubled by falling standards in specifically Irish games.
To remedy this situation, to re-establish the ancient Tailteann Games as an athletics competition with a distinctive Irish flavour, and to re-establish hurling as the national pastime, Cusack met with several other enthusiasts on Saturday, 1 November 1884, in Hayes' Hotel, Thurles, County Tipperary.
The seven founder members were Michael Cusack, Maurice Davin (who presided), John Wyse Power, John McKay, J. K. Bracken, Joseph O'Ryan and Thomas St. George McCarthy. Frank Moloney of Nenagh was also later admitted to have been present by Cusack, while the following six names were published as having attended in press reports: William Foley, a Mr. Dwyer, a Mr. Culhane, William Delehunty, John Butler and William Cantwell. All these six were from Thurles except Foley, who like Davin was from Carrick-on-Suir
The foundation day was chosen for its mythological significance: according to legend, Samhain (1 November) was the day when the Fianna's power died. Cusack meant this choice of day to symbolise the rebirth of the Irish heroes, and the Gaelic Athletic Association for the Cultivation and Preservation of National Pastimes was established, its name subsequently shortened to Gaelic Athletic Association.
Within a few weeks of the organisation's foundation, Thomas Croke, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel, gave it his approval and became its first patron. Its other patrons included both Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell. Cusack was a difficult man to get along with, but in the first few months of the organisation he proved to be an excellent organiser. He did not, however continue to run the association for long after its foundation. Within…