Since we arrived in Ireland earlier in the year, I’ve been interested in the Gaelic Athletic Association’s role in the Irish community. While I was aware of the games before we came, I didn’t realise quite how important they are to everyone here, and that the GAA is about more than just sport, as it celebrates and protects Irish culture.
Wherever I’ve travelled in Ireland so far, and that includes long bike rides into the more remote parts of the western edge of the island, I’ve discovered GAA pitches. Even in the smallest, most low-density hamlet, there’ll often be a Gaelic ground with facilities that seem far grander than the sparse population seems to justify. The clubhouses and stands often show evidence of a history of expansion and redevelopment over the many decades of the club’s history.
Every club will have hurling, camogie and football teams for all age groups. On game day, or training evenings, the car parks will be full and every game, regardless of what level the match is at, will have a bunch of hardy spectators huddled on the touchline.
As I’d seen throughout the year, every community will display the colours of its local club. They become especially evident if the club progresses to the latter stages of one of the many competitions that make up a GAA season (there seem to be competitions at club, parish, county and region levels, so it seems like there’s a final of some sort most weekends from August to November).
What’s particularly endearing is that as the GAA is all amateur, the heroes on the pitch are just normal members of the community. Often, a village or hamlet will have hand-painted signs, listing the names of the local players and wishing them good luck.
A couple of weekends ago, the Gaelic club football season was reaching its conclusion (I think), and local side St. Joseph’s Miltown Malbay had made it to the Munster final. While the game was happening, I took a wander around the deserted village and nearby communities to make a few photographs.
Miltown lost the game.
All pictures taken on a Yashica-Mat 124G using Kodak Portra film.