Gaelic football (Irish: Peil Ghaelach; short name Peil or Caid), commonly referred to as football or Gaelic, is an Irish team sport. It is played between two teams of 15 players on a rectangular grass pitch. The objective of the sport is to score by kicking or punching the ball into the other team's goals (3 points) or between two upright posts above the goals and over a crossbar 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) above the ground (1 point).
Players advance the football, a spherical leather ball, up the field with a combination of carrying, bouncing, kicking, hand-passing, and soloing (dropping the ball and then toe-kicking the ball upward into the hands). In the game, two types of scores are possible: points and goals. A point is awarded for kicking or hand-passing the ball over the crossbar, signalled by the umpire raising a white flag. A goal is awarded for kicking the ball under the crossbar into the net, signalled by the umpire raising a green flag. Positions in Gaelic football are similar to that in other football codes, and comprise one goalkeeper, six backs, two midfielders, and six forwards, with a variable number of substitutes.
Gaelic football is one of four sports (collectively referred to as the "Gaelic games") controlled by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), the largest sporting organisation in Ireland. Along with hurling and camogie, Gaelic football is one of the few remaining strictly amateur sports in the world, with players, coaches, and managers prohibited from receiving any form of payment. Gaelic football is mainly played on the island of Ireland, although units of the Association exist in other areas such as Great Britain, North America and Australia.
The final of the All-Ireland Senior Championship, held annually at Croke Park, Dublin, draws crowds of more than 80,000 people. Outside Ireland, football is mainly played among members of the Irish diaspora. Gaelic Park in New York City is the largest purpose-built Gaelic sports venue outside Ireland. Three major football competitions operate throughout the year: the National Football League and the All-Ireland Senior Championship operate on an inter-county basis, while the All-Ireland Club Championship is contested by individual clubs. The All-Ireland Senior Championship is considered the most prestigious event in Gaelic football.
Under the auspices of the GAA, Gaelic football is a male-only sport; however, the related sport of ladies' Gaelic football is governed by the Ladies' Gaelic Football Association. Similarities between Gaelic football and Australian rules football have allowed the development of international rules football, a hybrid sport, and a series of Test matches has been held regularly since 1998.
While Gaelic football as it is known today dates back to the late 19th century, various kinds of football were played in Ireland before this time. The first legal reference to football in Ireland was in 1308, when John McCrocan, a spectator at a football game at Novum Castrum de Leuan (the New Castle of the Lyons or Newcastle) was charged with accidentally stabbing a player named William Bernard. A field near Newcastle, South Dublin is still known as the football field. The Statute of Galway of 1527 allowed the playing of "foot balle" and archery but banned "'hokie'—the hurling of a little ball with sticks or staves" as well as other sports.
By the 17th century, the situation had changed considerably. The games had grown in popularity and were widely played. This was due to the patronage of the gentry. Now instead of opposing the games it was the gentry and the ruling class who were serving as patrons of the games. Games were organised between landlords with each team comprising 20 or more tenants. Wagers were commonplace with purses of up to 100 guineas (Prior, 1997).