Sport in Ireland

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In Ireland, hockey, golf, rowing, cricket, rugby union and Olympic target shooting are organised in an all-island basis, with a single team representing the whole of Ireland in international competitions. Other sports, such as soccer and netball, have separate organizing bodies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The many sports played and followed in Ireland also include horse racing, show jumping, greyhound racing, basketball, fishing, handball, motor sport, target shooting and tennis.[1]

As Northern Ireland is a constitute nation of the United Kingdom it also sends a Northern Ireland Team to the Commonwealth Games. At the Olympic Games, a person from Northern Ireland can choose to represent either Ireland or Great Britain.[citation needed]

Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Ireland in terms of match attendance, and in 2003 accounted for 34% of total sports attendances at events in the Republic of Ireland, followed by hurling at 23%, soccer at 16% and rugby at 8%,[2] and Initiative's ViewerTrack study measuring 2005 sports audiences showed the sport's highest-profile match, the All-Ireland Football Final, to be the most watched event of the nation's sporting year.[3] Gaelic football is the most played team sport in Ireland. Soccer, hurling, golf, aerobics, cycling, swimming and billiards/snooker are the other sporting activities with the highest levels of playing participation in the Republic of Ireland.[1]

Gaelic football

As well as being known as "football", the sport may be referred to as Gaelic football or Gaelic, if confusion might otherwise arise with soccer. Though it has existed for centuries in Ireland as Caid, Gaelic football was formally arranged into an organised playing code by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in the late nineteenth century. It is the most popular sport in Ireland in terms of match attendance – in the senior football championship in the summer, attendance is upwards of 80,000 for the most prestigious fixtures.[4]

The game is played at underage, minor (under 18), under 21 and adult levels. All players are amateur, although players at a high level may receive income from sources such as sponsorship and grants. Every Gaelic footballer plays for a local club or parish team, and the best are chosen for the inter-county sides. County players may be chosen to play in inter-provincial Railway Cup games or for the 'International Rules' team to face Australia. However, the main national competitions are the inter-county All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and National Football League, also known as the NFL.

A Gaelic football year starts with pre-season competitions and the NFL. In early summer, the Championship begins. Each of the four provinces has its own tournament, and teams which are knocked out must do well in the 'qualifiers' if they are to gain a spot along with the four Provincial Champions in the All-Ireland quarter-finals. The All-Ireland Senior Football final is traditionally held on the third Sunday in September. Kerry are football's most successful team, with 37 All-Ireland senior titles. There are many rivalries within the game in Ireland – an example is that between Dublin and Meath. Other notable derbies include Cork v Kerry and Mayo v Galway.


Hurling is a sport native to Ireland, organised by the Gaelic Athletic Association. In terms of attendance figures, hurling is second only to Gaelic football.[4] Hurling is the fastest field sport in the world.

The game has similarities to shinty and hockey. However the ball (or sliotar) is rarely played along the ground. Hurling is also played on a large pitch and is considerably faster than hockey.

Many aspects of the organisation of hurling are similar to football, as both sports are organised by the GAA. Amateurism and the club/county/province structure are similar. Hurling is well-attended and the most prestigious games fill Croke Park to its capacity of well over 82,000. The main competitions are the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship and the National Hurling League (NHL).

Association football

Association football is the most popular live spectator sport in Northern Ireland.[5][6] The national body in the Republic of Ireland is the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) while the national body in Northern Ireland is the Irish Football Association (IFA).

The domestic leagues are the League of Ireland (in the Republic) and the NIFL Premiership (or Irish League) (Northern Ireland). Some of the major teams in Ireland include St Patrick's Athletic, Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians in the Republic, Glentoran and Linfield in Northern Ireland, and Derry City, a team from the North who play in the League of Ireland. Due to the financial incentives abroad, most of Ireland's top players, such as Damien Duff, John O'Shea, Aiden McGeady and Jonny Evans, play in the leagues of larger European countries, particularly in England and Scotland. This, along with the Irish media's huge coverage of the English league, is one of the reasons why Irish people tend to support leading British clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Celtic and Rangers. Rarely does a League of Ireland or Irish League player make either of the national teams, despite the fact that the leagues sometimes produce some of Ireland's top players including current internationals Kevin Doyle, Shane Long and Gareth McAuley and players like Roy Keane in the past.

On the international stage, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland teams have both competed in three FIFA World Cups, with the Republic also appearing in two European Championships, most recently in 2012.

The Milk Cup is a successful international youth tournament held annually in Northern Ireland, in which clubs and national teams from anywhere in the world may compete. Northern Ireland also played host to the 2005 UEFA Under-19 European Championships.

The Setanta Sports Cup was set up by its sponsors, television channel Setanta Ireland as an all-island competition featuring teams from both domestic leagues.

Rugby union

Munster fans watching the 2005-06 Heineken Cup final on the streets of Limerick.

Rugby union is played and supported throughout Ireland, but is especially popular in cities and urban areas such as Dublin, Limerick and Cork. Rugby union is played at club, province and national levels. The Ireland national team is composed of players from both Northern Ireland and the Republic, and the Irish Rugby Football Union governs the sport throughout the island. School rugby union is generally played at primary and secondary level. Notable rugby union schools include Blackrock College, Belvedere College, Rockwell College, Castleknock College, Clongowes Wood College, St Mary's College, Dublin, Terenure College, Crescent College, Limerick, Castletroy College, Limerick, St Munchin's College, Limerick, Ardscoil Rís, Limerick, PBC Cork and CBC Cork in the south and Campbell College, Royal Belfast Academical Institution and Methodist College Belfast in the north. Recent success at international level and the establishment of four professional teams has increased interest in rugby union as a sport in Ireland.[7] Also, schools who would not have played the game traditionally have started to field teams in the sport increasing the player base in the country.

Other sports

Adventure racing

Adventure racing in Ireland falls into two main varieties. The majority of adventure races in Ireland fall into what's often called multisport, with run, cycle and kayak stages in events like WAR (Wicklow Adventure Race) and Gaelforce West, which are won in under 4 hours. There are also a few longer international-style adventure races lasting 24 hours and 36 hours, events like Beast of Ballyhoura and Cooley Raid.[8]


Athletics in Ireland is governed by Athletics Ireland, and in Northern Ireland by Athletics Northern Ireland. The various track and field events tend to be supported by local athletics clubs rather than schools. Athletics has seen some of the Ireland's highest performers at the Olympics, with several Irish athletes performing well for both the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain & Northern Ireland at the games over the years. Denis Horgan won the Shot Putt 13 times at the AAAs, (still holding a title for greatest number of individual titles won), before emigrating to New York to (inevitably) become a policeman, where he also won many American titles. Horgan broke the world record on several occasions, and – at the tail end of his career (despite having a fractured skull) – he won the silver medal at the Olympics 1908. Dr. Pat O'Callaghan (also from North Cork) won the hammer throw in 1928 and again in 1932 at the Olympic Games. Bob Tisdall also won gold for Ireland in 1932, competing in the 400m hurdles. In more recent years, notable athletes have included Ron Delany, Mary Peters, John Treacy, Eamonn Coghlan, Sonia O'Sullivan and Robert Heffernan.

The Dublin Marathon and Belfast Marathon are run annually and are two of the most popular athletics events in the country. The Women's Mini Marathon in Dublin regularly gets upwards of 40000 competitors.[9]

Australian rules football

Ireland's All-International Mike Finn takes a mark over a pack of South African opponents in the 2008 AFL International Cup

Australian rules football has recently gained a following in Ireland which has increased mainly due to the International rules series that takes place annually between Australia and Ireland, the profile of the sport has increased. In October 2000, the Australian Rules Football League of Ireland was established, and a representative Irish team took part in the 2005 Australian Football International Cup. The Irish Green Machine became inaugural International champions in 2002. They have been finalists in every AFL International Cup since and are current 2011 International Cup champions. Belfast and Dublin have been hosts to the AFL Euro Cup.[10]


Baseball is an emerging sport in Ireland. The sport is played on an organized level in Dublin, Greystones, Belfast, Cork, Clare and Kerry. The Irish National Baseball Team won the bronze medal at the 2004 European Championships in Germany and followed up that performance with a silver medal in the 2006 European Championships in Belgium. On a club level, baseball is organized through Baseball Ireland, which operates an adult league established in 1997 with teams in Dublin, Greystones and Belfast. Irish baseball was the subject of an award-winning documentary The Emerald Diamond in 2006.


See also Ireland national basketball team

Basketball is an emerging sport in Ireland. Basketball Ireland is the governing body and organises the main competitions such as the SuperLeague. The main basketball arena in Ireland is the ESB Basketball Arena in Dublin. The sport receives small amounts of media attention, with a few games broadcast on television annually – usually when there is no Gaelic football on. Basketball is mainly driven by school, college and club support. Pat Burke is the only Irish born to play in the NBA, he played for Orlando Magic & Phoenix Suns. Marty Conlon also represented Ireland while playing in the NBA for the Boston Celtics however he was born in the United States.


Dunne celebrates in Dublin

Boxing, which was once one of Ireland's most popular sports is now regaining popularity. The international success of boxers such as Bernard Dunne, Andy Lee and John Duddy has much to do with this. RTÉ's coverage of the sport through ProBox live is also partly responsible for the surge in boxing's popularity in Ireland. 16 of Irelands 28 Olympic medals were won in Boxing.

In recent years Ireland's amateur boxers have won medals at numerous top level competitions worldwide including Olympics, World Senior Championships, European Senior Championships, World Junior Championships, World Youth Championships, European Junior Championships and European Youth Championships. Ireland also boasts the top pound-for-pound female amateur boxer in the world in Katie Taylor who has won five European Championships and four World Championships, as well as the inaugural women's lightweight gold at the 2012 Olympics.


The Irish Chess Union (ICU), formed in 1912, is the governing body for chess in Ireland and a member of FIDE since 1933 and the European Chess Union. The ICU promotes Chess in the Republic of Ireland and maintains the chess rating for players in the Republic of Ireland, which are published three times a year. It runs competitions such as the Irish Chess Championship and selects teams to participate in international competitions for Ireland.[11]


Ireland compete against Essex at Castle Avenue

Cricket in Ireland is a minority sport. It has been played in Ireland since the early 19th century, and the game against Scotland (a match which has first-class status) has been played annually since 1909. The Irish team was fairly strong in the mid and late 19th century, and sent several touring parties abroad, but development of the sport was adversely affected first by the Gaelic Athletic Association's ban on its members taking part in "foreign" sports.

The sport is organised on an all-island basis and is overseen by the Irish Cricket Union, founded in its present incarnation in 1923. Ireland has entered some domestic English tournaments since the early 1980s, but becoming an Associate Member of the International Cricket Council in 1993 paved the way for participation in international competition, and indeed the 2005 ICC Trophy was hosted by Ireland. The Irish finished second in the tournament, beaten by Scotland. Ireland co-hosted the 1999 Cricket World Cup.

The Ireland cricket team was among the associate nations that qualified for the 2007 Cricket World Cup. It defeated Pakistan and finished second in its pool, earning a place in the Super 8 stage of the competition. The team also competed in the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 after jointly winning the qualifiers, where they also made the Super 8 stage. Ireland also won the 2009 ICC World Cup Qualifier to secure their place in the 2011 Cricket World Cup, as well as official ODI status through 2013. Kevin O'Brien scored the fastest century in Word Cup history (113 runs off 63 balls), as Ireland produced one of the great upsets to defeat England by 3 wickets in the 2011 tournament


Croquet was first played in Ireland in the 1830s and the game is still popular. The governing association of the sport is the Croquet Association of Ireland. Most international matches and large tournaments are played at the Carrickmines Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, near Dublin.[12]


Cycling Retains a strong following in Ireland. There are many regional clubs throughout the country and many competitions are organised regularly, the largest non-professional one being the Rás (Irish for race).[13] The main governing body is Cycling Ireland which is responsible for cycling throughout the island. Ireland's most famous cyclists are Stephen Roche, who won both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia in 1987; and Sean Kelly, who won the Vuelta a España in 1988, the sprinter's green jersey in the Tour de France four times, and numerous single-day classics. Mountain biking is becoming more popular with dedicated trail centers in Wicklow, Dublin, Galway and Tipperary. For competitive mountain bikers, there is a National Cross-Country series, a National Downhill series and a National Enduro series. BMX is also becoming more popular with the completion of construction of the Ratoath BMX track in County Meath, and an indoor BMX track in Cherry Orchard in County Dublin.


The various equestrian sports have a sizeable following in Ireland. The governing body is the Equestrian Federation of Ireland, which is composed of 15 Irish affiliate bodies, representing all facets of equestrian sport. These sports include show jumping, eventing, dressage, endurance riding, para-equestrian, polo and carriage driving.[14]

Overall administration of Irish horse-racing is carried out by Horse Racing Ireland. Horse Racing Ireland is responsible for racing in both the Republic of Ireland, which has 24 racecourses, and in Northern Ireland, which has 2 racecourses. Ireland's top tracks are the Curragh and Fairyhouse. The breeding industry (including the world's largest thoroughbred breeding operation; Coolmore Stud) produces many top race horses every year.[15]

Extreme sports

There is a large underground following of extreme sports in Ireland, with many sports such as skateboarding, rollerblading, surfing, BMX, mountainbiking and mountainboarding (Kitesurfing), (wakeboarding)growing. Although many people participate in these sports, few of them do so competitively. Most of these sports have national governing bodies, such as the Irish Surfing Association, and national competitions, such as mountainbiking's national series.

Since 2005, skateparks (for skateboarding, rollerblading, etc.) have been developed in several places. Concrete skateparks are in Gorey, Greystones, Bushy park (Dublin) and Lucan (Dublin). Modular parks can be found in other parts of Ireland.[16]

Gaelic handball

In Ireland, there are four main types of handball. These are 40x20 (small court), the traditional 60x30 Softball and Hardball (big alley) and One-wall handball. One-wall handball has become more popular in recent years and it is the most popular version internationally. It is played in over 35 countries and it is hoped that it will become an Olympic sport soon.

Handball is played with a variety of balls. Gloves and eyeguards are compulsory for some competitions. The sport is managed and promoted by GAA Handball, a subsidiary body of the GAA.


Strandhill Golf Course in County Sligo: just one of the many coastal golf courses throughout Ireland
Further information: Golfing Union of Ireland

Golf is very popular in Ireland, with over 400 golf clubs throughout the island, and over 300 courses in the Republic of Ireland. Golf is regularly televised in Ireland, with both domestic and international events broadcast. Among Ireland's most famous golf courses are Royal County Down Golf Club, Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portmarnock and Ballybunion. The most prestigious tournament of Ireland is the Irish Open, ewhich is held in courses in the four provinces. Also, the K Club in County Kildare hosted the European Open from 1995 to 2007.

Ireland produced several top golfers in the 2000s, with players like Pádraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke achieving significant success internationally. All three were part of the European team that successfully defended the 2006 Ryder Cup held at Kildare, with Clarke arguably being the emotional leader as he was recovering from the death of his wife from breast cancer. The 2007 Seve Trophy was held at County Laois and 2011 Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle, but no Irish golfers played.

Harrington won the 2006 European Tour Order of Merit, the The Open Championship (British Open) in 2007 and 2008, and the 2008 PGA Championship. Clarke went on to win the 2011 Open Championship.

Two more stars have emerged even more recently, both from the North. Rory McIlroy,has five major tournament wins, including the 2011 U.S. Open, setting 11 Open records. He was world number one in the Official World Golf Ranking for 95 weeks.

Graeme McDowell won the 2010 U.S. Open, becoming the first player from either side of the Irish border to win the U.S. Open, as well as the first European to win that event since England's Tony Jacklin in 1970. McDowell also won the crucial match in the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in Wales. Paul McGinley captained the successful European team for the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Greyhound racing

Greyhound racing

Greyhound racing began in Ireland in 1927; there were greyhound races in Celtic Park in Belfast on 18 April of that year and the Shelbourne Park greyhound stadium opened in Dublin four weeks later. Hare coursing was already a well established sport in the country and greyhounds were bred for racing in Ireland from the very start. The great Mick the Miller, winner of the English Derby in 1929 and 1930, was an Irish greyhound and Ireland continues to export greyhounds.

There are now twenty licensed greyhound stadiums in Ireland. There are seventeen in the Republic where the licensing authority is Bord na gCon, the Irish Greyhound Board. This is a semi-state body and was established by the Irish government in 1958. The three stadiums in Northern Ireland are licensed by the Irish Coursing Club, which also organises hare coursing throughout the Island.

Once seen as a sport in decline, the popularity of greyhound racing has surged since 1995 and several million euro are now bet "at the dogs" annually. Bord na gCon has invested substantial amounts of money in developing and marketing the sport, prize money has increased and greyhound stadiums have been refurbished, helping the sport sell itself as a social event. It is now common for families and groups of friends or colleagues to go for "a night at the dogs" instead of to the cinema, the pub or a nightclub. Prize money ranges from a few hundred euro to several thousand for top dogs. The annual Paddy Power Irish Greyhound Derby run each year in August at Shelbourne Park is one of the richest greyhound races in the world.


Hockey[17] (known in some countries as "field hockey") is quite popular as a participative sport in Ireland. It is played throughout the country, particularly in secondary schools. There are many hockey clubs throughout the country. The governing body in Ireland is the Irish Hockey Association.[18]

Ice hockey

Since the 1990s ice hockey has seen an increase in popularity, notably with the Belfast Giants ice hockey team in Northern Ireland. Ice hockey has a measure of popularity in Northern Ireland, with one professional team, the Belfast Giants, playing in the Elite Ice Hockey League. The Irish Ice Hockey League comprises a number of amateur teams from both sides of the border. The National Hockey League in North America has one active Irish born player, Owen Nolan, as well as several former players from the 1930s through 1950s: Jim McFadden, Jack Riley, Sid Finney, Bobby Kirk, and Sammy McManus. However, all of the named players were trained in Canada, having emigrated from Ireland with their families as children.


Kickboxing Ireland (formally known as Allstyles Kickboxing Association of Ireland) was founded in 1985 to unify and structure the emerging sport in Ireland. It was recognised by the Irish Sports Council as a national governing body of sport in 1993 under the auspices of the Irish Martial Arts Commission. It governs, regulates and promotes kickboxing on the Island of Ireland.[19]


While still a minority sport in Ireland, Kendo is enjoying increasing popularity over the last 10 years with significant clubs based in Dublin, Cork and Galway. The Irish Kendo Federation, or Kendo Na h-Eireann is the governing body for the country. The Irish National Kendo Squad participates in the European Kendo Championships and the World Kendo Championships, as well as other international competitions. The main Kendo event in Ireland is the annual Irish National Championships (INC) which takes place in June each year.

Kendo in Northern Ireland is governed by the British Kendo Association (BKA). There is currently one Kendo club in Northern Ireland, Ojika NI, based in Belfast.

Martial arts

Taekwondo and Karate have had some success over the past 20 years, with various new clubs being founded throughout the country. The All-Ireland Taekwondo Association has worked in recent years to promote the sport in the country and to organise more competitions. However, the rise in popularity of Kickboxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) tournaments in Ireland and beyond has led to many of the traditionally popular disciplines such as karate and taekwondo beginning to lose some of their following.[citation needed] Most notable of all Irish martial artists is Karate and Kickboxing Irish, European and World Champion Roy Baker. Baker has been the most successful martial arts competitor in Irish history winning over 50 prestigious international titles. He is also the president of Kickboxing Ireland and vice president of The Irish Martial Arts Commission. Mixed Martial Arts has gained a lot of popularity in the past 5 years with many clubs opening in Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

The National Governing Body of Martial Arts in Ireland, as appointed by the Irish Sports Council, is the Irish Martial Arts Commission under the Presidency of Aikidoka Brendan Dowling. The Irish Martial Arts Commission currently represents the following Martial Arts; Aikido, Kickboxing, Karate, Kung Fu, Kendo, Ninjutsu, Tai Chi, TaeKwon-Do with Tang Soo Do recently beginning the process of IMAC membership and recognition. The Executive Committee of the Irish Martial Arts Commission is made up of 2 representative elected within the membership of each Martial Art. The Irish Martial Arts Commission processes the National Vetting of all Instructors, the qualification of Martial Arts Coaches (through Coaching Ireland) and presenting Child Protection Training for members.

Olympic Handball

Olympic Handball is a minority sport in Ireland despite it being the second most popular team sport in Europe. Olympic handball has a growing following and participation with a continued growth particularly in primary and secondary schools. The Irish Olympic Handball Association is the governing body in Ireland and there are currently 8 clubs in the Senior National League. In October 2007 the Irish Men's team recorded their best result in the European Challenge Trophy (a competition for developing nations) coming 4th ahead of Scotland and Malta.


Orienteering is a popular sport in Ireland and is regulated by the Irish Orienteering Association. Every two years, the Shamrock o-Ringen, Ireland's largest Orienteering event, is held in Cork or Kerry, regularly attracting several hundred competitors. Irish orienteers compete at all levels, often reaching the finals at the World Orienteering. Championships.[20]

Racquet sports

Tennis, badminton, racquetball and squash are quite popular in Ireland. Tennis has a growing following, with Tennis Ireland, the governing body running several competitions between the some 200 clubs throughout Ireland. Ireland competes in tennis internationally in the Davis Cup (men's) and the Fed Cup (ladies). Badminton in Ireland is run by the BUI. Squash, which exploded in the 1970s and 1980s has been in decline for several years, but despite this there remain several clubs throughout the country.

Road bowling

Irish Road Bowling is an ancient sport. It is centred in Ireland (particularly Cork and Armagh) but is also played in the United States and the United Kingdom. Similar sports are played in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy and since the 1960s the sport has enjoyed a genuine international dimension with an international championship being played on a regular basis by athletes from all these countries.


Rounders (Irish: cluiche corr) is regulated by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in Ireland, and is not dissimilar to baseball. Game-play centers around innings where teams alternate at turns being batters and fielders. Points ("rounders") are scored by the batting team by completing a circuit around the field through four bases without being put 'out'. The earliest nationally formalised rules of play were devised by the GAA in Ireland in 1884.


Rowing is an Olympic Sport which is regulated by Rowing Ireland. During the winter there are Head of the River Races (processional timed races) and during the summer there are Regattas (side by side racing). The Irish Championships are held at the National Rowing Centre in Cork.

Rugby League

Rugby league in Ireland is governed by Rugby League Ireland, which runs the Irish Elite League (known as the Carnegie League for sponsorship purposes),[21] which is the top level rugby league competition in Ireland. There are currently[when?] 20 teams across Ulster, Munster and Leinster.[22] The Irish rugby league team compete in the European Cup and the Rugby League World Cup. It is made up predominantly of players based in Great Britain. Ireland reached the quarter-finals of the 2000 Rugby League World Cup and the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.[23][24]


Sailing in Ireland is an outdoor activity governed and regulated by the Irish Sailing Association, at 3 Park Road, Dun Laoghaire and events are organised by the various clubs on the coasts and on the reservoirs and lakes. The first sailing club was the Cork Water Club founded in 1720. Sailing can be organised in a variety of forms:

One Design racing- where all of the boats (irrespective of size) are of the same design. Many of the designs employed are unique to Ireland, such as DBSC 21, DBSC 24, Glen, Howth 17, Mermaid, Shannon OD, Water Wag,

Handicap racing- where all the boats are of different designs.

Team Racing- An event generally for 6 competitors in two teams.

Cruising- Sailing without a race.

Each category has the ability of going international.


See also Softball in Ireland

Softball in Ireland can be traced back as far as 1982, with the first organised competition, the Dublin Softball League, taking place in 1984. The Irish Softball Association is the governing body of softball in Ireland and is responsible for the running of tournaments, Leagues, development and international competition in both co-ed slowpitch and ladies fastpitch softball. The National Team (Co-Ed) has competed at European level since 1998, with the best results being Silver in 2002 and 2004.

Snooker and pool

Snooker and pool hold some interest in Ireland, with significant media coverage of most major international tournaments. Despite being home to one of the world's most successful snooker players (Ken Doherty), both snooker and pool are in decline in Ireland as major sports. They retain popularity in pubs, but many of the country's snooker/pool halls have closed in recent years. see Irish Snooker Homepage

Target shooting

Target shooting in Ireland comprises a large number of disciplines including amongst others the Olympic rifle and pistol shooting disciplines (administered by the NTSA), Metallic Silhouette shooting (administered by the NSAI), Precision Pistol, Benchrest Rifle, Gallery Rifle and Sporting Rifle disciplines (administered by the NASRPC)), the Tetrathlon (administered by the Pony Club) and Olympic Penthathlon (administered by the Modern Pentathlon Association of Ireland), both Olympic and non-Olympic Clay Pigeon Shooting (administered by the ICPSA) and various long-range rifle shooting disciplines (administered by the NRAI).

Ireland has had a strong presence in international target shooting competitions, including the Olympic Games.[25] The Irish Olympic clay pigeon team won the World Championships team event in Olympic Trap in 2002 and Irish shooter Philip Murphy claimed the silver medal in the 2007 World Shotgun Championships; he has also placed in the top ten in two World Championships and two World Cups.[26] His teammate Derek Burnett won bronze in the 2010 European championship, silver in the 2007 World Cup in Maribor, has been ranked 5th in the 2002 World Championships in Lathi and 9th in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and has placed in the top ten in three World Championships, two World Cup Finals, 13 World Cups and two European championships, and he has been ranked in the top 20 trap shooters in the world.[27] Another teammate, David Malone, won gold in the 2004 World Cup in Cairo, and has ranked in the top ten in two World Championships, one World Cup Final, five World Cups and a European Championships.[28] The team has also won several World Cup medals in both team and individual events. The clay pigeon high performance director has also been appointed head of the ISSF coaches' committee[29] and the head clay target instructor with the ISSF Training Academy in recognition of these successes.[30] Most recently, Ian O'Sullivan became the World Junior Champion in Olympic Trap in the 2014 World Championships.[31]

Ireland are the current World Champions in Centrefire Gallery Rifle - having won the Inaugural World Championships in 2013 beating Great Britain & Germany. Gallery Rifle events are administered on an International Basis by the IGRF and in Ireland by the NASRPC/. They placed second in the Smallbore Gallery Rifle World Championships in the same year.


The triathlon, as well as the duathlon, pentathlon, and decathlon, are rapidly gaining interest in Ireland. The Irish Triathlon calendar of events now runs to 200 events annually. The national body for the triathlon is Triathlon Ireland which organises competitions between various clubs throughout the country. Many participants are members of clubs that specialise in swimming and cycling as well as Triathlon clubs. Although the Triathlon remains the most popular multi-event sport in Ireland, the other sports such as the pentathlon are gaining popularity. The Modern Pentathlon Association of Ireland was set up in 2004. Pentathlon and Decathlon are track and field events and therefore organized by an athleteic association, whereas Triathlon and Duathlon are organized by multi sport associations such as National Governing bodies for Triathlon and the ITU, International Triathlon Union.

Tug of war

Tug of war has been in Ireland for a long time and the creation of the Irish Tug of War Association in 1967 boosted the competition among clubs in Ireland and also enabled Ireland to compete in international events, such as the Tug of War International Federation (TWIF) World Championships.

Underwater sports

File:Sea urchin sky view.jpg
Diving the Skellig Islands, West of Ireland

Ireland, being an island on the western edge of Europe and on the continental shelf, is perfectly suited for recreational diving activities such as scuba diving and snorkelling. Ireland's waters provide diving sites of various qualities and standards to encompass all individual requirements. Because of its small size it is relatively easy to travel from one part of the island to another; giving divers the opportunity to travel for one or more days diving. The dive season in Ireland generally starts around March and ends around October. It is possible of course, to dive outside these times, but due to adverse weather and sea conditions it is not appealing.

Recreational diving started in Ireland in the early 1950s with the founding of the Belfast Branch of the British Sub Aqua Club.[32] In the early 1960s, diving clubs in the Republic of Ireland formed the Comhairle Fo-Thuinn (CFT) (English: Irish Underwater Council). This voluntary body regulates all aspects of diving for its members, is the national governing body recognised by the Irish Government and represents the Republic of Ireland at the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (World Underwater Federation). The Northern Ireland Federation of Sub-Aqua Clubs which was formed in 1975 is the corresponding national governing body in Northern Ireland.

As of October 2013, underwater hockey is the only underwater sport being practised. This activity is limited to the Republic of Ireland where regional competition takes place in both Dublin and Cork. Irish national teams have played internationally with attendance at European championships.[33][34]


Volleyball has men's, women's, schools' and beach-volleyball participants. The sport is governed by the Volleyball Association of Ireland.[35] The Northern Ireland Volleyball Association govern the sport In the north of Ireland. Men, Women and Junior National Teams regularly compete in international competition includingThe European Small Nations Championship. The NI Men's National Team competed in the first round of the World Championships under coach Gerry Ford and captain Nick Wright. Club volleyball is played in several divisions both North and South and welcomes both beginner and experienced player alike.


Collar-and-elbow is a type of traditional Celtic wrestling, similar to Breton gouren and Cornish wrestling. Though its popularity waned over the 20th century, it is currently experiencing a small revival.

Water sports

Water sports practised in Ireland include canoeing, swimming, surfing, diving, water polo, sailing, and kayaking. Whilst many people participate in these, few do so competitively. Ireland has had only one Olympic medalist in swimming, Michelle Smith, and her medals have since been tarnished by drug allegations. The National Aquatic Centre was opened in Ireland in 2003 and held the European SC Championships in December 2003 – the first time the country hosted such a competition. At the competition, Ireland won its first medal at the European SC Championships ever, a silver in the 200m breaststroke by Andrew Bree. Swim Ireland is the national governing body of swimming in Ireland. See also List of Olympic-size swimming pools in Ireland.

Winter Sports

The Ski Club of Ireland is the national snowsports centre for Ireland, and consists of four outdoor dry slopes in Kilternan, Dublin. A team representing Ireland has competed at the Winter Olympic Games since 1992. Kirsten McGarry represented Ireland twice at the 2006 Winter Olympics and the 2010 Winter Olympics. Her best result was a 32nd place in the giant slalom in 2006.[36]

Competitions and events


The various GAA discipline finals are easily the largest sporting events regularly held in Ireland, in both terms of attendance and media coverage. The biggest national sporting event in Ireland is the final of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, held annually in Croke Park, usually in September. It usually attracts a sell out crowd of 82,500 to croke park. Many of the matches in the championship attract crowds of 50,000+, depending on who is playing.

Aside from the GAA, the biggest multi-sport event held in Ireland regularly is the Community Games. The games are organised every year from a local level, where hundreds of thousands of young people compete in different disciplines such as athletics, swimming, cycling etc., in the first half of the year. Winners progress to county level, and then to the Community Games finals. The finals are held over two weekends in the summer where over 3,000 children sleep over at a campus facility such as Mosney (which was used until 2004.)


On an international level, Ireland has had mixed fortunes. Ireland has been particularly successful in recent years in rugby union, horse racing, show jumping, snooker, amateur boxing, and golf. However, several scandals have arisen in recent years which have tarnished Ireland's international participation.


Twenty four Irish people have won Olympic medals as of 2012. At the 2004 Summer Olympics, Ireland had one of its smallest contingents in its history at the games, with only 106 individuals participating. This was due to the strict policy followed by the Olympic Council of Ireland of only allowing A time athletes and swimmers to attend the games. This prevented several sportspeople from competing.

One of the biggest international events in Ireland is international soccer. The Republic's national team has punched above its weight in recent years, qualifying for the 2002 World Cup, and performing well against such teams as Brazil and Portugal. In rugby union, Ireland's national team has been ranked in the top five teams regularly over the last few years, and has produced major stars such as Keith Wood and Brian O'Driscoll. In golf, Ireland is home to several top golfers such as Pádraig Harrington.

Kickboxing host one of the largest annual sporting events every March. Irish Open international attracts over 4,000 competitor over the three days and is hosted in city west main conference centre which has seating capacity for 15,000 people. The event is uniquely run in aid of a designated charity ISPCC. It has become the largest fighting competition in Europe over its 21 years.

The traditional Gaelic games of Gaelic football and Hurling are played by Irish expats, with increasingly local involvement in communities around the world, however no nation has enough players to compete with Ireland. To compensate for this the GAA has entered into a partnership with the Australian Football League (Australian rules football) and plays a hybrid annual series called International rules football – this series has been going in various forms since 1967. Also the GAA plays an international Hurling hybrid match with Scotland's national shinty team (although Ireland do not select players from the best hurling teams in Tier One of the All-Ireland championship for this game).

In 2003, Ireland hosted the Special Olympics World Summer Games, which was the biggest sporting event ever held in the country.[citation needed] In December 2003, Ireland hosted the European SC Championships 2003. In 2006, Ireland hosted the Ryder Cup Matches.


Ireland's largest stadium is the GAA's Croke Park in Dublin, which can hold 82,300 people.[37] It is the fourth largest stadium in Europe. Until recently, it was only used for Gaelic games and concerts. Other GAA facilities apable of accommodating 50,000 or more people are Semple Stadium, Thurles, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick and Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork.

International soccer and rugby in the Republic of Ireland were played at Lansdowne Road prior to its closure and redevelopment. When the stadium closed late in 2006, it could accommodate approximately 35,000 people for soccer and 50,000 for rugby union (the difference is because standing-room terraces cannot be used for international soccer but can be used for rugby union). Early in 2007, the rebuilding of Lansdowne Road into a modern 50,000-capacity all-seater began, and in the interim, the GAA permitted rugby and soccer internationals to be played in Croke Park. The new Aviva Stadium opened in May 2010. Thomond Park, a rugby ground in Limerick, has been rebuilt into a modern 26,000-capacity stadium, though not all-seated.

Ireland currently has three Olympic-sized swimming pools – two of which are open to the public. The largest – located at Sports Campus Ireland – is the National Aquatic Centre. Ireland has several large horse and greyhound tracks such as Fairyhouse.

Plans to develop a Northern Ireland stadium at the site of the former Maze prison in County Antrim to cater for Gaelic games, rugby and soccer were scrapped in 2009 after opposition from unionists and soccer fans.[38] Alternative plans from private consortia have emerged to build a stadium in Belfast, Northern Ireland's biggest city.[citation needed]

The Ireland national cricket team play One Day Internationals at Stormont in Belfast and at the Clontarf Cricket Club Ground in Clontarf, Dublin. Ireland also plays Intercontinental Cup matches at the Woodvale Road ground.

Media coverage

  • Newspapers: All major newspapers dedicate significant amounts of space to sports coverage. These pages are usually dominated by soccer, Gaelic games and equestrian events. The most popular newspapers in Ireland for sports coverage are The Irish Examiner, Star, Irish Independent, The Sunday Tribune and The Sunday World.[citation needed]
  • Television: Gaelic football, hurling and soccer receive most of the sports coverage on domestic channels. RTÉ Two and TG4 currently hold the right to broadcast Gaelic games in Ireland. Coverage of the League of Ireland is shared between RTÉ, TG4 and Setanta Sports. TV3 and RTÉ Two both have rights to various European soccer competitions, such as the Champions League and the English Premier League. Setanta Ireland launched in early 2004 with the aim of offering a dedicated service to Irish sport. Satellite and Cable subscribers have access to many other foreign channels such as Sky Sports, Eurosport and Attheraces. RedDishTV, an Irish company, live stream all major pool and snooker events online.
  • Magazines: There are relatively few Irish based magazines apart from GAA ones such as the Hogan Stand. However many foreign sports magazines are widely available.

See also


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  • Croke Park: Cathedral of Sport by Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, first printed September 2004 – ISBN 1-903464-54-4
  • The Ras: Ireland's Unique Bike Race 1953–2003 by Tom Daly, first printed October 2003 – ISBN 1-903464-37-4
  • Golfing in Ireland: The Most Complete Guide for Adventurous Golfers by Rob Armstrong, first printed May 2000 – ISBN 1-56554-726-8
  • The Fighting Irish by Roger Anderson, first printed October 2004 – ISBN 1-84018-755-7
  • Michael Fortune (2002), Greyhound racing in Brian Lalor (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Ireland. Dublin: Gill and Macmillian. ISBN 0-7171-3000-2

External links