GAA aiming to bring Gaelic games to the Olympics

Association’s international body looking to secure recognition from the International Olympic Committee to broaden ‘global reach’

World GAA, the association’s international body, is hoping to have Gaelic football, hurling and camogie included as Olympic sports at a future games.

This emerged with the launch of a first strategic plan for the games overseas at the Canal Court hotel in Newry where this year’s GAA annual congress is being held on Friday and Saturday.

The intention is to broaden “the global reach and impact” of the GAA. Pillars of this strategy focus on coaching and games, health and wellbeing, officer training and PR and recognition from local sports federations. The plan states that the latter goal is with IOC recognition in mind.

“Gaelic Games to seek recognition in 60 international sporting federations in order to achieve AIMS recognition (Alliance of Independent recognised Members of Sport) followed by International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognition.”


It is hoped that AIMS recognition can be achieved by 2026. The plan expands on this theme.

“Once Olympic recognition is attained, the GAA can then reassess its goals and aspirations accordingly. It is important to acknowledge that this process is likely to take time and success is not guaranteed.

“Nonetheless, taking the first steps towards this goal is crucial for the GAA. Recognition for team sports can be more complex, but by following the established criteria and exploring potential adaptations, the GAA can enhance its chances of Olympic recognition.

“Ultimately, the goal should be to work towards Olympic recognition and reassess future plans based on the outcomes achieved.”

The event was an appropriate sign-off for the presidency of Larry McCarthy, a long-time administrator in the New York GAA. The first overseas representative to hold the association’s highest office said at the launch: “The GAA is the greatest community-based, inter-generational and volunteer led organisation in the world – bar none.

“The World GAA Strategic Plan is a visionary document. It is a roadmap to strengthen our existing roots internationally, and to encourage World GAA to boldly go in search of new territories where our magnificent games of hurling, football and camogie, and the ethos of Where We All Belong can have an inspirational impact.

“The sun never sets on World GAA and this plan has the potential to provide more clubs, more teams, and more friends to the international Gaelic games family.”

One of McCarthy’s predecessors, Liam O’Neill, said on the 2012 All Stars tour in New York that in time, the ranks of players overseas would outnumber those at home. That’s not immediately on the cards but there are now 23,277 players of Gaelic games internationally, spread around 84 teams and 475 active clubs.

The overseas units are, together with their foundation, as follows: Asia (1996), Middle East (2013), New York (1914), US (1959; excluding New York and the unit with most clubs, 153), Australasia (1974), Europe (1999) and Canada (1986).

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Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times