Sport in Ireland


Sport in Ireland

Sport on the island of Ireland is popular and widespread. Levels of participation and spectating are high, but as in other western regions participation has been dropping due to the increasing popularity of other activities such as watching television and playing computer games. Throughout the country a wide variety of sports are played, the most popular being Gaelic games such as Gaelic football, hurling and camogie; as well as association football, rugby union and boxing. By attendance figures Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Ireland [cite web|url=http://www.gaa.ie/files/04arstat.pdf|title=GAA attendance figures|accessdate=2008-02-22] [cite web|url=http://www.irlgov.ie/aboutireland/eng/cultureandsport.asp|title=Culture and.. Sport|accessdate=2008-02-22]

In Ireland many sports, such as boxing, rugby union, Gaelic football and hurling, are organised in an all-island basis, with a single team representing Ireland in international competitions. Other sports, such as Association Football, have separate organising bodies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. At the Olympics, a person from Northern Ireland can choose to represent either the Ireland or Great Britain team.

Gaelic football

Often known as "Gaelic", "Gah", "GAA" (to avoid confusion with association football) or just football, this game (along with hurling) is considered the national sport of Ireland. [ [http://www.myguideireland.com/gaelic-football Gaelic Football | Ireland Vacation and Travel Destination Specialist - Get a FREE quote within 24 hours ] ] [ [http://www.pride.ie/ GAA, Gaelic Football and Hurling T-Shirts from PRIDE ] ] [ [http://www.webtrade.ie/GAA_DVDs__sale_online/Default.127.html DVD, GAA, comedy, DVDs, shopping, online, sport, gaelic football, hurling ] ] [ [http://homepage.eircom.net/~domainnames/t_links.html Links ] ] 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 some of the more prestigious fixtures. In 2003 for example, 34% of all attendances to sports events in Ireland were to Gaelic football matches. Hurling is the closest rival with 23%.cite web|url=http://www.esri.ie/pdf/BKMNINT180_Main%20Text_Social%20and%20Economic%20Value%20of%20Sport.pdf|title=The Social Significance of Sport|accessdate=2006-11-27]

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. There is great pride associated with playing for a county team in Ireland. 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.

A 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 35 All-Ireland senior titles. There are many rivalries within the game in Ireland - an example is that between Dublin and Meath. Other notable teams include Tyrone and Armagh.

Hurling

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.

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 80,000. The main competitions are the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship and the National Hurling League (NHL). As with football, pre-season competitions and the League are over by early summer. The Provincial Championships and Qualifiers are then played, followed by the All-Ireland series. The All-Ireland Hurling Final is traditionally held on the first Sunday in September of each year. The most successful teams have been Cork and Kilkenny. Kilkenny have won the last two championships and are currently regarded as the top team.

Association football

Often known as soccer (to avoid confusion with Gaelic football) [ [http://www.irishabroad.com/news/irishpost/featurearticles/EveryoneWinnerGAACrokePark.asp Irish News UK - News from the Irish Community in Britain ] ] [ [http://www.fai.ie/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1485 FAI.ie - Much done... lots more to do, says FAI Chief Executive John Delaney ] ] [ [http://www.ireland.com/sports/ Ireland Sports News & Latest Soccer, Rugby, GAA & Racing News Headlines - ireland.com ] ] [ http://www.examiner.ie/irishexaminer ] or just football [ [http://www.a2zsoccer.com/index.cfm/loc/8.htm A2zsoccer :: Home of Irish Soccer ] ] [ [http://www.eleven-a-side.com/default.asp eleven-a-side.com | Irish soccer | eircom League ] ] , association football is the largest participation team sport in Ireland. [ [http://www.fai.ie/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1365&Itemid=9 FAI Official Site] http://www.fai.ie/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1365&Itemid=9] , and the most keenly supported international sport.Fact|date=April 2008 Despite low match attendance at domestic league games, many people have an interest in the English Premier League or the Scottish Premier League.Fact|date=April 2008 Football is played at all levels, with kids playing it on the street, teenagers playing in local clubs, and even-middle aged men playing it with co-workers on a regular basis.Fact|date=April 2008 The national body in the Republic is the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) while the national body in Northern Ireland is the older Irish Football Association (IFA).

The domestic leagues are the FAI League of Ireland (in the Republic) and the IFA Premiership (Northern Ireland). Some of the major teams in Ireland include Shamrock Rovers, Cork City and Bohemians in the Republic, Glentoran and Linfield in Northern Ireland, and Derry City, a team from the North who play in the FAI league. Due to the financial incentives abroad, most of Ireland's top players, such as Damien Duff and Robbie Keane, 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 player from the Republic's domestic league make the national team, the most recent of these being Jason Byrne in 2006, although occasional appearances of Irish League players for Northern Ireland have been known.

On the international stage, the Republic of Ireland — despite never winning a major tournament — has had many successful games in recent years, notably drawing with Brazil and Portugal. Northern Ireland's international team, despite a poor run of form in the late 1990s and first few years of the 21st century, and a corresponding slump in the FIFA World Rankings, enjoyed great success in the early and mid-1980s and has recently had a revival in fortunes under former manager Lawrie Sanchez, with home wins over Spain and England

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. It is an all-island mini-World Cup style tournament (two groups of four, then semis and final) featuring eight teams, four being from the League of Ireland and four from the Irish League. Despite fairly low turnouts for each jurisdictions leagues, the Setanta Cup has so far drawn relatively successful gate receipts. This had led to calls for an All-Ireland football league to be established. [ [http://www.allirelandpremierleague.com/news.html All Ireland Premier League ] ]

Rugby union

Rugby union is common throughout Ireland, but is especially popular in Munster (County Limerick and Cork city mainly), Ulster and Dublin. 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 only played at secondary level. Notable rugby union schools include Belvedere College, Blackrock College, Rockwell College, Castleknock College, Clongowes Wood College, Terenure College, Crescent College, Castletroy College, PBC Cork and CBC Cork in the south and the 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 spectator sport in Ireland Fact|date=February 2007.

Cricket

Cricket in Ireland is something of a minority sport, and all players are amateurs, but the game is showing signs of development. Cricket is now getting more and more popular thanks to Ireland's successful Cricket World Cup campaign in 2007. 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 and then by the creation of the Irish Free State; many of the best cricketers in Ireland had been British soldiers and civil servants and their withdrawal led to a decline in the overall standard of the game.

There have been brighter spots in recent years, however. Dublin-born batsman Ed Joyce has played with some success as part of Ireland's ICC Trophy team and is now a key member of the Middlesex side in England's County Championship; he captained the county in 2004. Interest in Irish cricket was also generated by the national team's startling victory over West Indies in 1969; they did it again on 17 June 2004. The sport is organised on an all-island basis and is overseen by the [http://www.theicu.org/ 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 has co-hosted the Cricket World Cup in 1999. Dublin also hosted one game of the 1999 World Cup. The 2007 World Cup which was held in the West Indies was a very successful tournament for the Irish Cricket team. Having qualified for the first time for the tournament, Ireland entered the arena with much to gain. Ireland tied the match with Test Cricket playing team, Zimbabwe and shocked Pakistan by defeating them on St. Patrick's day. Suddenly there was much talk about Cricket in Ireland. Ireland qualified for the super 8 and recorded some good results, including a win against Bangladesh. Ireland have been granted ODI status and now they appear in the ODI ranking table. In June 2007 Ireland played ODI matches against India and South Africa.

Gaelic handball

Handball, once very popular in Ireland, has lost much of its popularity over the years to other sports such as Gaelic football and Association Football, and many handball alleys throughout Ireland are in a state of neglect. Ireland still produces top class handballers, but, lacking any international competitive level (except against the United States), the sport has not gained much media coverage in recent years. The sport is governed by the GAA.

Golf

Golf is very popular in Ireland, with several hundred clubs throughout the country. Golf tourism is growing rapidly. Golf is regularly televised in Ireland, with both domestic and international events broadcast. Among Ireland's most famous golf courses are Portmarnock, Ballybunion, and Royal Portrush.

The K Club in County Kildare was the venue for the 2006 Ryder Cup. Ireland has produced several top golfers in recent years, with Pádraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke all achieving significant success internationally. All three were part of the European team that successfully defended the Ryder Cup on home soil, with Clarke arguably being the emotional leader as he was recovering from the death of his wife from breast cancer. Most recently, Harrington won both The Open Championship and PGA Championship in 2008.

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. Dogs are generally owned by syndicates. 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.

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 Holland, 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.

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.

Other sports

Athletics

Athletics in the Republic of Ireland is governed by [http://www.athleticsireland.ie/ Athletics Ireland] , and in Northern Ireland by [http://www.niathletics.org/ Athletics Northern Ireland] . The various track and field events tend to be supported by local athletics clubs rather than schools. Athletics has seem 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 Tindall also won gold for Ireland in 1932, competing in the 400m hurdles. In more recent years, notable athletes have included Ron Delany, Mary Peters, Eamonn Coghlan and Sonia O'Sullivan. Despite these past successes, the sport suffers from low media attention and dropping interest due to the popularity of other sports and past underinvestment.

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.

Australian rules football

Australian rules football in Ireland has a very small following, however due to the International rules series that takes place annually between Australia and Ireland, interest in 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.

The sport first gained exposure in when former Gaelic football player Jim Stynes moved to Australia to play AFL and in 1991 became the first Gaelic footballer to win the Brownlow Medal.

In the 2005 AFL Grand Final, Tadhg Kennelly (son of Tim Kennelly) became the first Irishman to be part of a premiership-winning side, with the Sydney Swans. Australian journalist Andrew Maher flew out to Ireland with Kennelly's family to watch the game on television with them.

Recent exposure however has been negative, due to a spiteful 2005 and calls from the GAA to ban it. As a result, the AFL and GAA agreed on harsh penalties for offenders. Despite this, interest in the 2006 International Rules Series reached an all time high, with the series selling both games out in Ireland including a record crowd at Croke Park for any international sporting event in the country. Other concerns are the active poaching of talented junior Gaelic players by AFL clubs like the Brisbane Lions and Collingwood Magpies. The AFL has since agreed to change the rules for the series and to limit the number of Gaelic players drafted, which may also slow growth of Australian rules in Ireland.

Baseball

:main|Baseball in Ireland|Irish National Baseball Team
Baseball is an emerging sport in Ireland. The sport is played on an organized level in Dublin, Greystones, Belfast, Cork 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 [http://www.baseballireland.com/ 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.

Basketball

:"See also Ireland national basketball team
Basketball is an emerging sport in Ireland. [http://www.basketballireland.ie/ 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 Irishman currently playing in the NBA

Boxing

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. RTEs coverage of the sport through ProBox live is also partly responsible for the surge in boxing's popularity in Ireland. As of October 2008, boxing is responsible for 12 of Irelands 23 Olympic medals.

Equestrianism

The various equestrian sports have a sizeable following in Ireland. Thanks to generous tax treatment, many of the world's best race horses retire to Ireland to stud. The local industry (including the world's largest thoroughbred breeding operation; Coolmore Stud) produces many top race horses every year. Ireland's top tracks are the Curragh and Fairyhouse. Show jumping also has quite a good following in Ireland, however the disqualification of Cian O'Connor at the 2004 Summer Olympics has deeply damaged the sport.

Cycling

Cycling retains a strong following in Ireland. There are many regional [http://www.lakelandcc.org/links-clubs.html clubs] throughout the country and many competitions are organised regularly, the largest non-professional one being the "Rás" (Irish for race). 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 Seán 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.

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 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 up in several places. Concrete skateparks, are in [http://www.goreyskateclub.com/ Gorey] , Greystones, Bushy park (Dublin) and Lucan (Dublin). Modular parks can be found in other parts of Ireland. [ [http://www.goreyskateclub.com/skateparks.html Goreyskateclub Co. Wexford Ireland, skateparks in ireland - Wreckless ] ]

Hockey

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 main body in Ireland is the [http://www.hockey.ie/ Irish Hockey Association] .

Ice Hockey

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 NHL in North America has one Irish born player, Owen Nolan.

Martial arts

Taekwondo and Karate have had some success over the past 10 years, with several new clubs being founded throughout the country. The [http://www.taekwondo.ie/ 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 mixed martial arts (MMA) tournaments in Ireland and beyond has led to many of the traditionally popular disciplines such as karate and taekwondo begin to loose some of their following. Clubs which train in more practical martial arts such as Japanese Jujitsu and Muay Thai are very much in the acendancy in Ireland and are leading the charge in the country's resurgent martial arts scene.

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 paticularily 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.

Racquet sports

Tennis, badminton 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.

Rounders

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.

Scuba diving

. 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 country 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.Diving started in Ireland in the early 1950s with the founding of the Belfast Branch of the British Sub Aqua Club. In the early 1960s the independent Irish diving clubs formed the [http://irishunderwatercouncil.com Irish Underwater Council] (or "Comhairle Fó-Thuinn" in Irish). This voluntary body regulates all aspects of diving for its members and represents Ireland at the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques.

There are also about 40 dive centres affiliated to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), mostly along the West coast.

Softball

:"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 including Jason's of Ranelagh. see [http://www.ribsa.net Irish Snooker Homepage]

Target shooting

Target shooting in Ireland comprises a large number of disciplines such as the Olympic shooting disciplines (administered by the [http://www.targetshootingireland.org NTSA] ), Metallic Silhouette shooting (administered by the [http://www.shooting.ie NSAI] ), Gallery Rifle disciplines (administered by the NASRC), the Tetrathlon (administered by the [http://www.irishponyclub.ie/pchome.html Pony Club] ) and Olympic Penthathlon (administered by the [http://www.mpaireland.com/home.htm Modern Pentathlon Association of Ireland] ), Clay Pigeon Shooting (administered by the [http://www.icpsa.ie/ ICPSA] ) and various long-range rifle shooting disciplines (administered by the [http://nrai.ie/ NRAI] ).

Triathlon

The triathlon, as well as the duathlon, pentathlon, and decathlon, are rapidly gaining interest in Ireland. The national body for the triathlon is [http://www.triathlonireland.com/ 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 [http://www.mpaireland.com/home.htm Modern Pentathlon Association of Ireland] was set up in 2004.

Water sports

Water sports practised in Ireland include canoeing, swimming, surfing, diving, water polo, sailing, kayaking, and scuba diving. 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.

Orienteering

Orienteering is a popular sport in Ireland and is regulated by the Irish Orienteering Association. [http://www.orienteering.org/i3/index.php?/iof2006/iof/member_federations/iof_member_federations#IRL Retrieved on 22 June 2008]

Competitions and events

National

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.)

International

On an international level, Ireland has had mixed fortunes. Ireland has been particularly successful in recent years in rugby union, horse racing, showjumping, snooker, and golf. However, several scandals have arisen in recent years which have tarnished Ireland's international participation. In 2002, Roy Keane, one of Ireland's top international footballers, quit the national squad during the run-up to the World Cup after a bitter and public falling-out with coach Mick McCarthy. Ireland's main swimming body, Swim Ireland, has been involved in damaging child sex abuse scandals and a legal battle with the new CEO, Sarah Keane. There was widespread criticism of the lack of infrastructure and poor resources available to top athletes at the time of the Olympics. Ten Irish people have won Olympic medals, most recently Cian O'Connor who won a gold for showjumping. However, soon after, O'Connor has lost his medal after his horse tested positive for banned substances. 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 Association Football. 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.

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. In December 2003, Ireland hosted the European SC Championships 2003. In 2006, Ireland hosted the Ryder Cup Matches.

Stadia

Ireland boasts the fourth largest stadium in Europe. Croke Park in Dublin can hold 82,500 people. Until recently it was only used for Gaelic games and concerts. Association Football and rugby were played at Lansdowne Road prior to its ongoing reconstruction; when the stadium closed late in 2006, it could accommodate approximately 35,000 people for Association Football and 50,000 for rugby union (the difference is because standing-room terraces cannot be used for international Association Football but can be used for rugby union). Further to the stadia already mentioned there are several facilities throughout the country capable of accommodating 50,000 or more people such as Semple Stadium Thurles, Gaelic Grounds Limerick and Páirc Uí Chaoimh Cork (these three are all Gaelic games venues). 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.

A project to rebuild Lansdowne Road to create a modern stadium with an all-seated capacity of 50,000 began early in 2007 and will be complete either in 2009 or early 2010. Thomond Park, a rugby ground in Limerick, is currently being rebuilt into a modern 26,000-capacity stadium, though not all-seated.

The UK government is currently developing controversial plans to develop a national stadium for Northern Ireland at the site of the former Maze prison in County Antrim. The stadium was proposed to host rugby, association football and Gaelic games, however the move is opposed by a majority of association football supporters according to a survey run by the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland supporters clubs. Alternative plans from private consortia have emerged to build a stadium in Belfast, Northern Ireland's biggest city.

Media coverage

*Newspapers: All major newspapers dedicate significant amounts of space to sports coverage. These pages are usually dominated by Association Football, 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".

*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. TV3 and RTÉ Two have joint rights to the various European Association Football tournaments and foreign leagues such as the FA Cup. 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".

*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.

References

*"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

See also

*Culture of Ireland
*Ireland at the 2004 Summer Olympics
*Sport in Northern Ireland

External links

* [http://www.irishsportscouncil.ie/ Irish Sports Council]
* [http://www.arts-sport-tourism.gov.ie/ Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism]
* [http://www.olympic-council.ie/ Olympic Council of Ireland]
* [http://www.sini.co.uk/home/index.phtml Sports Institute of Northern Ireland]
* [http://www.sportni.net/ Sports Council Northern Ireland]
* [http://www.csid.ie/ Sports Campus Ireland]
* [http://www.rte.ie/sport/ Irish Sports News]
* [http://www.irishsport.ie/ Sports News & Information]
* [http://www.sports.ie/ Sports.ie]
* [http://livepubsport.com/ Ireland's Sports Broadcast Guide]


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