Ireland has two hugely popular, indigenous amateur sports, hurling and Gaelic football, which occupy a special place in the country’s social fabric as ancient games whose renaissance was entwined with the struggle for independence. When played at the highest level, Gaelic football is a fast, skilful and muscular sport, in which the strongest rivalry is between old adversaries Dublin and Kerry. It’s more widespread, though more recently developed, than hurling, which is said to have descended from a game played by the legendary warrior Cúchulainn. With its heartland extending in a rough, low-lying arc from Wexford to southeast Galway, hurling is an exciting, intricately skilled stick-and-ball game that’s said to be the fastest team-sport in the world. Inter-county matches grab the limelight, but the backbone of the Gaelic Athletic Association are parish clubs throughout the country, which are the heart and soul of many communities, with around 300,000 members. If you can’t get to a match yourself, the best place to get a flavour of these passionately supported games is the Croke Park GAA Museum in Dublin.

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