Every September, GAA fans throughout Ireland and around the world are glued to their TVs, computers, tablets, smartphones, social media accounts, and internet radios to follow their counties’ football exploits. Plenty of those fans are women, but even for those who aren’t die hard supporters, there are plenty of reasons to watch this weekend’s action in Croke Park.
1. GAA players are young, fit and hunky.
This isn’t your father’s GAA. When watching videos of games from the 1970s, it seems like all the players look beefy and pale – you could almost imagine them walking around in socks and sandals on their beach vacations.
These days, players are highly conditioned athletes – lean, tanned and well-groomed. Some are positively swoon-worthy: Dublin’s Brogan brothers (Alan and Bernard) have the tall, dark and handsome thing in spades.
Dublin Goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton is a science teacher. Setanta.ie
2. GAA players have regular jobs.
GAA is an amateur organization, so the players all have regular jobs to support themselves. There are chartered accountants (Bernard Brogan), teachers, police officers, veterinarians and bank officials. Knowing that these talented athletes have to juggle responsibilities and budget their paychecks like the rest of us makes them very relatable.
Referee Joe McQuillan will keep an eagle eye on his watch on Sunday. TheScore.ie
3. The game starts and ends on time.
The game is nothing like American football, so don’t worry about five minutes on the clock taking over an hour to actually play. There are two 35-minute halves, with a couple of minutes in injury time added if warranted (and it always is). This proved a lifesaver to Clare in this year’s Senior Hurling Championship, when a “Hail Mary” shot in the last few nanoseconds of extra time tied the game and forced a replay.
The Sunday Game panel (from left): Michael Lyster, Joe Brolly, Colm O’Rourke and Pat Spillane. rte.ie
4. The announcers say things like “He’ll be delighted with that point.”
After the play on the field, the commentators are the best part of the game for those of us watching on TV. Silver-haired Michael Lyster does the main play-by-play, and throws in the most hilarious Irish-isms. When was the last time a Yankee game announcer said that Derek Jeter would be “delighted” with an RBI?
Watching in the pub can be a great way to meet and cheer -- or commiserate -- with eligible guys. dailymaverick.co.za
5. You can always find a reason to root for one of the teams.
Even if your (or your parents’, grandparents’ or great grandparents’) home county isn’t playing, surely you have a cousin who lived there for a year. Or you could just make snap decision based on which team has the better-looking players (See Reason #1). Or which county colors look best on you. Or which county the cute, single-looking bloke standing next to you at the bar is rooting for. (And yes, that last one just set the women’s movement back a few decades. But it works!)
Leave the face painting to the under-14 set. thescore.ie
6. The fans dress up in county colors, and so can you.
It’s always fun to wear a team strip (uniform shirt) while watching the game, but you can always improvise. You don’t have to go whole hog and paint your face. Rooting for Mayo this weekend? Throw on a red shirt / jeans / dress and accessorize with something green. Shouting for Dublin? Everyone’s got something blue in the closet.
Hoisting the Sam Maguire Cup is the greatest feeling in the world. thescore.ie
7. For the players, the honor of their home county really matters.
Players represent the counties where they were born and (usually) where they live. Their connection to their home is visceral and heartfelt, so when they hoist the Sam Maguire Cup in the air at the end, they are doing it for their neighbors, friends and family. By way of contrast, though a baseball player might be thrilled to win the World Series, his connection to the team is mostly about the size of his contract.
Pat Spillane doesn’t like all the newfangled “strategy” that keeps the scores low and the game boring. sport.ie.msn.com
8. Kerry football legend Pat Spillane weighs in at half time.
Pat Spillane doesn’t like cerebral football. He doesn’t like all this fancy “strategy” that results in low-scoring, boring football games. He loves to argue with fellow commentator Joe Brolly during the game analysis segments. Listening to him is like sitting with your mom’s cranky uncle who misses the old days, when men were men and farmers wore jackets and ties to plow the field.
Drinking a mimosa (or Irish Coffee or a pint) before noon on a Sunday feels deliciously wicked. iheartbrunch.com
9. Most places serve Irish breakfast and mimosas.
Watching in a bar or club? There’s usually food and brunch-style drinks involved – and the best part is you don’t have to lift a finger. And there’s something deliciously wicked about drinking before noon on a Sunday.
No matter who you’re rooting for, the excitement in Croke Park travels across the miles. independent.ie
10. Even from thousands of miles away, the atmosphere is infectious.
If the sight of the Croke Park stands filled with happy fans dressed in their county colors doesn’t give you a thrill and a lump in your throat, then you – like the Grinch – have a heart that’s three sizes too small.