Gaelic Spirit Resembles The Power of the FA Cup
Brian O’Sullivan – Experience Gaelic Games
Its just over one hundred and thirty years since the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded.
Things have grown from strength to strength since the seven founding fathers met in a
billiards room in a Thurles Hotel on November 1st 1884.The spirit of the games still spreads
like wildfire through a forest.
Friday the ninetieth of January 2015 will always hold a special place in the hearts of
Cambridge United fans. The university town hit the headlines by drawing with Manchester
United. It was one of those classic David v Goliath moments in a competition that captures
the imagination of the small towns and the city lanes.
The Gaelic tradition of David v Goliath resembles that of its FA Cup counterpart. On that Sunday
as Liverpool FC battled it out with Bolton Wanderers another team from Merseyside were
experiencing the Gaelic tradition of giant killings.
John Mitchells united the city of Liverpool, in GAA terms, on the same Sunday they defeated Moate –
All Whites (Westmeath) in the All-Ireland Junior Football semi-final at Navan. February
14th is normally set aside for romance. This year romance is alive and well; John Mitchells
will be at, GAA HQ, Croke Park battling for Gaelic pride and honour.
One would think that being a British team they would be travelling to Dublin alone. Far from
it they will be joined by Kilburn Gaels (London) and Fullen Gaels (Manchester) for the most
romantic weekend in the Gaelic calendar.
The Irish in Britain have come alive in recent years and regularly challenge, and win,
Intermediate and Junior Club titles across on native shores. They capture the unique spirit
of the GAA abroad.
Long Lasting Tradition
Being an indigenous organisation the GAA abroad thrives off a steady flow of emigration
from Ireland to Britain. However the infrastructures have been in place since the foundation
of the association. John Mitchells have been in existence since 1904 and have carried the
pride of their homelands sporting traditions without fail in the intervening one-hundred and
But generally speaking the seed was sown in the aftermath of World War II when the Irish
left in throngs to rebuild London, Manchester and Liverpool. They were coined “The Men
Who Built Britain”. Today we look back on them as “The Boys Who Brought Gaelic Craic”
to County Kilburn.
The FA Cup offers the low league teams a shot at the giants. Bradford City tamed high flying
Chelsea while Cambridge United’s draw with the aristocrats Manchester United
ignited the spirit that is often seen within GAA circles.
Manchester United’s line-out was worth €190 Million while Cambridge United put eleven
men out with a Gaelic price tag – priceless. Many of their stars sprang up through the clubs
academy ranks. While Kilburn Gaels, Fullen Gaels and John Mitchells largely survive off
Irish expats, there is a growing participation of Gaelic games at Juvenile level. Things look
bright for the future of our games abroad.
It has always been the dream of the British Gaelic scene to have steady flow of talent
emerging from their own ranks. Tony Grealish was one of their first produce. He had a
unique sporting career. Born in Paddington to Irish parents he had the honour of captaining
Irelands soccer team.
However he is best remembered for his exploits in getting Brighton & Hove Albion to the FA
Cup final, at Wembley, in 1983. Amazingly a few years earlier Grealish lined out at the
famous stadium for a London Gaelic Football side in an exhibition match against a travelling
The spirit of the GAA abroad is alive and well. Taking the scalp of Irish teams keeps the
flame burning. Should you find yourself around Dublin on Valentines weekend, you’ll see
first-hand that romance is alive and well.