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When Irish people meet visitors to our shores, we are commonly met with blank expressions and confusion. We’re met with sayings such as ‘You speak too fast’, ‘what are you saying?’ or with the person looking around their group of friends, as if we are speaking gibberish and not the most common language in the world. Firstly, believe it or not, I can confirm almost everyone on the island speaks English. Disclaimer: Some people speak better English than others. For example, our departed Experience Gaelic Games coach, Gow, spoke a version of Kerry English. For those that remember him, the main word you would hear when talking to the Gow is ‘mighty’. A jack of all trades type adjective.


When coming to Experience Gaelic Games, you will be met with the lovely language of Dublinese. No adjectives could do this language justice. This video of our own Jonny and Niall Cooper is about as close as we could find to explaining it. An introductory ‘masterclass’ is what to expect.

There is one language, however, that is the same wherever you go on the island. That is the language of the GAA. I came across an explanation of this language recently in a WhatsApp message and thought it was appropriate to share with our visitors. A bit like our exciting activity, the words are better experienced than explained. Some are verbs, some are adjectives, some are gibberish. All are understood throughout the island. With the aid of videos, here are a cúpla focal (couple of words) that can allow you to speak fluent GAA when you come to us;

GAA Phrases

Handbags – to downplay any argument. Sentence: ‘Person 1: The two lads are absolutely thumping the head off each other. Person 2: Would you stop with your exaggeration, sure it’s only handbags’. Example can be seen here.

Hames – a right shite. Sentence: ‘he made an absolute hames of that chance. We’d be better off playing with 14!’

Lamp – to give a good thump. Sentence: ‘He lamped him around the place’. Here is a video of Johnny Maher lamping the defence. This also serves as a reminder that our rules are sometimes interpreted as guidelines by the referees!

Timber – to intimidate a hurling opponent. Sentence: ‘Give him timber Johnny’.

Hatchet Man – Roy Keane. A full back who uses an axe instead of a hurley.

Rake – a large quantity of. Sentence: ‘Good win lads, go out and have a rake of pints’.

Indanamajaysus (in-da-nama-jaysus). Loosely translated in the English language into ‘what the hell happened’. Sentence: ‘indanamajaysus, what sort of a referee is this fella?’ This video gives a few other examples of where this adjective could be used.

‘Stop fiddling and farting with the ball, just let it in’ – when the full forward wants a route 1 style approach.


Now that you’re practically fluent in the language of the GAA, why not come and learn about the games and spend a half day in a local GAA club. Here is what you can expect, you won’t regret it!

Paul O Dea

Author Paul O Dea

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