The GAA, or the Gaelic Athletic Association, is Ireland’s biggest sporting organisation. It began in 1884 to preserve and promote indigenous Gaelic games and athletics. The association manages hurling, football, handball, and rounders. But how many GAA Clubs are in Ireland?
According to data provided by the GAA, there are over 2,200 clubs spread across the 32 counties in Ireland alone. While Ireland will have the most GAA teams, there are other countries with a passion for Gaelic games. Countries such as the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand have established clubs to play in various tournaments. Around the world, there are 400 clubs registered with the GAA and over 140 of these teams are based in America.
The most popular Gaelic sports are football and hurling. Many Irish clubs have both a hurling and football team under the same name. This is great news for locals willing to give the sport a go, as you can watch or try them out before you decide which one you prefer. Some top players play in both competitions, but dual players are uncommon. Instead, individuals usually have to choose one sport and can swap later in their careers.
Most Successful Football Clubs in Ireland
Looking at the most successful Gaelic football clubs is no simple task. The format of the competition involves establishing winners across the 32 counties of Ireland. These teams play in provincial championships, where only four progress into the All-Ireland semi-finals. That means a club could become the Armagh, Ulster, and All-Ireland Champions in the same year.
Seeing as winning at the county level progresses the club into the next round of the tournament, let’s examine the GAA teams with the most All-Ireland victories. The All-Ireland Senior Football Championship began for the 1970-71 season. In the 52 years the competition has been running, only 28 different teams have won the title.
Nemo Rangers have won the title a record seven times. They have also been runners-up in five separate seasons. Crossmaglen Rangers have won the All-Ireland final six times and Corofin has five wins. The only other GAA football clubs in Ireland with more than one win include St Vincents, St Finbarr’s, Kilmacud Crokes, Dr Crokes, UCD, and St Mary’s Burren.
Best GAA Football Teams
There are 32 counties in Ireland, all of which put teams forward every year to win the provincial and national titles. However, of these 32 counties, only 13 have won the biggest prize in Gaelic football. Cork is the most successful county in Ireland with clubs winning the All-Ireland final on 11 occasions. The next most successful county is Dublin with nine, Galway with seven, and both Armagh and Kerry have six.
12 counties in Ireland have not won the All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship, but they have won the provincial title. The four provinces in Ireland include Leinster, Munster, Ulster, and Connacht. Clubs from Cork, Kerry, and Dublin dominate the Leinster and Munster provinces. Ulster and Connacht have successful clubs from Armagh, Derry, Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon.
Seven counties are yet to win a national or provincial title in Gaelic football. The GAA clubs from Cavan, Fermanagh, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Louth, Waterford, and Wexford are yet to succeed beyond the county level. That means they have not won a Munster, Leinster, Ulster, or Connacht title. If they have not won a provincial title, then they won’t be able to compete in the All-Ireland final.
Crossmaglen Rangers GAC
The best Gaelic football team in Ireland is the Crossmaglen Rangers GAC. They founded the team in 1887 and it is the most successful Irish football team of all time. The club has won six All-Ireland finals, 11 Ulster Championships, and 47 Armagh medals.
Crossmaglen Rangers is the best-performing Gaelic football team in history, but the success has dried up as of late. The club won all six All-Ireland Championships between 1997 and 2012. It has been over ten years since their last appearance at the biggest prize in GAA football.
What a career with @crossrangers 🟡⚫️
1⃣8⃣ Armagh club medals 🥇
8⃣ Ulster club medals 🥇
3⃣ All-Ireland club medals 🥇
— BBC SPORT NI (@BBCSPORTNI) November 13, 2023
Nemo Rangers GAA
However, there is one team in Gaelic football history with more All-Ireland victories than the legendary Crossmaglen Rangers. Nemo Rangers GAA has won the All-Ireland Senior Championship a record seven times. The club has also won the Munster Championship 17 times and become Cork Champions on 23 occasions.
They formed the team in 1922 after Nemo and Rangers combined into one Cork-based club. Nemo Rangers last won the All-Ireland Championship in 2003, after finishing the runner-ups in 2001 and 2002. Since then, they have made it to two finals in 2008 and 2018 and lost them both.
The third most successful Irish GAA football club is Portlaoise GAA. The side from Laois has only one All-Ireland victory in their extensive history, but they have been Laois Champions 35 times. Portlaoise is a dual club with 11 Laois Hurling medals and 43 football titles over the years.
Established in 1887, the club commands great respect within the GAA and played a crucial part in the early days of established Gaelic sport. The club’s one-and-only All-Ireland victory came in 1983, and they finished as runners-up in 2005. It’s fair to say the once mighty Portlaoise is overdue a visit to Croke Park.
Most Successful GAA Hurling Clubs
Just like Gaelic football, the All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship began in 1970-71. Since then, 27 clubs have won the title, the most recent being the Ballyhale Shamrocks. In the 52-year history, only 11 GAA teams have won the title more than once. The most successful team in the competition’s history is also the Ballyhale Shamrocks. They have won the All-Ireland final nine times since 1981, five more than any other senior hurling team.
The club with the second most All-Ireland medals is Birr from Offaly, with four wins and two runners-up appearances. Portumna also has four wins and Athenry, Blackrock, and James Stephens have three victories each. Interestingly, there are over 20 Irish GAA hurling clubs who have never won the final but finished as runners-up. Both Rathnure St Anne’s and Dunloy have made it to five All-Ireland finals without a single victory.
The most successful hurling county is Kilkenny with 14 titles, closely followed by Galway with 13. Cork has nine victories, five more than Offaly in fourth. That means the most successful province for Hurling is Leinster with 21 titles. Munster and Connacht are close for second place, with 16 and 13 titles, respectively. The province with the fewest winning GAA hurling clubs is Ulster, which has two victories and eight runners-up appearances.
Ballyhale Shamrocks GAA
The Ballyhale Shamrocks are the most successful hurling team in Ireland. They have 41 titles across their recent history. They founded the team in 1972 after Ballyhale and Knocktopher merged into one club. The new GAA team also pays homage to Knockmoylan, a hurling club that folded in 1959. Ballyhale Shamrocks won nine All-Ireland finals, 12 Leinster Championships, and 20 Kilkenny Championships.
Ballyhale has dominated the All0Ireland Senior Hurling Championship over the years. In the last four finals, they have won three and lost one in 2022 to Ballygunner. They got revenge by winning the 2023 final, and that remains the second time the club has lost in the finals ever. With a record of nine wins and two losses since 1981, the Ballyhale Shamrocks are the best team in hurling right now.
Well done and congratulations to the two Shamrocks players Tj Reid and Eoin Cody, getting into this year's team of the year. Well done lads ☘️☘️ https://t.co/tpR3rd6ETR
— Shamrocks (@BallyhaleGAA) November 16, 2023
Blackrock National Hurling Club
They founded the Blackrock National Hurling Club in 1883. The team only has three All-Ireland victories, but they have the same number of hurling titles as Ballyhale Shamrocks. Blackrock won the Munster Championship five times and was the Cork Champions on 33 occasions. Blackrock holds the title of Cork’s oldest hurling club. They founded it a year before they established the GAA.
Blackrock was a dominant force in the 1970s, winning three All-Ireland Championships during the decade. They also finished as runners-up in 1976, leaving them with a record of three wins and one loss. However, the last time they made it to the biggest final in Hurling was 1979. They certainly have a healthy pedigree, but they are far from their best nowadays.
The third-best hurling GAA club in Ireland is Birr in Offaly. Despite being a dual county, the club’s focus is hurling. Their dedication has paid off as Birr has won the All-Ireland hurling final four times. They are also seven-time Leinster Champions and have won 22 Offaly Championships.
Birr was a force to be reckoned with for over a decade in hurling. From 1992 to around 2010, they were consistently amongst the best clubs in Ireland. They won their first of four All-Ireland finals in 1995, including consecutive wins in 2002 and 2003. Birr managed another appearance in 2008 but could not get the better of Portumna.
GAA Clubs Outside of Ireland
There are approximately 50 countries with established GAA clubs. These countries range from South America to the Middle East, showing how far Gaelic sports have spread. While there is at least one GAA club in these countries, some regions have dozens of teams, forming exciting divisions. The countries that take Gaelic sports the most seriously include Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Scotland, Canada, and the United States of America.
These countries are not the only ones to care about the GAA. There is a decent-sized following in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and a growing following in South America. If you are curious about how many countries have at least one Gaelic team, check out the list below.
- Africa: South Africa, Uganda.
- Asia: Myanmar, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam.
- Australasia: Australia, New Zealand.
- Europe: Britain, Scotland, Jersey, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, France.
- Middle East: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates.
- North and South America: Canada, United States, Bermuda, Mexico, Argentina.
Dual County Irish GAA Clubs and Counties
As we have mentioned above, some clubs play at the top level of Gaelic football and hurling. A dual club will have a competitive hurling and football team. In some situations, teams can have dual players who compete in both sports. There are eight recognised dual counties in Ireland.
There is a debate about what constitutes a dual county. Some don’t consider a dual county unless they are playing near the top level for both sports. Several counties in Ireland play both sports and have dual players, like Wexford. However, it is subjective whether that counts as a dual county. In our opinion, more counties have some kind of dual status.
Biggest GAA Clubs in Ireland
The biggest GAA teams in Ireland battle it out in the last few months of the year. In 2023, crucial games take place in late November and early December. These matches determine the county and provincial winners ahead of the 2024 All-Ireland finals. By Sunday, December 10, we will know our Senior Hurling and Football All-Ireland semi-finalists.
The first hurling semi-finals will take place in the middle of December. After the New Year, the Gaelic football semi-finals will occur, and then we have two finals to look forward to. The All-Ireland Club Senior Finals will take place on Saturday, January 20, 2024. That means now is the perfect time to get into the GAA as we are approaching the biggest games of the season. After these matches take place, the new NFL and NHL season will begin, giving us excitement right the way through to July.
Which Irish Counties have the Most GAA Clubs?
As we have mentioned, there are over 2,200 GAA teams in the Republic of Ireland. But the county with the most GAA clubs is Cork with 259. Dublin is next on the list with 134 clubs and Antrim has 108. The province with the most Gaelic clubs is Leinster with 685. Munster has 645, which puts them second on the list. Ulster has 584 GAA teams, and Connacht is the province with the fewest clubs, only 212.
All Irish provinces have more teams than any other country. The United States has 144 registered GAA teams within its borders. That number rises to around 190, including all North American teams in Canada and Mexico. Europe has 108 clubs spread over two dozen countries. That includes Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and many more. Britain is now separate from Europe, and there are 78 teams in England alone. London is one of the most densely populated areas for Gaelic clubs outside of Ireland with 32.
For a more detailed list of all the Gaelic football and hurling clubs across the world, check out this Wikipedia article. Here you can find crucial information about each country’s GAA teams and perhaps even find your local club.
Why Follow GAA Teams?
If you have never played Gaelic sports, they can be a little difficult to understand. However, once you know what to look for, the entertainment of these amateur sports is there for all to behold. To give you a head start, we have already explained the Gaelic football positions. This is where you can find out the roles of each player and some examples of skilled players in the modern game.
If you want some background knowledge, then you should read up about the best GAA footballers of all time. Brushing up on the best players to play the game is an easy way to handle your own if you get talking to an experienced GAA fan. Plus, our list of the best players has clips and highlight reels for you to enjoy. Watching these will give you an idea of what an impressive score looks like. Gaelic sports are a bit of craic and well worth your time if you are yet to give them a go.