Kicking and catching game played mainly in Ireland. The two teams have 15 players each. The game is played on a field with an inflated spherical ball. The goalposts have a crossbar and a net across the lower half. Goals are scored by kicking the ball into the net (three points) or over the crossbar (one point).
First played in 1712, it is now one of the sports under the auspices of the Gaelic Athletic Association. The leading tournament is the All-Ireland Championship (first held in 1887); its final is played in Dublin on the third Sunday in September each year, the winners receiving the Sam Maguire Trophy.
Although seen as the poor relation to hurling, the sport has nonetheless thrown up many memorable contests and produced many stars since the game was established in 1884. One team that dominated almost from the start was the Kerry side who, until the mid-1980s, proved almost invincible. They managed to win All-Ireland titles in each decade, starting with their first in 1903. During the 1950s a threat to their dominance emerged when a young full forward by the name of Kevin Heffernan came to prominence. Heffernan was part of the Dublin team beaten by Kerry in 1955. Three years later he captained them to victory over Londonderry before retiring in 1962. He was not seen again until the 1970s when he took up the reins as county manager. It was here that the great Dublin–Kerry rivalry took off. Their All-Ireland semi-final clash in 1977 is generally regarded as among the greatest games ever seen at Croke Park.
Another team to emerge in the 1980s was Meath. Trained by Sean Boylan, they elevated the game to new levels, while Ulster also managed to break the Munster–Leinster hold on football in the mid-1990s with Down, Londonderry, and Donegal winning four titles in a row for the province.