Gaelic football is played by teams of 15 (in the Andalusian League it’s 11-a-side for men and 7-a-side for ladies) on a rectangular grass pitch with H-shaped goals at each end. The primary object is to score by kicking or striking the ball with the hand and getting it through the goals. The team with the highest score at the end of the match wins.
Players advance the ball up the field with a combination of carrying, soloing (dropping and then toe-kicking the ball upward into the hands), kicking, and hand-passing to their team-mates. A leather ball is used, similar to a soccer ball, but slightly heavier.
If the ball goes over the crossbar, a point is scored and a white flag is raised by an umpire. A point can be scored by either kicking the ball over the crossbar, or by fisting it over in which case the hand must be closed whilst striking the ball. If the ball goes below the crossbar, a goal, worth three points, is scored, and a green flag is raised by an umpire. A goal can only be scored by kicking the ball into the net, you cannot fist pass the ball into the net. However, a player can strike the ball into the net with a closed fist if the ball was played to him by another player or came in contact with the post/crossbar/ground prior to connection. The goal is guarded by a goalkeeper. Scores are recorded in the format (goal total)- (point total). For example:
Team A 1 – 14 (17) – Team B 2 – 6 (12)
So, the team A would win the match. The level of tackling allowed is more robust than in soccer, but less than rugby. Shoulder to shoulder contact and slapping the ball out of an opponent’s hand are permitted, but the following are all fouls: using both hands to tackle, pushing an opponent, striking an opponent, pulling an opponent’s jersey, blocking a shot with the foot, sliding tackles, tripping, touching the goalkeeper when he/she is inside the small rectangle and wrestling the ball from an opponent’s hands.
The following actions are considered to be technical fowls:
- Picking the ball up directly off the ground (men’s rules only, ladies may pick the ball up off the ground provided both feet are on the ground at the same time).
- Throwing the ball straight from the hands (without punching it first).
- Taking four steps without passing, soloing or bouncing the ball.
- Bouncing the ball twice in a row (you can solo as many times as you like in a row, or alternate bouncing with soloing).
- Passing the ball to an opponent and then attempt to regain possession from the same opponent
- Scoring a goal with a hand pass.
- The so-called ‘square ball’ rule was introduced in 2012. If an attacking player enters the small goal square while another one of his/her teammates is already there, a free kick is given to the other team.
- If, after a goal kick, a player catches the ball on the full past the halfway line, he has the right to take a free kick within five seconds. Introduced in 2017, this rule is known as ‘the mark’.
You can see some of the rules and basic functions of Gaelic football in the video below: