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 The Summer Alternative from Ireland:  
 Gaelic Games: Hurling and Gaelic Football
gaelic football
Have you ever wondered how football (soccer) would look like without offside?  
Then try to watch the spectacular Gaelic games Hurling and Gaelic Football which set their highlights just when football (soccer) takes its time out: in the European summer. 
Although the two sports are also played in clubs, the highlight is the yearly All Ireland Championships for the 33 county selections.  
Ireland is divided in 4 provinces Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster (which is Northern Ireland). Those are divided again into an unequal number of counties (Connacht 6, Leinster 12 (incl. Dublin), Munster 6, Ulster 9). 
First the provinces determine their champions, then those play off the All Ireland Championship.
Those county rivalries are also a journey into the past for football fans, as passion more than money characterizes the games.
Both sports are said to be very old, the championships in today's form more than 100 years.  
There had been a certain political element from the beginning, a contraposition against the English culture, here Rugby and Football (Ireland was occupied by England and became only independent in 1922).  
A tragedy took place in 1920 when English soldiers in revenge for an assault by Irish nationalists fired into the crowd of a Football game and killed many, known as the 'bloody sunday'.

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The size of the field is some meters bigger compared to football (soccer). You have one goal at each end, which look quite similar to the ones on football (soccer)  grounds. But the two goalposts reach up to the air beyond the crossbar, like in rugby. A ball that goes into the goal is worth 3 points, a ball that goes across the bar (between the posts) is worth one point.
If you see a result like teamA 2-10, teamB 1-14, it will mean that team A has scored 2 goals and 10 points what altogether makes 16 points. TeamB has won because 1 goal and 14 points makes 17 points altogether.
Sounds complicated but the rest is easy: The match is played with a ball similar to a football two halfs, 35 minutes each.
Both teams have 15 players. It is allowed to touch the ball with hand and of course foot. Allowed are about for steps with the ball in hands than the ball has to be tipped or touched with the foot.
If the match ends with a draw it will be replayed. 
The games lacks certain elements of Football (soccer) because of the missing offside and because of the possibilty of scoring single points from further distances. It is characterized by a big passion and a high unvaried constant tempo.
The last 5 winners: 
1994 Down (from Ulster), 1995 Dublin (Leinster), 1996 Meath (Leinster), 1997 Kerry (Munster), 1998 Galway (Connacht) 

The 1999 province champions: 
Ulster: Armagh 
Munster: Cork 
Connacht: Mayo (vice All Irish champions 96 and 97, defeated Galway here) 
Leinster: Meath 

Those four will play off the All Irish champions:
semi-finals on 22nd and 29th of August:
Cork - Mayo
Armagh - Meath
final will take place on September 26th.


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If you think acceleration is not possible anymore you will find out you are wrong: Hurling is exaxtly the same but is played with a smaller Ball and a hockey-like batting wood, the 'hurley'.  
For a non-experienced viewer it remains a riddle that players do not get carried off the field in masses, there is no over-the-head rule or anything. 
Like in Gaelic football touching the ball with hand and foot is possible, by adding the batting component the game becomes breathtaking and even more fast and results in slightly higher scores. 
See Gaelic Football for the rest of the rules. 

There is only one difference in the mode: A new 'backdoor' modus installed in the 90's allows the vice-champions of Leinster and Munster to take part at the All Irish Championships playoffs. So there are two quarterfinals first to reduce the field of 6 to four teams. 

The 1999 province champions: 
Ulster: Antrim (plays Leinster vice-champions Offaly in quarter-finals) 
Munster: Cork 
Leinster: Kilkenny 
Connacht: Galway (plays Munster vice-champions Clare in QF) 

semifinals (Aug. 15th/22nd) Cork-Antrim/Offaly, Kilkenny-Galway/Clare 

The last 5 winners: 
1994 Offaly (from Leinster), 1995 Clare (Munster), 1996 Wexford (Leinster), 1997 Clare (Munster), 1998 Offaly (Leinster, benefitted from the backdoor modus)


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If you have an Irish pub in your town, it might be possible to watch the matches, usually on Sunday afternoon Irish time, there.  
The TV company Setanta takes over the pictures from Irish television and offers sattelite pictures to bar owners worldwide.  
In Europe it is possible to watch Setata on a French telecom satellite which does not carry any regular TV stations. Of course you need a satellite dish that you can turn to that direction then.
Also they offer real-audio and real-video live-streaming

The most important link otherwise is the one to the Gaelic Athletics Association which has all the important news and archives material available yet. 

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