The GAA is based in a stadium called Croke Park in Dublin. It governs hurling and Gaelic football worldwide. There are two other organizations based in Croke Park, these are the Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA), and the Camogie Association. While these two bodies share their headquarters, facilities, and cooperate with the GAA, they are not part of the GAA. Many people are unaware of this, including many GAA members, and the press in Ireland frequently reports on “Ladies GAA” even though there is actually no such thing. As of November 2013 there is talk of the LGFA and CA becoming integrated into the GAA.
Unlike more globalized sports that are governed on a nation-by-nation basis under a world federation, Gaelic games are governed on a county-by-county basis under the GAA which describes itself not as an international organization, but as a “national organization” in Ireland that happens to have an international dimension. “Croke Park” is often used as a euphemism for “headquarters” for the GAA, the LGFA, and the Camogie Association.
In order to understand how the GAA is structured internationally, it is necessary to know how it is structured in Ireland.
The GAA counties in Ireland use the local government boundaries as they were in 1884 when the association was founded. Even though the local government boundaries have changed significantly since then, the GAAʼs county boundaries have remained unchanged, and have helped to solidify the popular identity and allegiance that Irish people feel towards the traditional 32 counties.
Irish counties are grouped into Irelandʼs four historical provinces, Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht.
North American Structures
The GAA on the North American continent is geographically divided into three “county” regions, each with its own “county” board governing it. As of now there is no common umbrella body covering the entire continent.
Canada:Canadian County Board
New York City and adjoining metropolitan area:New York GAA
Rest of the USA:North American County Board (NACB)
Strucure of the NACB
The NACB is a committee of eight people who oversee the development of Gaelic games in the USA outside of New York. Its responsibilities include facilitating inter-club competitions, and games development activities aimed at creating new clubs and assisting existing ones.
While in Ireland the sister sports of Ladies Gaelic Football and Camogie are run by external organizations, these sports in the NACBʼs territory fall under the jurisdiction of the NACB. The NACB therefore affiliates to the GAA, but also to the LGFA and the Camogie Association.
The NACB area is host to games running in three sectors:
For the purposes of club and youth competitions, the NACBʼs territory is divided into divisions as follows:
Some divisions with larger numbers of clubs run an internal championship each year, as well as a pre-season competition. Finalists or winners of such divisional championships qualify for the North American Playoffs.
North American Playoffs
The NACB playoffs are a tournament held over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the Labor Day weekend to decide the winnders of the North American Championships. This started as a small event in 1998 but has grown to become a major tournament attracting teams from all over the country.
The divisional championships and North American championships are part of the same competition and are governed by the same rules.
The location of the playoffs location rotates every year per the NACB by-laws. The location is an important issue because of the amount of money that is generated by the event, all of which goes to the hosting committee minus a $14,000 fee that goes to the NACB.
There are four codes governed by the NACB:
Because of wide disparities in playing abilities, from absolute beginners to former inter- county players, the divisional championships and North American championships are strictly divided into grades.
The Allentown Hibernians Hurling Club
The club currently competes at the junior C level at the national championship. Junior C is the beginner hurling level and only allows for teams to have a max of 3 resident Irish born players on the field. The club has been attending the NACB final since 2008 and have been runner-up in 2009 and 2012 to San Francisco and New Hampshire. In 2013 the club won the junior C shield competition and plans to attend the 2014 finals in Boston.
Youth development and competition in the NACB area is overseen by the North American Youth Board (NAYB).
Continental Youth Championship
The Continental Youth Championship (CYC) is a major youth tournament held in June and is contested by youth teams from all three of the North American “county” areas. Following the decline of youth competitions that were held at the NACB playoffs, the CYC was established in 2004 in order to provide meaningful competition at youth level at a time of the year that was convenient for families and children. It has grown to become one of the biggest GAA youth tournaments in the world, involving over 200 games played over three days.
It is governed by a steering committee which oversees the hosting committee.
Gaelic games at collegiate level in the USA are governed by the National Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association (NCGAA). This fits into the GAA hierarchy as a sub-committee of the NACB, but is elected by the collegiate clubs and governs its own affairs. Its territory is the entire USA including the New York metropolitan area, since both the NACB and New York GAA agreed to allow the NCGAA to operate on a national basis.
Like the NACB, the NCGAA sub-divides the country into regions, each with a regional governing body. However the boundaries of the NCGAAʼs regional committees are based on the distribution of college clubs, and hence do not coincide with the boundaries of the NACBʼs divisional boards. The NCGAAʼs regional committees are:
California Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association (CCGAA)
Midwest College Hurling Association (MCHA)
Northeast Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association (NECGAA)
Southern Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association (SCGAA)
Regional competitions and tournaments are facilitated by the regional committees, the formats of which are tailored to suit the local playing conditions, climate, and distribution of clubs. For example the MCHAʼs regional championship draws teams from a wide geographical area and is held as a single weekend tournament, whereas the CCGAAʼs Northern California Hurling Championship is held throughout the course of spring because its affiliated collegiate clubs are all within a few hoursʼ drive of each other.
The collegiate national championships are facilitated by the NCGAA via a local hosting committee. These are held as a single tournament over the Memorial weekend. Itʼs location rotates from year to year, and is determined by the NCGAA board which invites tenders from parties interested in hosting the event.