GAELIC football positions have evolved massively over the years.
The days of 15 players taking to the field and matching up with their opposing 15 for the entire game are long gone. Thirty years ago, if a corner back wandered up to the corner forward position he’d have got the curly finger and pulled straight off.
In the modern game, it’s now a prerequisite for corner backs to try and cover every blade of grass on the pitch.
Before we start, check out the graphic below for a quick refresh on the 15 positions on a Gaelic football team.
Now that we know the modern day Gaelic football positions, lets get into what skills are required to play them and the players who are making them their own at the top level.
In a different era, the goalkeeper was a much simpler role.
You stood in goal and tried to stop goal-bound shots, while every kickout you had went long down the middle to the midfielders.
However, that manual has been torn up and republished, mainly thanks to Dublin GAA legend Stephen Cluxton.
After establishing himself as Dublin’s number one in 2001, Cluxton perfected the art of the short kickout and quick restart, with an ability to land the ball on a sixpence to his teammates.
But that’s not all.
Cluxton can also be a place kicker and score points (remember the 2011 All-Ireland Final?), has incredible reflexes which makes him a top-class shot stopper, is comfortable on the ball to take it out the field to create an overlap, as well as being a brilliant communicator to organise his team.
These days you have goalies like Monaghan’s Rory Beggan, Tyrone’s Niall Morgan and Donegal’s Shaun Patten who have all those aforementioned qualities and can basically play as an extra outfielder.
So really, a goalkeeper is an all-round style player.
Gaelic Football Positions: Corner back (#2 & #4)
The number one objective for any corner back is to mark the opposition team’s most threatening scorer.
A modern day corner back needs quick feet to keep with the usually fast-paced corner forward, upper body strength to be able to hold up the forward and dispossess the ball in the tackle, and discipline to avoid coughing up soft frees.
But of course, they’re now also expected to attack from the back and make long, lung-bursting runs up the field, breaking the opposition defensive line and chipping in on the scoreboard or setting up scores.
Donegal’s Eoghan Bán Gallagher and Galway’s Liam Silke are your typical attack-minded corner backs who regularly contribute to the scoreboard, while Dublin’s Mick Fitzsimons and Mayo’s Lee Keegan are renowned for their man-marking ability.
Gaelic Football Positions: Full Back (#3)
Donegal’s Neil McGee and former Dublin star Rory O’Carroll possessed the strength, power, marking ability and no-nonsense style that very regularly sees them hailed as the best full backs in the last decade.
Their main job was to protect the goal, snuff out attacks and be a big physical presence. They were never too bothered about galloping up the field to support the play. Cavan’s Pádraig Faulker is cut from the same cloth.
But depending on the team’s style of football, full backs are often expected to attack from deep. Young Footballer of the Year and Mayo’s Oísin Mullin, as well as Dublin’s Davy Byrne, are those type of all-action full backs who love to get up the field and don’t possess the same physical size as a Neil McGee for example.
Gaelic Football Positions: Wing Back (#5 & #7)
First of all, a high base of aerobic stamina is needed for this role. Inter-county wing backs can cover more than 10km during a game and nearly 2000m in sprint distances.
Wing backs needed to be versatile players who have pace to break lines and start attacks, good footballers to play those 40/50+ yard passes into the forwards, aggressive and disciplined to be winning breaking ball and making tackles, while an eye for the posts also helps.
Modern day wing backs like Donegal’s Ryan McHugh, Mayo’s Paddy Durcan, Dublin’s former Footballer of the Year Jack McCaffrey, Kerry’s Paul Murphy or Meath’s Donal Keogan are among the best out there right now.
Gaelic Football Positions: Centre Back (#6)
The centre back is clamp that holds the back line together. They’ll need all the skills of the wing back, but have to be more disciplined about sitting and holding the middle channel.
It can be the enforcer type role and the player needs to have a high football IQ to sniff out attacks before they come to fruition, while a touch of abrasiveness also helps.
Arguably, the importance of the old-school centre back has evolved to being more of a free role in the modern game, but guys like John Small of Dublin, Colm Boyle of Mayo, Derry’s Gareth McKinless and Peter Harte of Tyrone all have the traditional centre back style about them.
Gaelic Football Positions: Midfield (#8 & #9)
The engine room of the team – Midfielders are one of the most vital cogs in the wheel in terms of Gaelic football positions.
It wouldn’t be unusual to see them cover close to 12km in a single game, so they need to have incredible stamina. Plus, they’ll be required to win kickouts, link ball from defence to attack, defend and to get scores.
Dublin’s Brian Fenton is quite possibly one of the best midfielders to ever play the game, while his teammate James McCarthy isn’t too far off. Kildare’s Kevin Feely and Kerry’s David Moran are also complete footballers.
Those aforementioned guys are tall, athletic and powerful men.
Gaelic Football Positions: Wing Forward (#10 & #12)
Arguably the toughest position to play on the pitch due to the work rate required.
A wing forward is expected to do the defensive work of a wing back, but the attacking work of a midfielder and corner forward. Often they’ll find themselves covering ground and not getting on much ball, so patience is required to play the position well.
They need to be able to anticipate the breaking ball on kickouts, provide width on the attack and deliver high-quality passes to the inside line.
Dublin’s Nially Scully, Mayo’s Kevin McLoughlin, former Kerry star Paul Galvin, Roscommon’s Enda Smith and Cork’s Ruairi Deane are all dynamic ball carriers that can run all day.
Gaelic Football Positions: Centre Forward (#11)
The artist of the team – usually highly skilled, boasts a big engine and a natural born leader.
A centre forward needs vision, ability to scrap for breaking ball, can tackle, score and play pinpoint passes into the full forward line.
Often the most complete footballer on the team.
Kerry’s Seán O’Shea and Dublin’s Ciarán Kilkenny are the country’s best. Aidan O’Shea has enjoyed time their for Mayo, while Galway’s Shane Walsh can be unstoppable on his day. All those guys are supreme athletes, genius footballers and possess the ‘X Factor’.
Gaelic Football Positions: The Full Forward line (#13, #14 & #15)
Their main job is to put scores on the board, so an eye for the posts is the single most important factor for a good corner forward.
Most likely, they’ll also be the free taker – a massively responsible role that requires skill and concentration in abundance.
Pace and quick feet are a huge advantage in creating space and keeping away from the claws of a corner back, while good hands ensure an ability to win ball out in front.
Patience is another important attribute because often times the full forward line can be starved of ball, so being able to stay calm and make use of limited possession is crucial.
Some of the best include Cillian O’Connor, Dean Rock, Paddy McBrearty and Michael Murphy of Donegal, Conor McManus of Monaghan and the great David Clifford from Kerry to name a few.
That’s not to forget Daniel Flynn from Kildare, Paul Geaney, Shane McGuigan, Tyrone duo Conor McKenna and Cathal McShane and Armagh’s Riain O’Neill.
We hope this guide will help you find your best position on a Gaelic football team. And if you think we’ve left any player out who deserves a mention – no doubt we have – then let us know in the comments.
Nothing beats seeing some classic retro GAA jerseys to provoke those emotions deep inside of you of those great days that piece of cloth represents.
There’s no doubt about it, donning a classic GAA jersey from your county will make you stand out from the crowd, whether you’re in the Hogan Stand in Croke Park, MacHale Park, Páirc uí Chaoimh, Semple Stadium or Gaelic Park in New York City.
Unfortunately, getting your hands on vintage GAA jerseys was once as difficult as predicting the lotto numbers.
So, to celebrate the release of the new Retro GAA Jerseys range at Intersport Elverys, we’re looking back on some of the most iconic moments of which each of the jerseys represent.
Sit back, relax and enjoy a trip down memory lane.
The Rebels ambush Mayo (1989 Mayo GAA Retro Jersey)
Cork 0-17 Mayo 1-11
The year 1989 signalled a first All-Ireland Final for Mayo GAA since the winning Sundays of 1950 and 1951.
A young John O’Mahoney was at the helm for the Green and Red and oversaw an unexpected victory over Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi-final.
A game made famous by that iconic photo of the great Willie Joe Padden, looking bloodied but unbowed with a bandage strapped around his head, when he produced one of his best ever displays.
Who can forget it?
Mayo were back in the showpiece event in the GAA calendar and every man, woman and child made the trip to the capital to see the likes of Liam McHale, TJ Kilgallon, WJ Padden, Jimmy Burke, Dermot Flanagan and Kevin McStay strut their stuff on the sacred Croke Park turf.
And when substitute Anthony Finnerty struck the net four minutes into the second half to put Mayo ahead for the first time in the game, the 65,000 people packed into Croke Park were rocking.
The Mayo faithful dared to dream.
When Finnerty lined up a kick for what looked a certain goal soon after, the writing looked on the wall.
However, Mayo dreams were short lived as the experienced Cork side, driven on by Larry Tompkins, Teddy McCarthy and Co, kicked their way to the Sam Maguire and Mayo were left pondering the ‘what ifs’.
It would be the start of a storied journey in Mayo GAA history.
Magical Mayo end Galway’s reign (1999 Mayo GAA Retro Jersey)
Mayo 1-14 Galway 1-10
AN incredible 31,000 plus supporters crammed into every nook and cranny of Tuam Stadium for this blockbuster showdown between the reigning All-Ireland champions, Galway, and their old-rivals Mayo in 1999.
They weren’t left disappointed either.
Well, that’s if you’re from Mayo, because on that rainy day in Tuam John Maughan’s side beat the reigning All-Ireland champions for the first time 32 years to write a memorable chapter in Mayo GAA history.
Galway boasted talented forwards like Padraig Joyce, Ja Fallon and Michael Donnellan, but they faltered badly against a spirited Mayo who would not be beaten.
Future Mayo manager James Horan produced a display for the ages and hit five huge points, Ciaran McDonald and Pat Fallon were sprung from the bench and changed the game, while David Nestor hit the deadly blow with a 28th minute goal.
This was Mayo versus Galway, and Connacht Championship football, at its very best.
The Rebels do the impossible (1990 Cork GAA Retro Jersey)
The year 1990 will go down in history as the greatest year ever in Cork GAA history after its footballers and hurlers won All-Ireland titles.
Despite being five points down to Galway at half time in the All-Ireland Hurling Final on September 3, the Rebels would rally in the second half, thanks in part to some inspiring half-time words by their hurling-mad coach, Fr Michael O’Brien.
Were they effective?
Well, led by the likes of John Fitzgibbon, Tony O’Sullivan, Tomás Mulcahy and Kevin Hennessy, Cork ran out 5-15 to 2-21 winners and put the county on a cusp of immortality.
Two weeks later it was the footballers turn, who themselves were looking to make it back-to-back Sam Maguires.
Despite being a man down after Colm O’Neill was sent off just before half time in the All-Ireland Football Final, Cork would go on to beat Meath by 0-11 to 0-9 in what was their third meeting in the final in four years.
Larry Tompkins would lift the Sam Maguire for the Páirc uí Chaoimh side that day, where Niall Cahalane would produce a marvellous man-marking role on Meath dangerman Colm O’Rourke.
Few can forget their drubbing of rivals Kerry in the Munster Final that year too.
The victory completed what most deemed ‘The Impossible’ – a county winning both football and hurling titles in the one year.
It is an achievement that is likely never to be repeated again.
Dublin and the 12 Apostles (1983 Dublin GAA Retro Jersey)
Dublin 1-10 Galway 1-8
Known as one of the worst, but one of the most remarkable All-Ireland Finals ever, where a 12-man Dublin defeated Galway in Croke Park.
It was the 21st All-Ireland title for Dublin GAA and probably one of their hardest earned. Especially considering they played with only 12 men against 14 and a gale-force wind in the second half.
That gave the team of heroes the apt name of Dublin’s Dirty Dozen.
With tensions running high in the first half, what unfolded on the pitch were dubbed as disgraceful scenes with the spectacle marred by off-the-ball incidents.
Kevin Heffernan’s Dubs led by 1-5 to 0-2 at half time, but faced the Tribesmen and the conditions at the turn of ends. However, they held strong against the onslaught.
Barney Rock was in inspired form that day and hit 1-6, Anton O’Toole lead the line, while Tommy Drumm would scoop the Player of the Year award.
While a litany of bans were handed down by the GAA afterwards too.
Galway’s Day of Deliverance (1980 Galway GAA Retro GAA Jersey)
Galway 2-15 Limerick 3-9
For more than half a century Galway sought the breakthrough in winning the Liam McCarty before it finally arrived on September 7, 1980.
Cyril Farrell’s men were gallant in victory and some inspiring goalkeeping by Michael Conneely, who seemed invincible on the day, gave the Tribespeople the day they yearned for for so long.
Before that, the Galway hurlers had lost nine All-Ireland Finals since 1923, with many suggesting a curse hung over them long before the Mayo footballers gained that unwanted-tagline. Galway captain Joe Connolly gave a stirring speech on the Hogan Stand – ás Gaeilge – after producing a momentous performance. His brother, John, was equally as influential and Bernie Forde was another stand-out performer.
The West was well and truly awake.
A Year ‘Til Sunday (1998 Galway GAA Retro GAA Jersey)
Galway 1-14 Kildare 1-10
After years of near misses and a barren spell that stretched back to the days of the famous three in-a-row 32 years previous, the Tribesmen landed that elusive Sam Maguire against Mick O’Dwyer’s Lilywhites.
John O’Mahoney, in his first year in charge of Galway, wrote his name in the Galway GAA history books and was widely praised for the expansive style of football he had his team playing.
A team before their time.
That’s easier too, when you incorporate the standard of footballer O’Mahoney had at his disposal.
Can you remember them?
The Galway supporters lucky enough to make it into Croke Park that day will remember Padraig Joyce’s stunning second half solo goal, Ray Silke and Séan Óg de Paor’s leadership from the half back line, Kevin Walsh and Ja Fallon’s inspirational second half displays and a man of the match performance from Michael Donnellan.
The football faithful in Galway waited a long time for that day to come and, amazingly, the next arrived much sooner than expected.
English shines in Croker (1989 Tipperary GAA Retro GAA Jersey)
Tipperary 4-24 Antrim 3-9
One man stood out among many in Croke on All-Ireland Hurling Final day of 1989 and that is Nicky English.
The Tipperary hurler was simply unstoppable that day, hitting a record of 2-12 on his way to winning his first Celtic Cross and Tipperary’s first since 1971.
Remember their opponents?
Antrim, appearing in only their second All-Ireland Hurling Final in their history, were coming in on the back of one of the biggest shocks in championship history after defeating Offaly in the All-Ireland semi-final.
English reinforced his name as one of the all-time greats that day, while midfielder Declan Carr was also heroic in defeating a spirited Saffron side, who can feel unlucky to score 3-9 in an All-Ireland Final and still lose.
Tipp’ captain Bobby Ryan then gave a rousing and emotional speech, where he thanked the management of Michael ‘Babs’ Keating, Donie Nealon and Theo English.
The famine in Tipperary was over.
Clare lay the ghost at last (1995 Clare GAA Retro GAA Jersey)
Clare 1-13 Offaly 2-8
“There’s been a missing person in Clare for 81 long years. Well today that person has been found alive and well and that person’s name is Liam McCarthy.”
The words of Clare captain Anthony Daly after the Banner county defeated Offaly in the All-Ireland Hurling Final are as iconic as winning speeches in the GAA come.
That was a real silverware famine.
Under Ger Loughnane’s regime, the Clare hurlers brought a different edge to their game in 1995 and players like Davie Fitzgerald, Brian Lohan, Seanie McMahon and Co became household names.
They also recorded a famous Munster Final win that year, their first in 63 long years.
The Summer of 1995 will live long in the memories of Clare GAA people around the world and two years later the same crew returned to Croke Park and beat their neighbours, Tipperary.
The long-awaited All Ireland Senior Hurling Final is finally upon us and what a matchup it promises to be. Galway take on Waterford as the Tribesmen look to bring home Liam for the first time since 1988.
As part of our #WherePassionsUnite campaign, we caught with Galway player, Jason Flynn, to get his take on growing up playing hurling and what his hopes are for the upcoming final.
So Jason, what would it mean to you to win an All Ireland?
“It would be huge. It would be a dream come true and make all the sacrifice worth it. I’ve imagined going up and lifting the trophy ever since I got a chance when I was minor in 2011, going up the steps and looking back on that, you kind of feel you got a chance to do it already and why not be able to go and do it again.”
Do you believe that you can win the All Ireland?
I do believe we can win one yeah, you have to believe you can win one at the end of the day. If you don’t believe it, there’s no point you being there. You want to make all the poor days and defeats worth it and going through the hard days training which is hard when you’re a GAA player. We’re amateurs at the end of the day and we have to get up for work on a Monday morning so definitely the belief to go on and do it needs to be huge.”
What do you get out of hurling? What’s the big motivator for you to play from your own perspective?
“Ever since I was a young lad at 14, 16, 17 years old I always wanted to play for Galway and that was always my dream. Look, it means an awful lot obviously to play for my club and for my county and I suppose I am the first to play from my club in a long time for Galway and that’s a privilege in itself, it’s a huge honour.
I was the youngest in the family so as the brothers and sisters got older they headed off and I was left on my own but I can remember pucking at the back of the house, against the wall having my own little All Ireland finals! When we were younger we’d have our own matches thinking we were these Galway greats, which are good memories to have.”
It must be great to have older brothers almost looking up to their younger brother a small bit watching you playing for Galway?
“It’s huge and my sister was a big camogie player as well and it’s great for her as well. My father was a big GAA man, he was a big influence of me when I was younger, coaching me when I was in National School. So I was very lucky to have him with me the whole time and to see a smile on his face is one of the most pleasing things that I look forward to seeing after a game.”
it’d be funny like if you played badly in a game or something went bad you’d nearly feel like you let them down in a way, even though you’re not at all, they’re still proud as punch of you.
What do you think about when you think of the sacrifice that can come with the game and the other people in your life that might make sacrifices?
I’d say the people closest to you will always know what it feels like, they miss out on a lot because it’s such a big commitment when you’re gone 4, 5 nights a week training. When your friends are going off on nights out and enjoying college life, you miss all that. I know I wouldn’t swap it for the world because I am delighted to be where I am. It’s just you miss out on all the good times you might have with your friends and family but just for the love of hurling and wanting to win the All Ireland and I suppose we’ve been crying out for it in Galway for a long time and just the want to win with the group of players we have in Galway we want to prove and back it up and try win the All Ireland.”
What is it for you that motivate you to be able to balance football and work life and continue constant training?
“The love of the game I suppose and we all believe hurling is the best sport in the world. I’m a huge hurling fanatic and always have been and don’t have the same love for any other sport. We have to get up on a Monday morning after a big game on a Sunday and get on with life again. Other sports have the luxury of not having to go to work and that, but look it’s a privilege at the end of the day to play for your county”
Are there any particular regrets that you might have when you look back on your career that stand out or you feel you wish you done differently?
“I don’t have a defining moment but definitely any given day when you might not be working hard enough and not giving it your all…. just one day if it doesn’t go your way but them days happen to everyone, were all human… You use that as motivation if you had a bad game you’d use that the next day and you’d work twice as hard and you wouldn’t let it happen again and you’d have no regrets about it the next time”
Intersport Elverys is proud retail partner to both Galway and Waterford GAA. It’s great to see their passion and dedication to the game translate into winning momentum.
We are also delighted to be the player’s destination for boots, supplying them with the latest and greatest styles. We are THE destination for all things GAA.
It’s that time of year again. The football quarter finals in Croker. No more second chances!
At Intersport Elverys, we’re extremely proud to be the official retail partner of three out of the four teams looking to book their place in the Semis – Mayo, Galway and Kerry GAA. The latter two go head-to-head in the earlier game with the former facing off against neighbours and rivals Roscommon in the 4pm game. Suffice to say, it’s been a thrilling road up to this point for our partner counties and we can expect nothing less this weekend.
Mayo have endured possibly their most difficult championship in recent years yet have managed to stay afloat. Losing to Galway in the Connacht semi final meant they would have to play three qualifier games to progress to the All-Ireland series.
Galway fell short in the Connacht decider against a strong Roscommon side and lost out on their chance to win back-to-back Connacht titles. They faced the same fate as Mayo and had to play a qualifier against Donegal. The Tribesmen’s heads weren’t down for long as they throttled Donegal in their qualifier game in Sligo.
Kerry were able to navigate their way into the quarters after an impressive performance against Cork in the Munster final, taking home their fifth consecutive Munster title.
As retail partner to these teams in action this Sunday, it’s great to see their passion and dedication to the game translate into winning momentum.
At Intersport Elverys, we are delighted to be their destination for boots, supplying them with the latest and greatest styles to suit their play. We understand that having the right footwear is an important part of any GAA player’s game as they strive for greatness on the field.
This year Intersport Elvery’s passion for GAA is reflected in the fact that we are now proud retail partners of TEN GAA inter-county teams. We are THE destination for all things GAA.