From Novelty Act to National Association: The Emergence of Ladies’ Gaelic Football in the 1970s

  • Hayley Kilgallon


In 1967 a county Cork farmer wrote to the Sunday Independent (Dublin) to express his hope that the Gaelic Athletic Association (G.A.A.) would ban women from attending the upcoming All-Ireland finals. The G.A.A is a male-only organisation, he argued, and the presence of women at Croke Park would take up ‘valuable space’. His letter generated many outraged responses from both men and women, all arguing against his opinion and illustrating that women played a vital role within the sporting community—whether as supporters, sandwich-makers or jersey-washers. The responses highlighted how people in Ireland were reconsidering the role of women in the public sphere more generally in the late 1960s. The emergence of ladies’ Gaelic football as a ‘serious’ sport for women in the 1970s is reflective of this changing society. Current Irish sports historiography is considerably lacking in its examination of the space women occupied in modern sport in Ireland. This piece will draw on newspapers and archival material to examine the emergence of what came to be known as ladies’ Gaelic football in the late 1960s and early 1970s and to analyse the debates about the changing position of women in sport and society at this time. In so doing, this piece will aim to bring the historiography of women in Irish society in conversation with the growing historiography on sport in Ireland.

Keywords: Women’s sports, Ladies’ Gaelic football, Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association, Irish society

How to Cite:

Kilgallon, H., (2021) “From Novelty Act to National Association: The Emergence of Ladies’ Gaelic Football in the 1970s”, Studies in Arts and Humanities 7(1), 113-130. doi:

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Published on
03 Jun 2021
Peer Reviewed