Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Sport, Leisure & Childhood Studies

First Advisor

Dr Cian O'Neill

Second Advisor

Dr Con Burns

Third Advisor

Dr Kieran Collins


Background: Carefully planned and implemented training programmes are essential for optimal sports performance. In depth knowledge of both the technical, tactical and physical demands of the sport are critical to informing these training programmes. Gaelic football, an amateur intermittent field sport, is one of the most popular sports in Ireland. Limited previous research has attempted to extensively analyse and interpret key findings from the literature to formulate practical recommendations for Gaelic football training and match preparation. The purpose of this research is to objectively analyse Gaelic football performance at the elite and sub-elite levels and to use this data to propose a training model for Gaelic football. Methods: Participants in this research were comprised of players from 5 elite Gaelic football teams and 2 sub-elite Gaelic football teams. Global Positioning Systems (4-Hz, VX Sport, Lower Hutt, New Zealand; GPEXE LT 18Hz, Exelio, Udine, Italy) were used to monitor elite and sub-elite Gaelic football players during matchplay. Video analysis (SportsCode Elite V9, Sportstec, Warriewood, New South Wales, Australia) was used to monitor technical proficiency and frequency of use in both cohorts during match-play. Three different pitch sizes (40x20m, 60x20m, 80x20m) were used to examine the effect of pitch dimensions on the physical, physiological and technical performance of sub-elite Gaelic football players during small sided games (SSGs). Results: In the elite participants, the final 2 months of playing season elicited greater total distance (p ≤ 0.001) and high-speed distance (p ≤ 0.002) in match-play when compared to the other months. An analysis of the relationship between technical and running performance indicators found that the percentage of short kick-outs taken by the opposition team and total opposition possession time were the variables found to have the strongest association with increasing total distance and high-speed distance run, with positional differences evident (r =.146 to.410, p ≥ 0.202). In analysing the reference team’s own technical performance, the number of fouls made in the middle third had the largest negative effect (r = -.890 to -.325, p ≥ 0.439) on running demands. In the analysis of sub-elite Gaelic football match-play, playing position had large effects on several variables including number of possessions (ES = 0.18), number of shots (ES = 0.45), total metres per minute (ES = 0.40 and average speed (ES = 0.40). A comparative analysis of the demands of different SSG pitch sizes showed that players performed significantly greater high-speed running (p £ 0.001) and sprinting (p £ 0.001) on the 60x20m pitch compared to the 40x20m and 80x20m pitches with only trivial effects present for physiological demands. Games played on the 40x20m pitch were found to result in in more scores (p = 0.062; η2 = 0.071) and possessions per team (p = 0.015; η2 = 0.106). Conclusions: The findings from this research established that there was an almost linear increase in physical match-play demands of Gaelic football players from early season to late season. The running demands of players can be influenced by team strategies and tactical approaches. SSGs were found to be an effective method for preparing for the physical, physiological and technical demands of Gaelic football match-play. The findings from the series of studies presented is used to inform a Tactical Periodisation training model for Gaelic football. The model considers the game structure, the demands of the game, the amateur status of players and the seasonal structure to provide practitioners with a framework to plan Gaelic football training.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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