Study finds harmful drinking culture exists within elite GAA as kids 'as young as 11 or 12' boozing

Study finds harmful drinking culture exists within elite GAA as kids 'as young as 11 or 12' boozing

A new study has found that a harmful drinking culture exists among intercounty GAA players.

A research paper was published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science on Monday. The authors of the study are based at University Hospital Limerick, University College Dublin, Children’s Health Ireland, and Washington Street Medical Centre in Cork.

A survey was conducted on alcohol use and culture at intercounty level and the paper analysed the comments of 111 elite GAA players who took part.

One stand-out theme in the feedback was drinking bans and the practice of binge drinking following long periods of abstinence


Many respondents felt players are unable to drink for long periods for numerous reasons including drinking bans, peer pressure, and inability to perform in their chosen sport, and then drink heavily when the opportunity arises.

One player said "In the GAA there seems to be a culture of ‘full duck or no dinner’. What I mean by this is players tend to abstain from alcohol for long periods of time and then when they do drink they binge heavily. I am definitely guilty of this."

While another said: "People drink to excess when the opportunity arises because most of the season you can’t because of training etc."

A number of respondents felt the issues were not so much related to the GAA but to external factors such as the age of players and Irish society in general.


A lot of the GAA players surveyed felt that there was a preferable attitude to alcohol in other sports especially in rugby which was felt to have a healthier approach.

One GAA player, in particular, said: "Professional athletes go for their few drinks whenever they want nothing said! When an amateur athlete that gives up his or her free time go for a few drinks, they are blackened by the GAA community!! Doesn’t make much sense does it."

Some respondents feel that underage GAA members grow up associating the sport with alcohol:

"It is becoming increasingly common in our underage level with clubs to choose to go back and celebrate, host awards nights, fundraisers, etc. in the local…certain parents or coaches want to go to pubs instead which leads to all the underage members of our club growing up in the same drinking culture and heavily associating it with GAA. There are also many occurrences of underage drinking as a result. I have seen children as young as 11 or 12 drinking after county final celebrations."


Only eight intercounty players out of the 111 surveyed, said there was “no issue” with alcohol in the GAA while seven said there were positive effects as it allowed them to “blow off some steam”

The authors of the study concluded that “a harmful drinking culture exists within elite GAA”.

They said a “varied approach” involving grassroots GAA members, the Gaelic Players Association (GPA), and governmental initiatives are required to combat its effect.

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