The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) of Ireland has been around since 1884. Gaelic football is a beloved Irish sport that has been around since at least the 1600s and is said to be the precursor for both soccer and rugby. The sport has a mythical air surrounding it, and the fact that it has remained an amateur sport means that the passion for it is like no other.
The American National Football League (NFL) is quite the opposite. It was only formed comparatively recently, in 1920. This is a very stop-start game where tactics are crucial and one player controls much of what happens on the field. American Football is also very much commodified; it’s a full-blown entertainment package. With the growth in global viewing, its popularity has seeped into recent Irish interest. And with that, due to the similarities between the two games, many viewers are wondering if any GAA players can make it big in the NFL. Here are the top three players we feel can make the cut.
Paudie Clifford – Wide Reciever
Given recent performances, unsurprisingly, NFL odds have the Chiefs as the favourites to take home the Super Bowl at 3/1, closely followed by the Buffalo Bills at 7/2 and the San Francisco 49ers at 5/1. Nevertheless, this isn’t about him powering a side to victory; it’s about seeing him succeed in the NFL. The Chiefs would be unstoppable if Paudie Clifford were alongside Patrick Mahomes, catching his rocket passes for yards.
Clifford cemented himself as one of the best players in the country with his All-Ireland wins with Kerry in July 2022. But could he lead or guide an NFL team to the promised land, like the Kansas City Chiefs? He is an unbelievable athlete: strong, tall, quick, good in the air, and most importantly, he can catch anything. He caught marks during the Championship last season and seeing him pluck NFL balls out of the sky would be a sight to behold.
Dean Rock – Kicker
The crafty Dublin forward is as slick as they come. Over the past decade, he’s built a name as one of the coolest forwards in Gaelic football. The man has ice in his veins and has proved this over and over again by taking frees for Dublin and guiding them to seven All-Ireland titles.
With his deadly accurate free taking, it would be only natural to assume he could transition into one of the best kickers in the NFL. The kicker is the highest-scoring position in American Football, so it would only be fitting for a footballer as deadly as Rock to flourish in that role.
The San Francisco 49ers have an excellent kicker in Robbie Gould, but if they could take that position up just a tick, they could be the favourite to win the Super Bowl. If Dean Rock tried his hand at the sport, he could be the person to allow Brock Purdy the room to make mistakes with the insurance of his kicking. With that freedom, the team could soar.
Ciarán Kilkenny – Quarterback
Ciarán Kilkenny has been a household name in Gaelic football for years, being part of several Dublin All-Ireland teams. Kilkenny has a mastery of Gaelic football and seems to dictate games that he is a part of. Although his unbelievable motor could translate to other positions, his sporting brain would translate the best to American Football.
He has a feeling for the game and an understanding of where his teammates will be at all times, which could see him lead an NFL side. A team like the New England Patriots could do a lot worse than having him at the helm. You never know–he could be the next Tom Brady.
Although there are many differences between the two sports, there remain similarities. The athletes in the GAA are something else; seeing them perform in another sport would show that they are no amateurs.