76 Classic GAA Cliches

76 Classic GAA Cliches

Originally published in 2014.

1. Spiritual Leader

Not always the best player on a team and normally not the captain either but he is the most inspirational member of the panel. The one teammates look to at low moments, someone who will speak up and help them 'drive on'. It has nothing to do with saying decades of the rosary.

2. Champions League style format


Let's face it, if the GAA Championships were being invented today and someone proposed the current format with some teams playing for four consecutive weeks and another going a month with a game, the majority of people would say, 'no, that sounds shit'. The cure for the Championships' scheduling ills is viewed by many as being a move to a 'Champions League style format'.

3. Dummy team

A menace to GAA match programme buyers countrywide is the innovation that is the dummy team. You’re behind tactically these days unless you’re changing your lineup just minutes before the throw-in.

4. Three wise men

Most often seen 'on the sideline'.

Some classic examples include Brian Cody, Michael Dempsey and Martin Fogarty.


And Ger Loughnane, Mike McNamara and Tony Considine.



5. A.N. Other

'A.N. Other' is a feature of many a local GAA match programme. Used to fill in the gap in the lineup announced during the week while the player probably heads to Poland to get some cryotherapy of that troublesome hamstring.


6. The town end

Nearly every GAA ground has one of these.


Here's Kieran Donaghy scoring into the 'town end' at Austin Stack Park.


7. Lookit

A multi-purpose verbal crutch utilised by GAA players up and down the country when being interviewed in the media. It can be used to buy time as a player searches for an answer that won't get them thrown off the panel. Equally, it can me used menacingly at the beginning of a sentence to reinforce a point being made.

8. Majestic McGillycuddy Reeks

A game, especially if it's a Munster Football Final at the height of summer, cannot be broadcast from Killarney without mention of the 'Majestic McGillycuddy Reeks'.



Failure to mention the mountain range and its majestic nature will likely result in a beating with a large stick by Weeshie Fogarty.

9. The cliched pen pic

No GAA match programme is complete with the pen pics. The possibility of finding out a player's height, weight and what type of car he drives is the only reason for spending the €5 on it.

Of course, the answers are generally the same for every player, especially when it comes to favourite film. Shawshank Redemption is the stock answer and maybe The Green Mile if someone sees themselves as being a little alternative. You'd have to be some sort of intellectual to answer The Godfather.

Here's a typical pen pic that you would've seen in a '90s match programme.



10. The game took on a life of its own

Meaning "Shit got very real after that."

11. Exponent

A word only used when talking about players of the past. Usually preceded by the words 'one of the finest' and followed by 'the art of high fielding'.

It is frowned upon to talk about Mick O'Connell without describing him as such.



12. They've another 15 on the line that are as good

It was regularly said about Kilkenny and now Dublin's footballers. Could be followed by the words 'if not better'.


13. Quarterback

A term adopted a number of years ago in soccer to describe players like Xabi Alonso or Michael Carrick who would sit deep and spray around passes, it has also now enter the GAA lexicon.


Used when describing Stephen Cluxton's role due to the importance of his kick outs in Dublin's gameplan.


We await the day when NFL analysts start talking about someone playing the 'Ryan McHugh role' in American football.

14. A draw was the right result in the end


Said at the end of a highly competitive and entertaining game, usually because 'neither team deserved to lose'.

15. The umpire took up a good position.

An umpire doesn't have many places to stand when a game is being played. So it's always amusing to hear a commentator complimenting an umpire on his positional sense.

A handy guide to umpire positioning:

Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE


Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE



Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

16. Put it up


Usually shouted from the crowd towards an umpire when an insurance point goes over the bar.

17. "What do you think of that, Joe Brolly?"

A 2010s GAA cliche, but a cliche nonetheless.

18. They wrote us off during the week


19. Dressing room wall material


Any slight against a team in the build up to a game is ripe to be pinned to the dressing room and used as fuel to push a team towards victory.

20. Tight Pitch

A tight pitch is always a tough place to go. There's no space to play and the opposition fans are right on top of you. It's generally cited as a factor for the underdog having a chance.

Two examples include St. Conleth's Park in Newbridge.


St Conleth's Park, Newbridge

and Nowlan Park in Kilkenny.

Nowlan Park, Kilkenny

21. Wide Opens Spaces

The underdog fears the wide open spaces of Croke park.

Croke Park


and Semple.


22. Flying in training

When it comes to Championship football and hurling there is often little evidence regarding the form of teams. So hearing that a team is going well in training is highly regarded information.

Limerick hurlers training

Kilkenny hurlers training


Kerry footballers training

23. He took the sensible option

What's better than socring a goal when one on one with the keeper? Opting to fist it over the bar.

24. He was a great minor but then the drink got him


25. They had their chance the first day


An underdog has only one opportunity to win and that's in the first game. If it goes to a replay, then they don't stand a chance.

26. Gone to the well

When it comes to crunch time in the Championship you don't just dig deep, you go to the well.

No team has gone to the well more down the years than Brian Cody and Kilkenny.


27. He owes his county nothing

John Mullane

It is criminal to talk about John Mullane without using this cliche.

28. Meath won't fear the Dubs

Probably one for the dustbin at this stage.

29. Bend your back!

Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Usually heard at underage games when there's a new player on the team who has played a lot of soccer but not much GAA and has a tendency to dribble the ball 'soccer style'.

30. Like hitting a ball off a stone wall

Don't aim the ball at Tommy Walsh. It's just going to come straight back at you.

31. Under the radar

Generally heard around the All-Ireland quarter-finals stage regarding a team which has progressed through the Championship but hasn't had much press coverage.

32. A wide is as good as a point at this stage

The most ridiculous, bullshit GAA cliche of all time.

GAA Umpire

33. Waiting in the long grass

Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Similar to Under The Radar but heard in the build up to a game when a team is possibly being underrated. Most often uttered by Cyril Farrell.

34.  He's good but the brother is better

Literally said about every player that has a brother.

35. You don't win All-Irelands in July


36. September



Formerly the ultimate destination for GAA teams. The time every inter-county player is thinking about during the January slog. Now of course it's supposedly August and in the case of this year: "December".

37. Handbags


38. Schemozzle


39. Melee

40. Shameful scenes

41. Where's your pencil ref?

Picture credit: Sportsfile

42. Sure we've got the wind the second half
43. Ratified

Heard on new bulletins across the country following news that a manager has been appointed.

GAA and international treaties, the only places where this word is used.

44. Dirty ball

Picture credit: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Dirty ball is usually seen around the middle of the field and two inches off the ground. Won by the Richie McCaws of the team.

45. The hard yards

There used to be one of them on every team. Now there's upwards on 12 or 13.

Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE


46. Ding-dong battle


The O'Sheas and the Cavanaghs was a classic 'ding-dong battle'.

47. Why don't they just leave him on the edge of the square?




Heard anytime that Joe Canning stepped  onto the pitch for Galway in his early career.

48. Tough places to go

Tough places to go.



Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

49. Semi-finals are for winning




A great excuse for not playing well

50. The GAA love a draw

Possibly the most overused one of the lot.

51. The shackles are off

Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE


Why were they on in the first place?

52. Ah ref, this is championship

Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Mostly heard in local games when the ref gives a soft free which would have been OK in the league but not in the Championship. The set of rules used for championship is totally different to those used for the league.

53. We will be using subs

Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

54. Sure tog out anyway

Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

55. The so-called weaker counties

You know who you are!

56. Soccer style

You'll hear commentators say this anytime the ball isn't kicked from the hands or punched into the net. Also used anytime someone decides to do some 'soccer style' dribbling.

57. The Grab All Association

An alternative interpretation of the GAA acronym. Regularly exclaimed by someone who thinks they are the first person to ever say it.

58. And then the goalkeeper took it upon himself


It can now be used for a variety of sweeeper goalkeepers but originally this belonged to the great Shane Curran. No match report from a game featuring Shane Curran, be it a Roscommon or St. Brigid's match, is really complete without the words 'and then Shane Curran took it upon himself...'.

59. Close the gates

Uttered at club games when one local rival is hammering another. Usually followed by the words "...and make them watch".

GAA gates

60. How's he on the county panel? Sure he's shite.

Heard at a club game when there's a much heralded county player on the pitch.


Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE


The only reason for going to the minor game rather than staying in the pub is that you have a relative playing. And even then, you turn up begrudgingly.

62. It'll be grand, sure we'll get tickets outside Quinns


63. Watching the game on TV with local radio commentary


64.  Wristy hurler


65. Save a few of those for the game


You've only got so many points in your locker at the end of the day and you can't be wasting them on training.

66. Ah ref, that's a black card!

Generally shouted for something that is, in fact, not a black card offence.

67. You've got win one to lose one


Another cliche that means absolutely nothing, it got bandied around a lot when Tipperary lost to Kilkenny in the 2009 final but then beat them in the 2010 final.

68. One of yis

Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

69.  Let it in!

Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Generally heard at a club games when there's lots of...

70. Don't take it into the tackle!

Shouted immediately before a player proceeds to take it into the tackle.


71. It's only a league game

In the end, it's all about Championship. Poor performances and losses in league games are easily dismissed. They only really matter when the threat of relegation looms.

72. Kilkenny training games


Kilkenny training games are the hardest that anyone has ever played in. They're Championship standard. This is mainly due to Brian Cody...

73. He swallowed the whistle



Regularly said regarding Brian Cody's refereeing style during Kilkenny training.


74. They died with their boots on


When a team lose but leave it all on the pitch.

74. You can't be blowing for everything


75. We won't be taking them for granted


76. Men possessed


PJ Browne
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