The GAA as an alternative organisation

Noel Connors

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


The point of departure for this inductive study is to explore the alternative organisational happenings of the GAA club. Drawing on the lived experiences of people working at all registers of the voluntary organisation – from painter to President, the research is compelled by the unconventional method to organisation. In spite of its scale, meaning and place within Irish society the club is relatively overlooked, particularly from an organisational perspective. And so, this leads to concerns and questions regarding the most suitable methods to capture the clubs unique modes, but doing it in a way that is meaningful and representative of the broader organisation.
The research is approached from a phenomenological ontology and an epistemology of social constructionism, which aspires to give an uninterrupted voice to the participants understanding of their time and experiences. Often organisations with such a vast size and scale are considered ‘capitalocentric’, bureaucratic and modern, a claim that this method of research shows to be untrue. Through organisation storytelling, the GAA men and women narrate their experiences of being involved in the GAA club, a historical telling of how they started and where they are positioned today. Their experiences provide an original perspective of the inner world of the club, its happenings, its toils and how the clubs remain resolve despite the low resourced environment it is placed in.
The stories are analysed by a mode of deconstruction that reveals much about the alternativeness of the club. The deconstructed stories are explored through theories and concepts relating to alternative organisations, critique, leadership and families in organisations. Without little guide from previous work, the research commenced by exploring and describing the organisational principles of the club and how these principles have influenced the place in which the club currently occupies. Happening after happening, the club telling’s provided scope to discuss the meanings attributed by the GAA men and women to sustain the club long into the future.
The research contributes to theories of organisation studies by presenting a large scale case exemplar of an alternative organisation. In this, the clubs unorthodox principles demonstrate that the club marginalises the modern act of critique by bolstering itself to its purpose. Going further, this act of marginalising it supported by the club men and club women who bring the clubs into being and sustain them over time, these men and women are rendered up as club leaders for their devotion to club and community. For the most part the anointing of new leaders is generally a family or close network ritual, as they learn the ropes at an early age, but also in a practical way and in doing so the family and their values are continuously present in the clubs pursuit of persistence and survival over winning and materialism. In a contribution to practice, the research offers three separate considerations; the first being explain the GAA to itself, something the organisation has always struggled with. Second, fortify and encourage it against the mimetic impulse to become ordinary; and finally, support in a practical way leadership in the GAA.
Original languageEnglish (Ireland)
Title of host publicationCentre for Sports Economics and Law
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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