The Celtic nations have produced some truly unique sports. Shinty, hurling and Gaelic football have many elements of hockey, soccer and rugby, but add their own Celtic twist. They may be little known outside their home nations, but when the All Ireland Finals of hurling and Gaelic football each attract more than 80,000 spectators to Dublin, it’s obvious how big a deal these sports are. Celtic wrestling can also be found across all the nations, including Brittany and Cornwall.
And while it’s now a global game, golf was originally a Celtic sport, having been invented in Scotland. St Andrews boasts the oldest golf course in the world and the country is now home to more than 500 other courses.
When it comes to sports with a noble history, the Highland Games take some beating. Their origins go back to a time when Clans competed against each other in trials of strength such as caber tossing and tug o’war. But there was a gentler side to the festivities as well, with music and dance featuring prominently. Today, while the Games are most associated with Scotland, traditional gatherings take place around the world, particularly in the USA and Canada, but also New Zealand and Australia.
Then there are the other more ‘mainstream’ sports in which Celts shine. Rugby is practically a religion in Wales, while the Irish and Scots are also passionate – and world class – participants in the sport. Wales’ Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey play at the highest levels of football, the global game. In cycling, the Isle of Man’s Mark Cavendish has followed in the wheel tracks of Scotland’s Chris Hoy who has five Olympic gold medals to his name. And Gerraint Thomas took the sport’s ultimate prize home to Wales when he won the Tour de France in 2018.
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