Gaelic Fields by Paul Carroll is a seven-year photography journey throughout the 32 counties on the island of Ireland, capturing the action of Gaelic club games within their communities and surroundings.
The work imprints the rituals, decisive moments and flow of a GAA club game onto the backdrop of the local environment. Football, hurling, camogie and ladies football games – Ireland’s national games – are depicted at all adult levels in every county.
Running from the outlying Gaelic fields of Aran and Inisturk islands, South Kerry and the Glens of Antrim to the unique urban landscapes of Cork, Dublin and Belfast, the work incorporates a vast array of locations in between. The four seasons and multifarious elements of Irish weather are interwoven in a snapshot of each city and townland, the people and their team.
With echoes of Dutch landscape photographer Hans van der Meer, Carroll explored the different locations of Gaelic clubs and the identity they bring to their particular communities.
More than 50,000 kilometres later he discovered a vibrant and important grassroots movement which is embedded within each of the 32 counties on the island. It is a movement which is volunteer-driven, with players receiving no pay.
It has withstood the social and monetary ills of recession, as well as the mass emigration of many of its participants. Crucially, it accommodates all social strata in both urban and rural areas.
The historian and author Christopher Lasch said: “Play has always, by its very nature, set itself off from workaday life; yet it retains an organic connection with the life of the community, by virtue of its capacity to dramatize reality and to offer a convincing representation of the community’s values.”
Over the course of his photo journey, Carroll documents those community values, grassroots Gaelic games and their relationship within the environment.
Gaelic Fields showcases Ireland’s landscape in a way which is both unique and familiar. It is also a portrait of communities and the social nature of Gaelic games.