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Fitness and Sport for Expats in Ireland

Submitted: October 2014


The rolling hills and beautiful landscapes of Ireland make it incredibly well suited for those who thrive on outdoor exercise. Running or cycling routes are much enhanced by the idyllic scenery found over much of Ireland and its coasts, however you should be aware that to an Irishman a day of mist and drizzle is described as ‘a fine soft day’, so be sure to pack waterproof clothing.

Cycling is very popular in Ireland, and new bikes can generally be found from about €200 upwards, though if you are planning to cycle often, you may wish to buy a higher quality bike, these being generally €600 or higher. There are hundreds of cycling events all year round, ranging from leisurely rides to gruelling off-road events. The official organisation for Irish cyclists can be found here, with links to applications for membership and events. Alternatively, if you prefer to ride for leisure and sightseeing rather than sport, Cycle Ireland has over 6,000km of routes, maps of attractions and service stations, and even an official app ensuring you will never get lost. Fold-up bikes can be carried on any Irish train free of charge, but non-foldable bikes must be paid for along with a train ticket at a charge of €6 for a single or €12 for a return. Further information is available at the Irish Rail website.

If you prefer to work out in a full facility, there are over 150 gyms throughout Ireland from small independent gyms to large chains. The vast majority contain basic cardio and resistance training (weightlifting) equipment, and many beyond that will have other facilities such as pools, rowing machines, saunas and trained sports massagers. Packages are generally paid either yearly or monthly and tend to cost from €30 a month upwards, though many gyms will allow you to pay for a day pass. If you prefer not to be drawn into a long contract, Simply Fitness offers contractless monthly payments wherein you choose how many months you wish to pay for. A full directory of gyms with contact details and a county map can be found here.



The most popular sport in Ireland is Gaelic football. This is fairly similar to rugby, but is played on a larger pitch for shorter times. Gaelic football uses a round ball, allows forward passes, disallows most rugby tackles, has a goalkeeper, and does not contain rugby set pieces such as scrums or rucks. It is best thought of as a cross between rugby and association football. To find a club, have a look at the Association website and select your area.

After Gaelic football, the most popular sports are hurling, association football and rugby. Hurling is an ancient Gaelic sport, older than the recorded history of Ireland, and has similarities with hockey. It is sometimes referred to as the fastest field sport in the world. Hurlers have a stick (a ‘hurley’) with which they must slap a small ball over the opposing team’s crossbar or into a net guarded by a goalkeeper. Players cannot handle the ball for more than four steps and must instead balance the ball on the end of the hurley or pass to another player. Players can tackle by striking at each other’s hurleys or slamming into each other shoulder to shoulder while going for the ball. Hurling is regulated by the same association as Gaelic football, and clubs can be found at the same link as above.

Beyond these ancient Gaelic sports, domestic clubs for football can be found here and for rugby here. If you wish to simply play for fun for any of the above sports, it is worth contacting your local Irish Citizen’s Information bureau or asking around.




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