The aim of the current study was to analyse the anthropometric and performance characteristics of elite male Gaelic footballers with respect to position and playing role. The investigation is the first of its kind to offer anthropometric and performance values of elite Gaelic footballers with respect to playing role. The key findings were that goalkeepers had a significantly lower Yo-YoIRT1 distance compared to all other positions, while half backs performed significantly better than both full backs and full forwards. A significant position × role interaction was observed for Yo-YoIRT1 distance, with starters covering a greater distance in all positions when compared to non-starters, except for half backs. Regarding role, starters had a significantly better CMJ height, CMJ PP, and Yo-YoIRT1 distance compared to non-starters, and thus accepting the research hypothesis. Furthermore, in the non-starter group, half backs were observed to cover significantly more Yo-YoIRT1 distance than both midfielders and half forwards. No other differences were observed between position and playing role in this study. These data suggest a role-specific performance profile may exist amongst elite male Gaelic football players with regard to power and aerobic fitness.
There were no significant effects detected for age, stature and body mass across position or playing role. The similarity between the positions is in agreement with previous Gaelic football  and hurling  literature, which observed a relative homogeneity across position for stature and body mass. However, positional differences regarding stature have been observed in Gaelic football, with midfielders found to be taller than all other outfield positions , often followed by the goalkeeper . It should be noted that the data of the current study were collected over a 5-year period, whereas the data of previous Gaelic football literature examining anthropometry were collected at a single time point [6, 7] or over the course of a single season . Anthropometric comparisons of starters and non-starters in Australian football examined over a three month period similarly found no significant differences for stature and body mass. However, in contrast to the findings of the current investigation, starters were found to be significantly older than non-starters. . Further research is required to determine if role-specific variations exist for age, stature and body mass within Gaelic football.
Furthermore, there were no significant effects detected for sum of seven skinfold, %AT and FFM across position or playing role. Contrastingly, Shovlin et al. (30) reported during the examination of five elite Gaelic football teams (n = 148) at a single time point over a one month period, that full forwards had a significantly higher %AT compared to half backs, midfielders and half forwards. However, more dated Gaelic football research found no significant difference for body fat % positions . Elite soccer literature examining pre-season body composition differences (n = 82, across two seasons, two year period) also reported goalkeepers to have a significantly higher FFM and body fat percentage compared to midfielders and forwards . Previously reported positional anthropometric variations in Gaelic football may be explained by differences in match-play demands [11, 19], corresponding to differing subcutaneous fat levels. Moreover, Australian football research of one elite team (n = 34) similarly observed significant positional differences for sum of seven skinfold, with no significant effect detected when comparing starters and non-starters . Further research is required to gain a greater understanding of position- and role-specific anthropometric differences in elite Gaelic football.
There were no significant effects detected for CMJ height and CMJ PP across position. Existing literature contrastingly reported full forwards significantly outperformed midfielders in CMJ height . This alternative finding may be explained by a reduction in contested aerial duals by midfielders in recent seasons, due to the advent of the short kick-out during match-play . Regarding role, starters had a significantly greater CMJ height and CMJ PP compared to non-starters. Similar findings were discovered within Australian football, which also reported starters to significantly outperform non-starters regarding CMJ height and CMJ power (W·kg) . Gaelic footballers are required to contest aerial duals for possession during competitive match-play. The need for these athletes to possess adequate power characteristics, such as jump height, may be an important factor to consider during team selection.
There were no significant effects detected for 5, 10 and 20-m sprint times across position or playing role. Regarding position, the current findings are in line with existing elite Gaelic football  and elite hurling  investigations, which also reported non-significant positional differences for sprint times. In recent years, high-speed distance demands have increased for all positional lines [2, 19]. These increased demands subsequently require all outfield positional lines to be able perform repeated high-intensity bursts during match-play , thus resulting in minimal positional speed variations. Regarding role, contrastingly, previous Australian football literature reported starters to have a significantly greater 10 m sprint time compared to non-starters. However, similar to the current investigation, no significant effect over the 5 and 20-m distance was discovered . Further research is required to determine if a role-specific velocity profile exists within Gaelic football.
Variations in Yo-YoIRT1 performance were evident, with goalkeepers covering a significantly lower distance compared to all other positions, while half backs had a significantly greater distance compared to full backs and full forwards. In support of these findings, literature involving adolescent elite Gaelic footballers reported goalkeepers to have a significantly lower Yo-YoIRT1 distance compared to all outfield positions . Analysis using Yo-YoIRT2 found the three middle positional lines had a significantly greater distance compared to full backs and full forwards . The middle three positional lines are commonly reported to experience the greatest match-play demands [1, 19]; therefore, the findings of the current investigation are unsurprising. Regarding role, starters covered a significantly greater Yo-YoIRT1 distance compared to non-starters. Elite Australian football literature similarly discovered starters to cover a significantly greater Yo-YoIRT2 distance compared to non-starters . Yo-YoIRT1 assesses the ability to repeat high-intensity efforts . Elite Gaelic footballers are reported to complete 166 ± 41 accelerations during match-play . An enhanced aerobic system in starters as measured by Yo-YoIRT1 may result in quicker recovery from high-intensity running, and therefore allow them to impact match-play to a greater extent. To the authors knowledge, the current study is the first to produce a large sample of Yo-YoIRT1 data within elite adult Gaelic football. Therefore, future studies are required to confirm if a position- and role-specific profile exists for the Yo-YoIRT1 at elite adult level.
Although the large sample size within the current study is beneficial, the dataset including six different teams must be considered. Elite Gaelic footballers coming from different teams, with varying training strategies, coaches and physical preparation programs is a noted limiting factor. Data collection was conducted over a period of five years (2014–2019). During this time frame, improvements in knowledge of factors, such as athletic preparation, may have influenced the data. With that said, the current investigation builds on existing anthropometric and performance profiles within Gaelic football [4, 6], and provides normative data regarding position- and role-specific variations.
To conclude, the current investigation is the first of its kind within Gaelic football to include the anthropometric and performance profile of goalkeepers. Significant differences in performance characteristics were observed with respect to position and role. Variations discovered include aerobic fitness and power capacity differences, with half backs outperforming full backs and full forwards regarding Yo-YoIRT1 distance, and starters outperforming non-starters in CMJ height, CMJ PP and Yo-YoIRT1 distance. With further research, the role-specific characteristics may become a significant factor regarding team selection.
The data obtained can be applied by coaches to gauge anthropometric and performance characteristics in elite Gaelic football cohorts. The data collected in the current investigation may aid future Gaelic football practitioners to assess the anthropometric and performance profile of their athletes. Although no significant anthropometric differences were evident, future trainers may refer to these values as normative for elite adult Gaelic footballers as a whole. These findings may also be exploited by elite footballers aiming to secure a starting position with their respective elite team. For non-starters, the data may set a goal to reach the physical capacity of a starter counterpart, while also providing scores for starters to maintain to remain in their current category. The results of the current study may also provide target scores for competing athletes. Sub-elite players with ambitions of playing elite Gaelic football may use the results as normative values to strive to achieve to increase their chance of selection for an elite panel. Management teams may use these findings, as an additional factor, to aid team selection for elite match-play. Enhancing aerobic fitness capacity should be an aim of a non-starter to allow them to complete more high-intensity efforts due to a faster recovery time between bouts. Non-starters should also obtain the objective of increasing lower body peak power to enhance jump performance. With the presence of further analyses, role-specific performance characteristics may become a factor in team selection.