Northern Ireland news

Fermanagh man's GAA pitches map becomes internet sensation

Niall Cunningham and his map of GAA pitches across Ireland that has become a Facebook hit. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

MEET the former Fermanagh footballer behind a stunning map of Ireland's GAA pitches that has become an internet sensation.

Niall Cunningham from Maguiresbridge has, over the course of three years, mapped nearly every single GAA pitch in Ireland.

An image of more than 1,700 pitches he has mapped to date quickly went viral online after he uploaded it to Facebook on Sunday.

And now the 33-year-old plans to go global - by plotting the locations of every GAA pitch worldwide.

Mr Cunningham, a former Fermanagh senior footballer and minor captain, said he has been amazed by the reaction to his interactive GAA pitch locator.

"I think when most people see it they're staggered by the number of pitches out there, and I suppose it shows how important the GAA is in the community," he said.

"People from Australia and Canada have all been in touch and I'm saying, 'fire me on the details' - a worldwide map would be pretty amazing.

"If people will provide me with more pitches then I'm happy to add them into the database."

Mr Cunningham, a software developer who now lives in Belfast, said he came up with the idea after being asked to create a website for St Brigid's GAA club in the south of the city.

"I was obviously from Fermanagh so I didn't know where the pitches in Antrim were, so I decided to find all the pitches in Antrim and then it just spiralled from there," he said.

"It then just became kind of a game going onto Google Maps trying to find all the pitches."

Mr Cunningham, who has worked on the project on and off for around three years, collated details from official club websites before trawling through online satellite images for more obscure pitches.

"There were some pitches I couldn't find on Google Maps so I was using Google Street View to virtually drive down country lanes to try and find the pitches," he said.

"But when I found Bing Maps that's when everything started to be easier to find."

A total of 1,748 GAA pitches have been plotted so far on his interactive map, which includes pitches for clubs as well as schools and universities.

Cork has the most with 171 while Fermanagh has the fewest with just 24.

The figures mean Ireland has a GAA pitch for nearly every 18 square miles.

Mr Cunningham accepted that there are still pitches missing and said some GAA fans have been in touch with new details.

The 33-year-old said there was even a comment on Twitter about a pitch on Rathlin Island, but he couldn't locate the "tell-tale green rectangle and the shadow of goalposts" on satellite images.

"There was a GAA match played there but I don't know if there is a pitch there. I can't find it online, so if someone knows give me a shout," he said.

"I'm hoping that more people who have found the site will provide feedback. I'm updating it as the emails come in."

Mr Cunningham said he hopes his pitch locator website will help GAA fans and players easily locate pitches and turn up at matches on time.

He also aims to compile GAA updates from applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for clubs across Ireland.

"I'm going to create a page for every single club – it would be a central hub of GAA social media feeds," he said.

:: Visit www.gaapitchlocator.net to view the interactive map of GAA pitches across Ireland

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:: GAA pitches per county

Antrim – 59

Armagh – 52

Carlow – 28

Cavan – 42

Clare – 63

Cork – 171

Derry – 42

Donegal – 41

Down – 49

Dublin – 91

Fermanagh – 24

Galway – 101

Kerry – 74

Kildare – 50

Kilkenny – 43

Laois – 47

Leitrim – 25

Limerick – 81

Longford – 28

Louth – 45

Mayo – 61

Meath – 65

Monaghan – 32

Offaly – 46

Roscommon – 32

Sligo – 28

Tipperary – 76

Tyrone – 56

Waterford – 53

Westmeath – 51

Wexford – 51

Wicklow – 41

TOTAL – 1,748

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