Why is the GAA blind to colour-blindness?

Photo: RTÉ

My heart sank when the draw for the Championship’s group stage was made. Not in terms of who we were bracketed with from a footballing perspective but instead because of the county colours involved. Not only were we paired in Group 1 with Cork but we would also be playing Louth, a team who don the same red and white strip as the Rebels.

As most regular readers of the blog will know, I’m colour-blind. While this disability – for that’s what it is – doesn’t impact me negatively in the normal course of events, for some things it can be a right pain.

Left to my own devices, my colour co-ordination where it comes to clothes, for example, can stray well beyond interesting. In addition, locating the brown ball on the snooker table used to be a repeated issue of much hilarity amongst my friends many years ago. Recently, the colour choice of a rucksack I’d bought provoked comment at home. I’d thought it was black, turns out it’s maroon.

You get the picture. Reds into greens into browns – they’re all the one to these eyes. Blues, purples and pinks – they all look lovely, I’m sure, whatever they are. What even is teal?

Where colour-blindness hits me particularly badly is at matches. If two teams are wearing – to my afflicted eyes – broadly the same colour tone on top and the same colour shorts, I’m in bother. This problem gets worse the more alike the two colours are and when the sun is shining brightly or if the game is being played under floodlights.

A team in a red top with white shorts playing a team in green and red with white shorts is a particularly egregious example of the problem I face. For the Louth game the other week what I saw was 28 players attired exactly the same, with only the goalkeepers clearly discernible. I already know it’ll be as bad again for the Cork game on Sunday.

But it’s not just Red v Green and Red: all manner of colours cause me problems. For example, it’s difficult, in particular at a distance, to tell the likes of ourselves and Galway apart.

The problem is the similarity a colour-blind person perceives in colour tones. If these aren’t obviously different – and I mean very obviously different – then colour-blind people like me won’t be able to tell two sets of players apart.

The solution is a maddeningly simple one. If one team wears a dark-coloured top, then the other should wear a light-coloured one. Same with the shorts. That’s all that’s required. Is this asking too much?

The weird thing is that this rule appears to apply some of the time – for example, when we play Kerry – but not other times. In my world, the colour clash when playing Cork – and, as I now know, Louth as well – is far worse than when we’re playing Kerry but it’s only when we play Kerry that changed strips are used.

The GAA is doing great work at the present time on inclusivity and diversity, an initiative which I heartily applaud. But, as The Brother (who suffers the same affliction) has already pointed out here on the blog, inclusivity and exclusivity can take many different forms.

When faced with a football field peopled with two teams in playing strips that look pretty much identical to us benighted creatures who suffer from colour-blindness, the GAA’s approach to this disability looks anything but inclusive.

It’s high time that the GAA recognised this as a real issue facing a minority of its supporters and did something about it. Were it to do so in time for Sunday’s game that would be perfect but what are the chances of this happening? Sadly, this colour-blind punter isn’t holding out any hopes that they will.

52 thoughts on “Why is the GAA blind to colour-blindness?

  1. Excellent piece. Too often people are afraid to speak about a disability. I’ve always advocated that a team should always play in an away kit if there is any similarity in tone or colour. Fifa World cups have been like that for years

  2. Great piece WJ. I hope the GAA do something about this. One thought crossed my mind, are there many colour blind inter county players that would be willing to support this?

  3. Cork could easily wear their white strip and Mayo I’m guessing could wear either Home or Away kit and it would be discernible. Is it worse watching on TV WJ or live? Maybe if your watching on TV you could adjust the settings to see if helps highlight the difference.

  4. It’s far worse being there, Bonni – the use of different cameras and the commentary helps on TV.

    That’s a good point re players, Trevor. In fact there has to be a chance that some of the Mayo or Louth players are colour-blind! If so that would explain misplaced passes in that game. Also how would a colour-blind ref have fared out trying to officiate that game?

  5. Usually what the gaa do is make both teams wear their away strips which in some cases is just as similar as both home strips.I am not in any way colour blind but also find it difficult at times to distinguish the strips .seems to have been as the green in mayo’s strip has got darker over the years

  6. This is really interesting and for someone who is not colour-blind and never really gave any thought to the problem I’m surprised that this has never been highlighted before. When you say about the players and referees possibly having this problem and surely linesmen and umpires are just as likely to be hindered. Is it not just as likely that some of the top brass in GAA circles also have colour-blindness and should be pushing for change and fairness for all followers?

  7. That makes all those brilliant & instant match reports all the more impressive @WJ. I’m sure it takes total concentration on your part. A misty night under lights in Mc Hale puts all eyes under pressure.
    We often times question the colour cards different refs issue for various offences….this might explain. Hum!

  8. I agree completely with you WJ . It’s a nightmare. If 8% of men are colourblind, then out of a 26 man panel two would have the same problem. Just thinking, do you know anyone in the county board who you can raise the issue with. If not I’m sure Mike or someone in the Mayo News would.

  9. It’s something I struggle with and it really impacts how I can watch a game. Another practical example where it is particularly detrimental is for referees and officials.

    I reffed a couple of games at a juvenile blitz over the weekend and one or two teams kits were far too close for comfort. I usually ask the wife is it just me, or are those colours very close?

    We need a new heckle from the crowd ‘are you colour blind ref’?

  10. You’ve done a great job colour-blind or not WJ! I hope your points are noted by powers that be.
    Up Mayo (I hesitate to write the green and red, or should that be the red and green – only slagging!)

  11. I say the recent Armagh V Derry Ulster final was hard to figured the colours.
    Well done Willie Joe and very interesting topic.

  12. I am actully going to print this off and send it into GAA and also ONeills.This should be an easy fix!!.

  13. Great piece Willie Joe. My son is colour blind and will struggle at the game on Sunday. He always finds mayo v galway games an issue too. I’m amazed how the GAA haven’t thought about this issue. They are always talking about disabilities and inclusion. My son plays football but thankfully his club colours are white and it’s not as issue for him, other kids might not be so lucky.

  14. @ Rock , great heckle!. @ Michael Moran. Have to agree 100% with Armagh Derry colours. It made it almost unwatchable and that was before we had to suffer all the defensive muck in the first half especially. These are basic things easily remedied. Its not as if the Gaa is not familiar with the colours of the jerseys.

  15. The mad thing about the Armagh/Derry game was that it was Derry’s change from their primary strip that created the clash. How the GAA allowed that to happen was just baffling – if Derry had played in their proper colours there would have been no clash at all.

  16. It’s definitely not just an issue for colour-blind folk. The league match down in Tralee last year was a joke. Two teams with dark-coloured tops playing under floodlights on a wet evening. I came away with sore eyes. Some of the less egregious colour-clashes can be jarring also. Donegal and Mayo never play in their change-strips even though there is an abundance of green in both kits. FIFA and the Premier League have got it right (even if driven by commercial reasons), the GAA should mandate that there should be no clashes between certain colour groups and arbitrate it if need be. It shouldn’t be a case of both teams needing to change strips either as those can also be similar

  17. I’m of the view Derry changed their colours to ruin Armaghs kicking game. Do you really think Derry do anything off the cuff these days?
    I wonder are very few elite players colour blind? The condition meaning it’s hard to always pick out your own team mates?
    Dark shorts, light shorts. Dark top light top. Yes, it would be good to help out 8% of the attending or watching on TV audience.

  18. Excellent piece WJ.
    I’m badly colour blind and you’ve described it perfectly there.It doesn’t effect my everyday life at all,it’s more of a novelty when I tell people or I get something wrong as a result of it.Then that’s usually followed by a lot of interested questions which im happy to answer,funnily enough almost always the first question is ” how do you deal with traffic lights?”
    I’m laughing here at the snooker story,absolutely no chance for me differentiating the brown from any of the reds.The fashion thing I don’t relate to as much as the colours I pick for clothes generally look good (just don’t ask me to put a name on any of those particular colours!)
    As you mentioned its not just Cork or Louth,I often have trouble playing Galway,especially on a wet day for whatever reason.I think a good compromise might be if the colours are anyway similar is to wear different shorts?
    It’s not just GAA,I find rugby worse as I might not know the players as well and there’s more contact,mauls,rucks.
    Anyway it’s not a cool or on trend enough issue to see (pun intended) anything happening to change it so we’ll just have to get on with it.

  19. What do ye see for these colours?
    What colors are totally unaffected? What colours partial?

  20. I was actually thinking about that after I posted JP, regarding elite players. Maybe the condition prevents players from getting to the very top.

  21. I agree with ultair. … That cold wet night in Tralee last year was the pits for even those of us who are not colourblind. I think the general rule should be that only one team wears white shorts with , maybe Kildare s opponents being the exception. next sunday , I would hope that Cork wear their white strip so that we can have our green and red but knowing Cork that probably won’t be the case

  22. @JP
    I wouldn’t think it’s the same for everybody,some more colourblind than others.In my own case I have trouble distinguishing between green,red,brown and then also yellow,green orange and the red,orange and also blue,purple, navy and pink.

    People are always interested so I try to explain,I don’t see different colours to you,I see them the same (I think!)but i can’t name them,I can have a guess though and I’d be right about half the time.
    There are lots of little tricks that I’ve learned subconsciously as I suppose I’ve been like this since I was born.For example obvious stuff like I know the sun is yellow,the sky is blue,grass is green etc.
    Others less obvious things like I might see a car and it might look pink to me,however I know that’s a rare colour for a car so I’d conclude it’s most likely light blue instead.
    Similarly I might be watching an obscure rugby match and a jersey might look brown to me but that would be an unusual colour for a kit so I know it’s more likely a dark red or orange.
    Lots of little tricks and reasoning to figuring out what colour something is! As I said though it’s really not a problem for me in everyday life,it is for sure an annoyance at Mayo games more than anything else for me really.
    Oh and also you can’t become a pilot if you’re colour blind!

  23. Can I ask if there is any type of glasses available to help with Colour blindness when watching a match.

  24. @williejoe. I’d say lack of awareness could be a reason why nothing has been done about it. I’m a long time going to games and( to my shame now) i never gave a thought to colourblindness. Maybe this is the start of getting the problem really out there and it seems it’s one of the problems that can be easily rectified. Either that or you sit beside someone like i always seem to end up near where they give a running commentary during the game with every pass it’s go on aidan go on Ryan etc etc.

  25. Great job raising awareness. It sounds a nightmare. I’m not colour blind and I’ve had some bad times of late with some of the clashes. Can’t begin to imagine what it’s like for someone who is colour blind!

  26. Great article @willie joe. I am so lucky I don’t suffer from colour blindness . However even the match between Derry & Armagh I found it really hard to watch so can’t imagine how people who do suffer from it can watch it.

    I think the GAA are a bit insensitive towards it or maybe they haven’t realised don’t know how they couldn’t though !!

  27. Could a club’s Central Council representative not bring this problem to the attention of the Central Council. I intend to contact my club secretary about this. Also, a motion could be sent to Congress. I wonder are referees’ vision tested.

  28. The good news WJ is that while the Colour is a little dimmed you have the Superpower of keeping the Maigheo fanbase very happy indeed.

  29. This is an excellent article and I can identify perfectly with everything you say as I’m also red-green colour blind. I only found out that I had it at all when I had to do an eye test for my driving exam and couldn’t spot a number set into a colour pattern series. As a kid in school the I couldn’t read the board if the teacher used red chalk to highlight key points but I thought everybody else was the same! People who I meet that don’t have this condition are both bemused and fascinated in equal measure! I agree totally with everything you say – if they can cater for in soccer and rugby its only reasonable and fair that they can change strips in GAA. I’m surprised jersey manufacturers like O’Neill’s aren’t pushing for a compulsory change of colour for away teams given all the money they would make on shirt sales of second and third strips. If both Cork and Mayo don’t change strips this weekend I’ll have to listen to the game on the Mid-West (like I did with the Louth game) as it would be too difficult to watch it live on TV.

  30. Like you Liam, I won’t be going to the game either. What’s the point. It’s a no brainer for the Gaa. If 8% won’t go to games, they lose out big time. If that number didn’t go to the Louth game, out of 11k it’s almost 900 people at €25 a ticket.

  31. Have the same issue myself Willie Joe.
    Was at the Louth game. Absolute nightmare.
    I don’t suppose there is any chance Mayo or Cork could played their away strip on Sunday?

  32. I wish that we become more aware of this ‘disability’ of colour blindness.Men don’t want to talk about it like other issues and its pushed under the carpet. Close family have this colour blind gene and its not been taken seriously.Men choose a career to discover later they can’t see what other see on a laboratory slide !.Hopefully this article will highlight the issue.

  33. Great piece WJ. I’m in the same boat. Would be wonderful if this could be highlighted to the powers that be (maybe it has and just isn’t considered to be significantly pervasive enough to warrant action). Maybe if the lack of action by the GAA for us colourblind folks could be given some sort of divisive name or something and accuse the GAA of being that, it might help throw a spotlight on the situation. Maybe we should say the GAA is racist against colourblind people :-).

  34. What if all away teams were to wear white with a token couple of county colours stripes. Would that work. Of course you would have the commercial problem of nobody wanting to buy the away strip. But is that right either. It does amount to neglect on the part of headquarters. I wonder how many other issues are there that have been overlooked? I can feel your frustration Willie Joe. As you say there are solutions but nobody is listening. Bad form I say.

  35. @muckle, a simpler solution would be for the home team to always wear white shorts and socks with their stripes and the away team to always wear dark shorts and socks.. no major commercial issue

  36. Not colour blind myself and sympathy to all unnecessarily affected . Not to diminish the point but one curiosity I have is why so many counties opt for horizontal stripes. Surely some variation is ok? Kilkenny is the only county I can think of with vertical stripes and they do pretty well to put it mildly.
    Clare Ros & Tipp all have similar colours, similarly Kerry and Donegal. Could Donegal go for the Aussie Rugby predominately yellow with some green? Would it be unthinkable to change some counties? Would we drop ours if another county had green and red? When Cork play Louth or Derry, all the supporters fly the same colour flag bit daft?. Could be phased in over 10 years so people get good use of their jerseys. Maybe Longford could take a look at that changing to Argentina’s shade of blue and leave Cavan with the boring shade. Limerick vs Fermanagh is another clash, could one go with vertical stripes. One of the red teams could adopt the Croatia style jersey to stand out. We lack imagination in GAA and overly identify with traditional colours.

  37. Shuffly, I’m colourblind, but I’d rather never see a match than to change from the Green above the Red.

  38. I had a funny incident about 35 years ago. I witnessed a hit and run in which a person was injured but from a considerable distance I was able to tell the guards the exact registration and make of the car in question. When asked the colour, all I could say was that it was a greeny/ browny/ goldy colour. The guard thought I was winding him up, but when they traced the registration, the driver fessed up immediately. Colour sight is measured on a 1:20 scale, with 20 being perfect. 8% of males are well below 10 on the scale, but only 1% of females are, making it an affliction that affects approx 4.5% of all adults. That’s over 3,700 of the punters that attend an All Ireland final. I pointed this and the general problem out in a recent lengthy email to the Diversity and Inclusion Officer of the GAA but have yet to receive a reply.

  39. 1. Colm Reape Knockmore
    2. Jack Coyne Ballyhaunis
    3. David McBrien Ballaghaderreen
    4. Pádraig O’Hora Ballina Stephenites
    5. Sam Callinan Ballina Stephenites
    6. Conor Loftus Crossmolina Deel Rover
    7. Paddy Durcan Castlebar Mitchels
    8. Stephen Coen Hollymount-Carramore
    9. Matthew Ruane Breaffy
    10. Fionn McDonagh Westport
    11. Jack Carney Kilmeena
    12. Jordan Flynn Crossmolina Deel Rovers
    13. Aidan O’Shea Breaffy
    14. James Carr Ardagh
    15. Ryan O’Donoghue Beal an Mhuirthead
    16. (GK) Rory Byrne Castlebar Mitchels
    17. Tommy Conroy The Neale
    18. Jason Doherty Burrishoole
    19. Enda Hession Garrymore
    20. Darren McHale Knockmore
    21. Donnacha McHugh Castlebar Mitchels
    22. Eoghan McLaughlin Westport
    23. Kevin McLoughlin Knockmore
    24. Diarmuid O’Connor Ballintubber
    25. Paul Towey Charlestown Sarsfields
    26. Bob Tuohy Castlebar Mitchels

  40. No Cillian again , find it really hard to see us winning Sam in 2023 now.Theres just not enough scores from play in McStays front 6.Will Aido even getting a shot off from play against Cork Sunday, I would highly doubt it.Conor Loftus and Stephen Coen both playing in half back line is a cause for concern too.

  41. Hi Willie Joe and all. Just found this blog and enjoying reading.
    I don’t watch the NBA as much these days, but I’m sure I remember the teams having 3 kits in the 90s. Michael Jordan vintage Bulls used to have red as the main kit, but also a white and a black strip, essentially I guess to cover this eventuality (or just for better viewing in pre HD days). Surely it’s not beyond the wit of the GAA to make sure there’s easily distinguishable strips?

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