Its work at community level goes far beyond anything that could be described as sport. As if that was not enough, it is one of the cornerstones in the worldwide network helping Irish people living abroad make their way in alien, sometimes lonely environments.
For more than a century it has made a positive, almost unsurpassable contribution to Irish life. However, with that centrality, with that great influence and prominence comes a responsibility that the GAA seems unable to manage or sometimes even understand fully.
The organisation behaves too often in a way that does it and its objectives a disservice. It undermines its credibility and gives the very worst of example to those, young and old, it hopes to influence. Sadly it has this week — once again —shown that it is, in the very worst sense of the word, amateur.
Leave aside the event in question — Tyrone footballer Tiernan McCann’s pathetic and shameful cheating — the decision by the GAA to reject a proposed eight-week ban shows a disregard for standards and a contempt for their own rules that is staggeringly short-sighted and wrong.
It is a decision that gives the very worst message to the tens of thousands of young people lucky enough to be coached by the invaluable volunteers propping up the organisation. If the GAA won’t respect its own rules who will? And who will respect it?