Nutritional strategies to optimise health and performance in Gaelic games athletes

Apply and key information  

This project is funded by:

    • Derry Gaelic Athletic Association


An exciting opportunity has emerged to undertake a PhD working with Ulster University and Derry Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). Nutrition plays a key role in athletic health and performance. Gaelic athletes often do not meet recommended nutritional targets due to poor nutritional knowledge, and this can have a negative effect on health and performance.

This project aims to improve nutritional knowledge, health, and performance in GAA athletes and other stakeholders (including parents, coaches and wider support staff) and will involve the planning and implementation of various nutritional strategies. Data will be collected to measure the efficacy of strategies implemented and findings will inform future nutritional service provision, education programmes and nutrition related behaviour change interventions in Gaelic athletes.

The candidate will be required to monitor player nutritional status and body composition, develop food and supplement provisions, deliver nutritional education, supervise nutrition interns and placement students, and assist with daily operations and logistics for football and hurling squads. Data collected will be used to inform applied practice within the funding organisation and presented in the form of a scientific doctoral thesis.

This role will include permanent bases at Derry GAA’s training facility (Owenbeg) and Ulster University’s Belfast campus. Regular travel to and from both locations will be required.

AccessNI clearance required

Please note, the successful candidate will be required to obtain AccessNI clearance prior to registration due to the nature of the project.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed

Equal Opportunities

The University is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applicants from all sections of the community, particularly from those with disabilities.

Appointment will be made on merit.

Funding and eligibility

This project is funded by:

  • Derry Gaelic Athletic Association

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £19,237 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance).

  • Candidates with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, who also satisfy a three year residency requirement in the UK prior to the start of the course for which a Studentship is held MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance.
  • Republic of Ireland (ROI) nationals are eligible to receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance (ROI nationals don’t need to have pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to qualify).
  • Other non-ROI EU applicants are ‘International’ are not eligible for this source of funding.
  • Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Recommended reading

Cassidy C, Collins K, Shortall M (2018) The Precompetition Macronutrient Intake of Elite Gaelic Football Players. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 28:574-579. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0292

McCrink CM, McSorley EM, Grant K, McNeilly AM, Magee PJ (2021) An investigation of dietary intake, nutrition knowledge and hydration status of Gaelic Football players. Eur J Nutr 60:1465-1473. doi:10.1007/s00394-020-02341-x

McGuire A, Warrington G, Doyle L (2023) Prevalence of low energy availability and associations with seasonal changes in salivary hormones and IgA in elite male Gaelic footballers. Eur J Nutr 62:1809-1820. doi:10.1007/s00394-023-03112-0

Ó Catháin C, Fleming J, Renard M, Kelly D (2020) Dietary Intake of Gaelic Football Players during Game Preparation and Recovery. Sports (Basel) 8:62. doi:10.3390/sports8050062

O'Brien L, Collins K, Amirabdollhian F (2021a) Exploring Sports Nutrition Knowledge in Elite Gaelic Footballers. Nutrients 13:1081. doi:10.3390/nu13041081

O'Brien L, Collins K, Webb R, Davies I, Doran D, Amirabdollahian F (2021b) The Effects of Pre-Game Carbohydrate Intake on Running Performance and Substrate Utilisation during Simulated Gaelic Football Match Play. Nutrients 13:1392. doi:10.3390/nu13051392

O'Brien L, Collins K, Doran D, Khaiyat O, Amirabdollahian F (2019) Dietary Intake and Energy Expenditure Assessed during a Pre-Season Period in Elite Gaelic Football Players. Sports (Basel) 7:62. doi:10.1080/24733938.2022.2029551

Renard M, Anton-Solanas A, Kelly DT, Ó Catháin C (2022) Evaluation of nutrition knowledge in elite and sub-elite Gaelic football players. Science and medicine in football 6:82-88. doi:10.1080/24733938.2021.1883195

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Tuesday 16 July 2024

Interview Date
July/August 2024

Preferred student start date
16 September 2024


Apply Online  

Contact supervisor

Dr Mark Hutson

Other supervisors