There is currently a lot of debate about falling attendances, poor standards of play and “what to do” about the current All-Ireland championships. I have read the three main proposals on the table, i.e.
- GAA Director General Paraic Duffy’s mini-National League
Colm Parkinson’s idea that lower tier teams should be cast aside in a separate competition
- Conan Doherty’s proposal for ‘half a Champions League’ format
All three formats ignore the fact that lower tier teams can ONLY improve if they play top tier teams. All three formats deny lower tier teams a proper ‘home fixture’ schedule. And, all three proposals deny the lower tier teams a chance to develop their revenue streams.
The very idea that Congress is a barrier is rubbish because one half of congress = the 16 counties that year and year, decade after decade have only 2 games in the championship, i.e. beaten in the first round of their provincial championship + beaten in the first round of qualifiers.
To get Congress to pass these changes requires just 22 delegates, i.e. the 16 counties that rarely get more than 2 games per year + another 6 counties that rarely get more than 3 games. Thus, finding 22 county delegates to pass a motion at Congress is far from impossible – I would argue that it is highly likely.
- Hurling: Only 8 counties have won an SHC in the past 50 years
- 24 counties have not won a SHC title in 50 years
- Kilkenny and Cork have won 33 SHC titles between them in the past 50 years
- I believe at least 22 hurling counties will vote for change!
- Football: Only 11 counties have won an SFC in the past 50 years
- 21 counties have not won a SFC title in 50 years
- Kerry and Dublin have 25 SFC titles between them in the past 50 years
- I believe at least 22 football counties will vote for change!
The idea that provincial championships are sacred cows is also a fallacy! With Antrim and Galway now playing in Leinster, that ship has long sailed. If the attendances at provincial championship matches is a measure of their worth, the GAA should listen to what the supporters are saying.
And, if the GAA asked the players what they really want – I am pretty sure the majority of them would say “a chance to play a top team at a top venue” and “a chance to take on a top team at home.” If the GAA bothered to ask anyone from the so-called weaker counties, they’d ALL say “fairer, more equal competitions.”
It simply is not fair to treat these counties like this, i.e. 2/3 championship games per year !
- It is unfair to their players and coaches
- It is unfair to their supporters
- It is unfair to their sponsors and advertisers
Without more games + games against better opposition, weak counties STAY weak !
The GAA has a responsibility to develop their games and this = developing the weaker counties to create a more open, more entertaining championship. Pandering to the financial requirements of the top 4 counties at each code does not equate to development – it is a cowardly surrender of all that the GAA says it stands for !
If the GAA had any moral or ethical decency, it would put 4 proposals forward for Congress
- GAA Director General Paraic Duffy’s mini-National League
- keep the NL + provincial championships
- play a round “robin” of the Top 8 instead of QF knockout games
- Colm Parkinson’s proposal for A & B championships
- move the provincial c’ships to March
- move the national leagues to the summer
- move the All-Ireland series to the late autumn with A and B competions
- Conan Doherty’s proposal for ‘half a Champions League’ format
- get rid of the pre-season competitions: O’Byrne Cup, FBD League, etc.
- push the start of the league forward to January
- lose the Division One semi-final – top two go straight into the decider
- finish the league in March/early April
- run off a separate provincial series over four weeks
- new World Cup-style championship – eight groups, four teams, seeded
- Full Champions League format based on seedings from the National Leagues
- eight groups of four teams
- play home and away fixtures (6 games) over 12 weeks (alternating hurling/football weekends)
- scores against bottom teams do not count for goal difference
- Top 8 go into Last 16 of “A” c’ship, with home advantage
- The 8 runners-up play away
- The 8 third-placed teams go into Last 16 of “B” c’ship, with home advantage
- The 8 bottom-placed teams play away
- The 16 weakest teams get to play at least 7 championship games
- The 16 weakest teams get at least 3 hurling + 3 football fixtures at HOME
- The 16 weakest county players and supporters get a schedule
- Their sponsors / advertisers get a schedule
- Their clubs and local businesses get 6 weekends to participate
Each format should be presented, discussed and debated.
Each county should give its clubs and their club members a chance to vote.
Each county delegate votes in accordance with their county clubs/members’ wishes.
If anyone is interested, I have two previous articles that set out my thoughts on these changes :-
This weekend saw the semi-finals of the provincial championships in Gaelic Football played in front of mediocre attendances with one group of happy sponsors and another group of sponsors that were probably not as happy as they had hoped.
- Many of the games were predictably one-sided affairs, with predictable scorelines
- Westmeath 3-19 Meath 2-18
- Dublin 5-18 Kildare 0-14
- Donegal 1-9 Derry 0-10
- Monaghan 1-20 Fermanagh 0-13
Last weekend, Cork and Kerry (deliberately kept apart in the Munster Championship draw) predictably eased past their opponents, Clare and Tipperary, respectively.
- Yet another Cork v Kerry Munster Final – no surprises there either !
- And yet another “sell out” crowd expected
Meanwhile, in Connacht, the two best teams in their provincial championship met in one semi-final (Mayo from NFL, Div. 1 predictably beat Galway) and in the weaker of the two semi-finals, Sligo (from the third tier of the NFL) caused a minor upset by beating Roscommon (from NFL, Div. 2).
- But what does all of this mean?
- Have we learned anything about the top teams?
Yes, and no !
- Cork and Kerry will have played a competitive Munster Final
- Donegal and Monaghan will have played in very competitive Ulster Championship
- All four of these NFL, Div. 1 sides are genuine All-Ireland contenders
- Mayo will probably emerge as provincial champions – for the 5th year in a row !
- Dublin will probably emerge as provincial champions – also for the 5th year in a row !
- Neither will have encountered a NFL, Division 1 side on their way
- We simply will not know how good they are until they play a top tier team
- Assuming they win their provincial championship, the All-ireland Quarter-Final will be their first genuinely competitive game
- They will both be short of match practice compared to their opponents
- Their opponents will have played a NFL Div. 1 side in the Championship
- And, if their supporters are honest, they have no clue as to how competitive they will be
- Joe Brolly thinks Dublin “are good to watch” but he hasn’t seen them play a Div. 1 side yet
If we were to analyse the National Football League tables and assign a value, we would perhaps be in a better position to judge how far apart the counties in the lower leagues are from the top tier. Now I know people always say … wait ’til the championship to see the real deal … but the provincial championships are, in my opinion ‘not fit for purpose’ anymore.
The fans know this, the sponsors know this and the GAA knows this.
If we ‘invert’ the finishing place in the NFL with a score out of 32, we see Cork with a score of 32, Dublin with a score of 31, Monaghan with a score of 30, etc. … right down to London (who finished 32nd) with a score of 1. Then multiply these scores by 10 to get a rating.
This gives us the following table.
|National Football League, Div. 1|
|National Football League, Div. 2|
|National Football League, Div. 3|
|National Football League, Div. 4|
If we sort this table by province, and average the ratings, we see which provincial championship is strongest … and by how much. The results are quite revealing.
|Province Rank||Football Rating|
I believe the only way to break this mould is to scrap the un-balanced provincial championships and run an All-Ireland Championships based on an open, seeded draw with 8 groups of 4 counties.
- The seedings would be based on National Football League finishing places
- The ‘Top 8’ in the NFL would be kept apart (like Cork and Kerry already are in Munster)
- All teams are guaranteed a minimum of 7 games per summer
- This will appeal to the fans, the sponsors and local businesses in all 32 counties
- Playing 2 games against Div.1 side + 2 games against a Div. 2 side will benefit the Div. 3 & 4 sides
- This is the only way Div. 3 & 4 squads will improve at ALL-Ireland Championship level
- Playing on muddy pitches in front of small crowds in cold, wet weather in the NFL is not what players aspire to. They are, no doubt, proud to wear their county jersey no matter when or where they play, but they deserve more from the GAA.
- Their fans deserve more
- And their sponsors deserve more
And there are now more than enough TV channels to televise all of the games at all of the venues throughout May, June and July.
- I’d also recommend playing the Junior and Intermediate competitions as a ‘curtain raiser’ for each senior game – these teams deserve an audience and the same venue on the same day as the SF teams.
Last week I read an article from a leading newspaper complaining that Wicklow football fans only got 6½ minutes of highlights on RTE and how unfair this was.
- It did not reflect the 7 months of hard training put in by the Wicklow players and mentors
- It seems crazy that after 1 game in Leinster and 1 qualifier, Wicklow’s season is over
- It doesn’t give Wicklow GAA players, fans or sponsors much hope for the future
- And, most importantly, it does little for the juvenile players
Other articles supporting the idea of an open, seeded draw for the All-Ireland Championships:
- How the GAA can help itself, local communities and Ireland
- The sponsorship divide at GAA county level can only be fixed via an open draw
- Re-vamp the All-Ireland Championships and National League Competitions
- Economic benefits of re-vamping the National League & All-Ireland Championship ?
For those of you who are interested, I include my provincial ratings and how I calculated my average rating for each provincial championship. It makes grim reading for Dubs fans and illustrates how weak the Leinster Senior Football Championship really is.
- Provincial finalists are shown in red text
- Would it benefit Dublin and Mayo to lose their provincial finals and get a ‘competitive match’ before a potential quarter-final game?
Ulster SF Championship
Munster SF Championship
Connacht SF Championship
Leinster SF Championship
We are now seeing the launch of SkySportsGAA and, by the looks of their social media accounts, it looks like they will have a very successful launch. One of the most talked about aspects of digital TV is the money these broadcasters bring into the sports they cover.
Being an amateur sport, the GAA have naturally resisted professionalism and their stance has been supported by many of the top participants – most recently by Brian Cody of Kilkenny. However, one cannot get away from the fact that there is money to be made and this money should be carefully distributed.
Unlike rugby, the GAA do not have the international dimension of a Heinekin Cup or a Six Nations, but they do have a vibrant inter-county game that has huge financial potential within the global Irish diaspora. Making the All-Ireland series as attractive as possible for these people must be a priority. Some counties, especially those prone to emigration in the past, are huge in comparison to the population and the economic clout of those counties today. As such, the traditionally ‘weaker’ counties can puch above their financial weight in this arena.
Another topic for discussion (lately) is the disruption to the club championship schedules and the demands made on the players – many of whom put their careers on hold, and have their family and personal lives severely impacted by their chosen sport. There is a myriad of issues lurking here – physical health, mental health and expenses to name but a few.
I recently wrote blog articles on re-vamping the All-Ireland C’ships and another on the economic benefits of doing so for each county. Developing these points further, I would like to publicise a few ideas on the following :-
- compensating the clubs for the loss of their top players during the club county championships
- protecting and rewarding the players for their efforts
- developing the weaker counties
- Exploring other avenues for potential revenue
Compensating the clubs
GAA clubs are the life and soul of the Gaelic Athletic Association. They are also the life and souls of many rural communities and their activities and facilities are vital to the survivial of these comunities, as well as the survival of their culture, traditions and unique identities. It is vital that the GAA (and their various sponsors) recognise this.
My idea is very simple and very equitable – pay the clubs for producing the top county players. Without the inter-county scene, the GAA would find it very difficult to attract “big money” sponsorship, i.e. they are making millions off the backs of amateur players and amateur club organisations. It is only fair that the GAA rewards these clubs, e.g.
- most players do not want to be paid to play the sport they love
- pay the clubs a fee of €1,000 p.a. for each county panelist at senior level
- pay the clubs a fee of €500 p.a. for each county panelist at intermediate, junior, U21 and minor level
- there are 32 counties and each gets an equal share of this particular pie
- put a numerical limit on county panels + additional fees for replacements for injuries
- these fees would be separate from the money allocated to county development squads, i.e. it is for the clubs
Protecting and rewarding the players
Without the inter-county players, we have no ‘big ticket’ GAA attractions. I love the club championships at county, provincial and All-Ireland level but the crowds (and the sponsors) are most interested in the All-Ireland series. Without the development work that goes into under age players, we have no senior game at the high levels we currently enjoy and cherish. It is vitally important that we look after the players at all levels properly, e.g.
- allowing the players to claim for ‘reasonable’ expenses would be welcomed by most players
- having a career path after finishing their playing careers would be nice (coaching)
- having appropriate healthcare / medical / sports science facilities during their playing career would also be nice
Developing the weaker counties
This is the most difficult of all challenges that face the GAA. Not all counties are equal in terms of population, the sports they prefer (football, hurling or both), the money they have available for development, etc. etc. If there was a ‘draft’ system, similar to American college basketball and football, would the supporters back the ‘imported’ players from other counties, would the ‘imports’ have the same pride in the jersey, would the local sponsors back them? There are so many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ here, it may not be practical to have such a system.
My idea is to do the following :-
- use the National Leagues as a seeding competition for the All-Ireland series
- open, seeded draw for the All-Ireland series on last day of the national league season
- introduce a Champions League format (8 groups of 4, with 3 home + 3 away matches each)
- top teams play at home in Last 16, runners-up play away
- 3rd place teams play at home and 4th place team play away in All-Ireland B C’ship
- mirror the senior fixtures with Intermediate, Junior, U21 and Minor fixtures on the same weekend / venue
- all counties (and fans + sponsors) guaranteed a minimum of seven championship games each
- all counties (and local businesses) guaranteed a minimum of 3 football + 3 hurling championship weekends each
- organise ‘gathering-type’ events around home county GAA fixtures each year
- organise ‘most influential GAA emigrant’ awards for each county every year and host the awards ceremony on GAA weekend
Exploring other avenues of financial revenue
If the All-Ireland series is played on a Champions League basis, it brings many financial benefits to each county via having a guaranteed 6 home weekends (3 football + 3 hurling). Each county will benefit economically from travelling fans spend and local businesses will get very creative re additional events / services and attractions. This extra money will filter down through the local economy and create jobs. My ideas include the following :-
- all county stadiums to be expanded for 50% more spectators
- all county stadiums to be upgraded in terms of seats and other facilities (medical, healthcare, etc.)
- these works will be financed by increased numbers of fixtures and sponsorship
- all unsold tickets distributed to clubs (for raffles, prizes and other fundraising activities)
- all county stadiums to include a county GAA museum, GAA merchandise shop and ticket office
Meath has always been known as the Royal County on account of it being the fifth, or middle kingdom and, traditionally, the seat of the old High Kings of Ireland. Nowadays, Meath is much smaller than it was in mythical times but the only kingdom left is now the Kingdom of Kerry.
With all of the arguments and wars over who was the rightful king, the cute people of Kerry elect a new king every year – and to avoid arguments – its a goat! Yes, folks, every year at the Puck Fair in Kilorglin, Co Kerry, they elect a big Puck (or Billy) goat as their king and crown him in Killorglin. In Irish, this translates as Aonach an Phoic, meaning “Fair of the He-Goat”, ‘poc’ being the irish for a male goat – be careful about how you pronounce this!
So, the nearest thing to royalty in the Kingdom of Kerry nowadays are the heroes of old who wore the famous green and gold jersey of Kerry. Seamus Moynihan and John Crowley fit this description, with 11 SF All-Ireland and 16 Munster SF medals between them.
Seamus Moynihan and John Crowley along with Michael O’ Mahony of Rentokil (Sponsor of World Welly Run)
As can be seen from the above photo, local Glenflesk legends Seamus Moynihan and John Crowley along with Michael O’ Mahony of Rentokil have already been warming up for their Club’s Guinness world record attempt. Will it be a manic dash over 1km, or a gentile walk through a small section of the picturesque National Park in Killarney ? The participants have a choice.
The big day is on Sunday 11 May and we are all hopeful that the good folk of Killarney and all the glens around will be at the INEC. Killarney to help us break the Guinness world record of 1,976 participants – achieved by the City of Ketchikan, in Ketchikan, Alaska, on 18th May 2013. No mention is made of a ‘time’ for 1,000m in wellies, but we must assume that Tyler Nutter (who won the race) ran like the the wind.
For those not familiar with the two men in ‘civilian clothing’ above, perhaps the photo’s and sporting biographies below will remind you of the many achievements of these two Glenflesk men in their glory days.
Seamus is a former Kerry footballer from Shronedarraugh, a townland half way between Barraduff and Glenflesk. He had a long and distinguished playing career, making appearances for St Brendan’s College, Glenflesk, East Kerry, University College Cork, Institute of Technology Tralee, Kerry Minor, U21 and Senior teams, Munster Railway Cup side and Ireland International Rules Football team. He was a long-serving member of the Kerry Senior Football Panel from 1992 to 2006.
During his long career, Séamus Moynihan won four All-Ireland medals, three National Leagues, nine Munster championship medals, four Sigerson Cup medals, three GAA All-Stars, one Railway Cup medal and one Division 2 title.
He also won three county championship medals with East Kerry and captained his country in the International Rules series.
John Crowley is another famous Kerry footballer who played with with the Glenflesk and Bishopstown clubs, East Kerry divisional side and Kerry county team at both Junior and Senior level.
With the East Kerry team, Crowley won three consecutive Kerry Senior Football Championship titles from 1997 to 1999, starring on the side along with fellow Glenflesk and Kerry player Séamus Moynihan. He was was a replacement for Kerry when they won the Munster SF Championship in 1996. John went on to win another six Munster SF titles – starting in four final victories and appearing as a sub in three others. The winning years were 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 03 and 2004. Kerry were beaten by Cork in 1999 and 2002.
During John’s career with Kerry at senior level, they also won the National Football League in 1997 and 2004, and they won the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship in 1997, 2000 and 2004. Crowley also appeared for the Munster provincial selection in four Railway Cup matches. He also played with the Irish international rules team in 2001.
John Crowley was the Kerry captain in 1999, selected for the All-Stars team in 2000 and 2001. He has also won Munster and All-Ireland medals at Vocational Schools level with Kerry, as well as an All Ireland Junior Championship in 1994.
It will be interesting to see how these two men perform in wellies on Sunday 11 May at the Guinness world record “welly race” at Killarney.
The Glenflesk GAA world record attempt is generating a lot of chat on social media, so …
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and they have just produced a welly music video – youtu.be/zWSVM5PzV4Y
On Sunday, May 11th 2014 at 12 noon at the INEC, Killarney – the Glenflesk GAA Club will host a world record attempt at the most people to take part in a 1km welly run – that’s 5/8th of a mile in old money !
So, get your wellies on and help smash the Guinness World Record for the largest wellie run.
I have no connection whatsoever with the Glenflesk GAA Club but, upon seeing their ambitious target felt that any world record attempt in Ireland is a cause worth promoting. Ok, ok, in my murky past I do admit to have played Gaelic Football. And I firmly believe that the smaller rural clubs are the heart and soul of the GAA, so when a small, community-based club with a loyal and dedicated following like Glenflesk try to do something like this, I believe everyone should try to get involved – especially in terms of turning up on the day and being able to say, “I was a part of that world record” at Glenflesk.
Three themes are running here (pun intended) and they are :-
a) the Glenflesk GAA Club
b) Wellington boots
c) a brisk, invigorating run (or a gentile, leisurly walk) through a short section of the beautiful National Park near Killarney, Co Kerry – one of the most picturesque areas in Ireland
Glenflesk is a small, rural village just southeast of Killarney, Co Kerry. The inhabitants enjoy breathtaking views of the mountains including the Paps, Crohnane, Mangerton and the world famous McGillicuddys Reeks with Carrauntoohil – Ireland’s highest peak standing at 3,414 feet high. With a landscape and scenery like this, it comes as no surprise that it was almost €450,000 will be granted to fund a proposed “international standard” mountain biking trail close to Glenflesk.
Glenflesk St Agatha’s GAA Club was founded in 1951 and plays intermediate football in the East Kerry League. Achievements include :-
- East Kerry Senior Football Champions: 1988, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001
- Kerry County Club Champions: 2000
- Kerry Minor Football Champions (with Spa): 1982
- Guinness World Record 2014 ???
The club logo includes St Agatha’s parish church and Flesk Castle. St Agatha’s Church, built c. 1860 iin Gothic Revival style. Flesk Castle was built in the early decades of the 19th C and is also known locally as Glenflesk Castle or Coltsmann’s Castle. A gentleman by the name of Daniel C. Coltsmann was in possession of Flesk Castle at the time of Griffith’s Valuation when it was valued at £50. Lewis (in his famous Topographical Dictionary of 1837) records it as the seat of J. Coltsmann and it continued in the Coltsmann family and their descendents until the early 20th century when it was sold to Major John McGillycuddy. In 1943 the Irish Tourist Association survey noted that “its tall fantastic turrets dominate the countryside”. It was then in the possession of Anthony McGillycuddy.
Wellington boots are a type of boot based upon leather Hessian boots, as worn and popularised by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington – most famous in Ireland for helping the Catholic Emancipation Bill of 1829 pass through parliament.Although born and raised in Ireland, Wellesley apparently didn’t like being called an Irishman – famously being quoted as saying “being born in a stable, doesn’t make one a horse”. Interestingly, Wellesley himself also holds a record – as the most decorated soldier in the history of the British Army.
The Duke of Wellington instructed his shoemaker, Hoby of St. James’s Street, London, to modify the 18th-century Hessian boot and the new boot was fabricated in soft calfskin leather, had the trim removed and was cut to fit more closely around the leg. The heels were low cut, stacked around an inch (2.5 cm), and the boot stopped at mid-calf. It was suitably hard-wearing for battle, yet comfortable for the evening. The boot was dubbed the Wellington by his troops and the name has stuck in English ever since
This novel “Wellington” boot became a staple of hunting and outdoor wear for the British aristocracy in the early 19th century. Wellington boots are also known as rubber boots, wellies, wellingtons, topboots, billy-boots, gumboots, gumbies, gummies, rainboots, gavin’s, and Alaskan Sneakers.
The current world record for a “welly run” is (ironically) held by a city in Alaska. It involved 1,976 participants and was achieved by the City of Ketchikan, in Ketchikan, Alaska, on 18th May 2013. A gentleman by the name of Tyler Nutter won the race.
Wellington boots were at first made of leather but in 1852 Hiram Hutchinson met Charles Goodyear, who had just invented the vulcanization process for natural rubber. Goodyear decided to manufacture tyres, Hutchinson bought the patent to manufacture footwear and moved to France to establish À l’Aigle (“to the Eagle”) in 1853, to honour his home country. The company today is simply called “AIGLE”, “Eagle”).
In mid-19th C France, almost 95% of the population were working on fields with wooden clogs and when the wholly waterproof, Wellington-type rubber boot – it became an instant success: farmers would be able to come back home with clean, dry feet. Irish farmers were just as pleased and they are the ubiquitous symbol of rural Ireland. We might drive different types of car, we might play different sports, we might not even be farmers … but we ALL own a pair of wellies !
I will post a picture (or two) of a Wellington Boot every day from now until the 11th of May, when the World Welly Run takes place.
Follow me on Twitter @GAA_Corner.
World Record Welly Run
I’ve done a quick bit of research and it seems that this is a very popular event, with lots of places throughout the world trying to bring home a new world record for racing in wellies. With wellies being the footwear of choice for most farmers in every country in the world, the competition is fairly hot. I don’t have any winning times so, obviously, this is a participation and family fun event.
2010 – Ballybrit, Galway, Ireland
1,300 participants (YouTube)
2012 – Lincolnshire, England
2013 – Ketchikan, Alaska, USA
1,976 participants / winner: Tyler Nutter
2014 – Glenflesk, Co Kerry, Ireland
2,000 participants (target)
Most, importantly, turn up on the day and take part in this world record attempt !
Wear your club or county colours and make it a great GAA day out.
Everyone is welcome and all ages can join in.
and they have just produced a welly music video – youtu.be/zWSVM5PzV4Y
Prior to 1884, there were no GAA clubs because the GAA did not exist before that date. However, this does not mean that Gaelic games were not played, or that some form of organisation did not exist. Some for of organisation must have existed in order for teams to play against one another. It also required some form of organisation to define the rules but these rules differed from place to place, and this is probably one of the reasons Gaelic games were struggling from the mid-19th C to the beginning of the 20th C.
In 1884, when the GAA was formed, it’s founders were more interested in athletics and other (similar) sports than in Gaelic football, hurling, camogie or handball. Michael Cusack et al formed an ‘athletic association’ of healthy Irishmen (primarily working men) and their sporting interests – which centred on athletics.
This is graphically illustrated in 1888 when, as a fundraiser for the GAA’s Tailteann Games, they staged “the invasion” of the USA when they sent athletes over to America to compete in various events there – while the fledgling All-Ireland Championships in Gaelic football and hurling were cancelled. To add insult to injury, due to a split within American athletics and bad weather amongst other reasons, the tour was not a success, losing money for the GAA – and 17 of the 51 who travelled to the USA, remained there.
The GAA rapidly evolved into a nationalist organisation that tried to define and control sports that were recommended as being appropriate for nationalists. They quickly dropped their focus on athletics and began to organise Gaelic football and hurling.
Obviously, this caused problems. People resigned or were ousted. There was an IRB takeover and nationalist politics took over. The GAA later tried to evolve into a non-political, non-sectarian organisation whose primary interest was sport. Over the next 130 years it would truly achieve that but that is not the topic for today. This blog is devoted to those Gaelic football and hurling clubs that existed before 1884 and still survive today.
So, what was happening before 1884 in the world of Gaelic games?
Yes, there must have been pre-existing clubs which affiliated to the GAA in late 1884 and throughout 1885. However, some records show that these were pre-existing athletic and rugby clubs. An example of this would be Laune Rangers in Killorglin (Co Kerry), which was a rugby club until late 1887 when its members decided to forgo rugby and instead affiliate as a Gaelic football club under the auspices of the recently formed Gaelic Athletic Association.
It is a matter of record that :-
- Inter-village and, occasionally, inter-county hurling matches flourished throughout the 19th century.
- In the early 1880’s Cusack turned his attentions to indigenous Irish sports.
- In 1882 he attended the first meeting of the Dublin Hurling Club, formed ‘for the purpose of taking steps to re-establish the national game of hurling’.
- The weekly games of hurling, in the Phoenix Park, became so popular that, in 1883, Cusack had sufficient numbers to found ‘Cusack’s Academy Hurling Club’ which, in turn, led to the establishment of the Metropolitan Hurling Club.
- On Easter Monday 1884 the Metropolitans played Killiomor, in Galway. The game had to be stopped on numerous occasions as the two teams were playing to different rules. It was this clash of styles that convinced Cusack that not only did the rules of the games need to be standardised but that a body must be established to govern Irish sports.
Back as far as the 17th C, hurling was a prominent sport, patronised by landlords and aristocracy. This period became known as ‘the Golden Age of Hurling’ and lasted until the early years of the 19th C. At this time, teams were organised from the tenants of landowners, with a valuable purse of money for the winners and large ‘side wagers’ placed on the result. Teams were 21-a-side, the pitch was rectangular and had goalposts with crossbars. There were field positions such as goalkeeper, backs and forwards and were subject to strict rules.
With the rise of the United Irishmen at the end of the 18th C, distrust developed between the landowners and the common people. In 1801, Ireland effectively became part of Britain with the Act of Union and traditional culture was not encouraged. The relationship that had helped hurling develop gradually eroded and the Great Famine in the 1840’s added to the decline of the game. By 1860’s, hurling was in decline and in danger of fading away completely.
Pre-1884 Gaelic Games Time Line
1366 – The Statutes of Kilkenny “ordainc’d that the commons of the said land of lreland use not henceforth the game which men call hurling, with great clubs and ball upon the ground.” Despite this ban, the game seems to have survived in Kilkenny.
1527 – Another attempt at banning the game of hurling occurred in 1527, when a Statute of Galway proscribed “the Horlings of the little Balle with hooky stickes.” It is thought that hooky is the origin of the word hockey but it must be remembered that ‘hooking’ is stil a much valued skill in modern day hurling.
1587 – Lord Chancellor William Gerrarde was forced to reprimand the English settlers of the Munster Plantation for playing the native game of hurling.
1753 – It is recorded that the first Tipperary v Cork hurling match took place at Glenagoul, Kildinan, in a field now owned by the Walsh family. The local Landlord, Barrymore, more or less sponsored his local team to play against one backed by another landlord from Tipperary.
1792 – ’a hurling match took place in the Phoenix Park’, Dublin in front of a vast ‘concourse of spectators’, with ‘much agility and athletic contention, until the spectators forced into the playing ground’. (King 2005, p. 18)
1806 – In the poem Iomán Innis Chaoin, there`s reference to a hurling match that took place between Inniskeen (Monaghan) and a team from Louth in 1806. The Inniskeen club was officially formed in 1883. Apparently the Louth team arrived with their hurls strapped to a donkey and the start had to be delayed because the Monagan lads threw the donkey in the river.
1810 – Trinity College Hurling Club played games in College Park, Dublin
1827 – Callan (Kilkenny) a game was reported as, ‘It was a good game. The sticks were being brandished like swords. Hurling is a war-like game. The west side won the first match and the east the second. You could hear the sticks striking the ball from one end of the Green to the other’ (diaries of Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin).
1839 – On 6th January, Bonniconlon (Mayo) played a hurling match against Attymass (Mayo) in Lag na Buachailli Baire in Carrareagh, a long low hollow off the Bofield road which now belongs to Michael Foy. Both of these clubs affiliated with the GAA in 1889.
1860 – Beann Éadair (Dublin)
1863 – Ballygarvan (Cork)
1871 – Dublin University (Trinity College) Hurling Club
1879 – The first meeting of a Irish Hurling Union was held in House 17 of Botany Bay in Trinity College – a forerunner of Dublin University Hockey Club. It was from this this club that the famous club colours of green and black were inherited. The Hurling Club, incidentally, counted amongst its members one Edward Carson, later to make his name in an entirely different field. The DU Hockey Club was not founded until 1893, so the idea that this club was really a hockey club is somewhat dubious.
1882 – Kanturk (Cork), Dublin Hurling Club (Dublin),
1883 – Athlone (Roscommon or Westmeath), Burt (Donegal), Inniskeen (Monaghan), Killiomor (Galway), Metropolitan Hurling Club (Dublin),
Time Line from 1884 onwards
1884 – Clara (Offaly), Croom (Cork), Meelick Eyrecourt (Galway), Round Towers, Clondalkin (Dublin), South Liberties (Limerick), Tullaroan (Kilkenny)
The opening rounds of this year’s championship took place last weekend and already, several counties have been eliminated from their provincial championship and face a back-door ficture that might end their season with just 2 games played.
Is this what they trained for? All those wet, windy nights in January, February and March … 2 championship games?
I believe its time for change. Should we be thinking about rewarding the winners of each division of the National Leagues (and those promoted to higher divisions) with a ‘seeding’ in a re-vamped All-Ireland Championship?
The National Leagues have traditionally been a testing ground for the stronger counties – the mantra from Kerry football fans and Kilkenny hurling fans has always been “its only the League, it’ll be a different story come the Championship”.
Well, its about time the League gained more status and, by that, I mean become a seeding competition for the All-Ireland Championships.
If the top 8 places were top seeds, the next 8 second seeds, the next 8 third seeds and the next 8 bottom seeds, we’d have 8 groups of four for the Championship – with each team playing home and away. Between hurling and football, every county would have 6 big weekends in June/July and have a chance to play a top team twice a season!
When is the last time a team from Clare, Leitrim, London or Waterford played football against the Dubs at Croke Park?
Have Antrim, Carlow, Leitrim, London or Wicklow ever played football against Cork at mighty Páirc Uí Chaoimh, or against Tipperary in the magnificent Semple Stadium?
In hurling, have Donegal, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Tyrone or Warwickshire ever played against Kilkenny or Tipperary or Cork? If we are to ever get these teams to improve, they must be allowed to play against top class opposition on a regular basis.
Clare and Tipperary footballers won promotion this year to Div 3 of the NFL. Congratulations to each squad on their achievement but wouldn’t it be nice for them if they were to host a top team from another province in June/July?
What’s the point of building a motorway all the way from Dublin to Ennis (via Limerick) if the sky blue horde can’t invade the place for a weekend in June?
Think of the extra business it would mean for publicans, hoteliers and restaurateurs in Donegal, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Tyrone and Warwickshire if they were to host hurling fans from Kilkenny or Tipperary or Cork?
Taking London and Warwickshire as an example of how to spread the game abroad, think of the thousands Kilkenny or Tipperary or Cork diaspora that live in or near London and Warwickshire that would love to see their native counties play hurling there. This would develop a whole new market for the GAA.
Think about how many Leinster, Munster and Ulster rugby fans are based in England and rarely, if ever, see their teams play at home. Then think about the great atmosphere they help create at the away games. The GAA could truly become international in terms of both fans and players.
Would London GAA fill Wembly or Twickenham for a hurling championship match against Cork, Kilkenny or Tipperary?
Would London GAA fill one of these stadiums for a football championship game versus Dublin, Kerry or Mayo?
We were all amazed at how Leinster and Munster filled Croke Park for a rugby match – wouldn’t it be great if two Gaelic football teams or two hurling teams did the same in London at the HQ of another sport???
A European Champions League format would be very exciting and generate lots of extra cash for the GAA.
For a more in-depth view of the many sporting, social and economic benefits, see my blog post at https://gaacorner.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/unlocking-the-full-potential-of-the-all-ireland-championships-and-national-league-competitions-2/