Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-cnmwb Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-21T17:58:05.290Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Accounting for the early success of the Gaelic Athletic Association

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 March 2016

Neal Garnham*
Affiliation:
Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages, University of Ulster, Magee College

Extract

Writing some years after the events he was describing, Michael Cusack, the first secretary of the Gaelic Athletic Association, suggested that in its early years the ‘Association swept the country like a prairie fire’. This is perhaps a little exaggerated, but its success was striking. Eighteen months after its foundation the G.A.A. was reckoned to have 50,000 individual members. Six months later there were around 400 affiliated clubs. The relative success of the G.A.A. is particularly apparent when its progress is compared with that of two of its rival organisations. The Irish Football Association was founded in 1880. Ten years later only 124 clubs had affiliated to it. By the same date the G.A.A., founded in 1884, had 875 member clubs.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Irish Historical Studies Publications Ltd 2004

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

1 United Irishman, 4 Mar. 1898.

2 de Búrea, Marcus, The G.A.A.: a history (2nd ed., Dublin, 2000), pp 4041.Google Scholar

3 Irish Football Association cash book, 1880-97 (P.R.O.N.I., D/4196/S/1); de Búrea, G A.A., p. 42.

4 MacCarthy, J. J., ‘International football: Ireland’ in Frank Marshall (ed.), Football: the rugby union game (London, 1892), p. 226Google Scholar; Peter, R. M. (ed.), The Irish football annual (Dublin, 1880), pp 268Google Scholar.

5 Mandle, W. F., ‘Parnell and sport’ in Studia Hib., xxviii (1994), pp 10316Google Scholar; Cronin, Mike, ‘Enshrined in blood: the naming of Gaelic Athletic Association grounds and clubs’ in Sports Historian, xviii, no. 1 (May 1998), pp 90104CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mandle, W. F., ‘The I.R.B. and the beginnings of the Gaelic Athletic Association’ in I.H.S., xx, no. 80 (Sept. 1977), pp 41838Google Scholar; Garnham, Neal, ‘Football and national identity in pre-Great War Ireland’ in Ir. Econ. & Soc. Hist., xxviii (2001), pp 278.Google Scholar

6 Mandle, ‘I.R.B.’, pp 422, 432.

7 Idem, ‘Sport as politics: the Gaelic Athletic Association, 1884-1916’ in Richard Cashman and Michael McKernan (eds), Sport in history (St Lucia, 1980), pp 118, 108.

8 Idem, ‘The Gaelic Athletic Association and popular culture, 1884-1924’ in Oliver MacDonagh, W. F. Mandle and Pauric Travers (eds), Irish culture and nationalism, 1750-1950 (Dublin, 1983), p. 111.

9 ‘Ibid., pp 112-13.

10 Mandle, W. F., The Gaelic Athletic Association and Irish nationalist politics, 1884-1924 (London & Dublin, 1987), pp 1315, 34Google Scholar.

11 Ibid., p. 221. It was also the G.A.A.’s role as a bastion of political nationalism that was highlighted by reviewers of Mandle’s book: see, for example, the review by O’Farrell, Patrick in Sporting Traditions, v (1989), pp 23841Google Scholar.

12 Holt, Richard, Sport and the British: a modern history (Oxford, 1989), p. 240.Google Scholar

13 Thuente, Mary Helen, ‘The folklore of Irish nationalism’ in McCaffrey, L. J. and Hachey, T. E. (eds), Perspectives on Irish nationalism (Lexington, Ky., 1989), p. 42.Google Scholar

14 Jackson, Alvin, Ireland 1798-1998: politics and war (Oxford, 1999), p. 183.Google Scholar

15 Crean, Tom, ‘Crowds and the Labour movement in the southwest, 1914—23’ in Jupp, Peter and Magennis, Eoin (eds), Crowds in Ireland, c. 1720-1920 (London, 2000), p. 251.Google Scholar

16 Cronin, Mike, ‘Fighting for Ireland, playing for England? The nationalist history of the Gaelic Athletic Association and the English influence on Irish sport’ in International Journal of the History of Sport, xv, no. 3 (1998) pp 3656CrossRefGoogle Scholar. This material is largely reproduced in idem, Sport and nationalism in Ireland: Gaelic games, soccer and Irish identity since 1884 (Dublin, 1999), pp 90-111.

17 De Búrea, G.A.A., preface. For similar, and often more explicitly political views, see, for example, Puirséal, Pádraig, The G.A.A. in its time (Dublin, 1982))Google Scholar; Humphries, Tom, Green fields: Gaelic sport in Ireland (London, 1996))Google Scholar; Gallogly, Daniel, Cavan’s football story (Cavan, 1979)).Google Scholar

18 Fainín, Pádraig Ó, ‘Nationalism and the G.A.A.’ in A century of service, 1884-1984 (Dublin, 1984), p. 28.Google Scholar

19 Cronin, ‘Fighting for Ireland’, p. 37.

20 For a chronological consideration of these rules by a G.A.A. insider see MacLua, Brendan, The steadfast rule: a history of the G.A.A. ban (Dublin, 1967))Google Scholar.

21 Rouse, Paul, ‘The politics of culture and sport in Ireland: a history of the G.A.A. ban on foreign games, 1884—1971. Pt I: 1884—1921’ in International Journal of the History of Sport, x, no. 3 (Dec. 1993), p. 333.Google Scholar

22 Ibid., pp 338-9.

23 Mullan, Michael, ‘Opposition, social closure, and sport: the Gaelic Athletic Association in the nineteenth century’ in Sociology of Sport Journal, xii (1995), p. 286.Google Scholar

24 Idem, ‘The devolution of the Irish economy in the nineteenth century and the bifurcation of Irish sport’in International Journal of the History of Sport, iii, no. 2 (1996), pp 42-50.

25 Idem, ‘Opposition, social closure, & sport’, p. 275; idem, ‘Devolution of the Irish economy & bifurcation of Irish sport’, p. 43.

26 McDevitt, P. F., ‘Muscular Catholicism: nationalism, masculinity and Gaelic team sports, 1884-1916’ in Gender and History, ix (1997), pp 2634.Google Scholar

27 Cronin, Mike, ‘Defenders of the nation? The Gaelic Athletic Association and Irish nationalist identity’ in Irish Political Studies, xi (1996), p. 3.Google Scholar

28 Galway Vindicator and Connaught Advertiser, 19 Mar. 1887.

29 Ulster Football and Cycling News, 6 Sept. 1895.

30 I.F.A. Emergency Committee minute book, 1909-43 (P.R.O.N.I., D/4196/N/1).

31 LEA. Protests and Appeals Committee minute book, 1909-14 (ibid., D/4196/K/1).

32 Caithnia, L. P. Ó, Mícheál Ciosóg (Dublin, 1982), pp 21819Google Scholar; de Búrea, Marcus, Michael Cusack and the G.A.A. (Dublin, 1989)) p. 83Google Scholar; Pairtín: the history of Parteen Gaelic Athletic Association, 1885-1985 (Limerick, 1985), p. 7; Mullan, Michael L., ‘Nationalism, opposition and the rationalization of sport: the Gaelic Athletic Association, 1884-1905’ (Ph.D. thesis, University of Delaware, 1993), pp 108, 149-50, 195Google Scholar; United Ireland, 11 Oct. 1884; Freeman’s Journal, 31 Oct. 1885. Although not signed, it is generally accepted that Cusack was the author of the initial newspaper article. Cusack’s later claim is rather dubious, as the I.A.A.A. followed the rules of the Amateur Athletic Association in England, which abolished the ‘mechanics clause’ in 1880 (Vamplew, Wray, Pay up and play the game: professional sport in Britain, 1875-1914 (Cambridge, 1988)), p.188)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

33 United Irishman, 18 Mar. 1899. It should be noted, however, that this newspaper was an enthusiastic proponent of Gaelic games.

34 Irish Rugby Football Union, Northern Branch, minute book, 1902-7 (P.R.O.N.I., D/3867/A/3).

35 Freeman’s Journal, 30 July 1885.

36 United Ireland, 21 Feb. 1885.

37 Golf Illustrated, 25 Jan. 1907.

38 Foster, R. F., Paddy and Mr Punch: connections in Irish and English history (London, 1993), p. 25.Google Scholar

39 See, for example, Day, Angélique and McWilliams, Patrick (eds), Ordnance Survey memoirs of Ireland, xl: Counties of south Ulster, 1834-8: Cavan, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo (Belfast, 1998), pp 93, 109, 133, 140, 158Google Scholar; Old sports and pastimes’ in The Celt, Oct. 1857, p. 151. For a slightly later period see Ryan, M. F., Fenian memories (2nd ed., Dublin, 1946), p. 11.Google Scholar

40 On Catholic attitudes to sports on the Sabbath see, for example, letter-book of Michael Blake, Catholic bishop of Dromore, 1833-6 (P.R.O.N.I., DIO/RC/3/1), p. 24; SirForbes, John, Memorandums made in Ireland in the autumn of 1852 (2 vols, London, 1853), i, 1948Google Scholar; Catholic Layman, 17 Jan. 1857. But see also Connolly, S. J., Priests and people in pre-Famine Ireland (Dublin, 1982), pp 1679Google Scholar for Catholic Sabbatarianism. For Protestant opposition to the Sunday play of the G.A.A. see Fermanagh Times, 8 Nov. 1888 (‘Newtownbutler Sunday Desecration Football Club’); Armagh Guardian, 22 Mar. 1889 (referring to ‘Sunday desecrators, idlers and rowdies’ who played the game in the city).

41 Vamplew, Wray, ‘Sport and industrialization: an economic interpretation of the changes in popular sport in nineteenth-century England’ in Mangan, J. A. (ed.), Pleasure, profit, proselytism: British culture and sport at home and abroad, 1700-1914 (London, 1988), pp 79.Google Scholar

42 Greer, Desmond and Nicolson, J. W., The Factory Acts in Ireland, 1802-1914 (Dublin, 2003), pp 55, 84.Google Scholar

43 Gráda, Cormac Ó, Ireland: a new economic history, 1780-1939 (Oxford, 1994), pp 282313, 321-48Google Scholar.

44 Maurice Davin, a farmer, athlete, and the first president of the G.A.A., also noted that Saturday was the principal market day in most rural areas (Freeman’s Journal, 3 Dec. 1885).

45 The Sunday Observance Act of 1695 (7 Will. III, c. 17 [Ire.]) was still in force, and was occasionally referred to in the press (for example, Down Recorder, 3 Jan. 1891). For the opposition to Sunday play in soccer circles see Ireland’s Saturday Night, 20 Aug. 1898, 14 May 1904; Sport, 21 May 1904.

46 Bourke, Marcus, ‘The early G.A.A. in south Ulster’ in Clogher Rec., vii, no. 1 (1969), pp 256Google Scholar. In this example, though, it must be admitted that 18 of the 49 men listed were farmers, while 8 were publicans.

47 Freeman’s Journal, 1 Mar. 1886.

48 Ibid., 23 Feb. 1886, 9 July 1887; Irish Times, 11 July 1887; Freeman’s Journal, 6 Feb. 1899.

49 Sport, 11 Jan. 1896; Freeman’s Journal, 23 May 1898.

50 O’Sullivan, T. F., The story of the G.A.A. (Dublin, 1916), pp 63, 78.Google Scholar

51 Hobson, Bulmer, Ireland yesterday and today (Tralee, 1968), p. 32.Google Scholar

52 Maume, Patrick, The long gestation: Irish nationalist life, 1891-1918 (Dublin, 1999), p. 53.Google Scholar

53 United Irishman, 12, 19 June 1886; Freeman’s Journal, 20 June 1886.

54 Newry Reporter, 30 Oct. 1888; The Gael, 7 Jan. 1888.

55 Dundalk Democrat, 30 Jan. 1904.

56 For details see Malcolm, Elizabeth, Ireland sober, Ireland free: drink and temperance in nineteenth-century Ireland (Dublin, 1986), pp 23849, 273-4.Google Scholar

57 Sale of Liquors on Sunday Act, 1878 (41 & 42 Vict., c 72, sect. 2). The exempted cities and towns were Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick and Waterford. Here opening time was limited to the hours between 2 and 7 p.m. Also exempted were sales on packet-boats, in canteens, and at railway stations.

58 The definition of a ‘bona fide traveller’ is given in 37 & 38 Viet., c. 69, sect. 28 (1874).

59 Bassett, G. H. (ed.), The book of County Armagh (Dublin, 1888), pp 105, 285, 357Google Scholar; Ford, W. J., ‘Cricket’ in Aflalo, F. G. (ed.), The cost of sport (London, 1899), p. 277.Google Scholar

60 Short, Con, Murray, Peter and Smyth, Jimmy, Ard Mhacha 1884-1984: a century of G.A.A. progress (Armagh, 1985), p. 23.Google Scholar

61 I.R.F.U., Northern Branch, minute book, 1885-99 (P.R.O.N.I., D/3867/A/1).

62 Freeman’s Journal, 22 Jan. 1895.

63 Ulster Football and Cycling News, 30 Aug. 1889, 4 Oct. 1899, 28 Aug. 1891; I.R.F.U., Northern Branch, minute book, 1885-99 (P.R.O.N.I., D/3867/A/1); Freeman’s Journal, 19 July 1892.

64 Irish News, 14 Apr. 1906.

65 Geary, Frank and Stark, Tom, ‘Examining Ireland’s post-Famine economic growth performance’ in Econ. Jn., cxii (2002), p. 927.Google Scholar

66 Vamplew, Pay up & play the game, pp 49, 51-3.

67 See, for example, Freeman ‘s Journal, 13 Sept. 1886, 9 Sept. 1889; Munster News and Limerick and Clare Advocate, 26 Aug. 1885; Sport, 29 Sept. 1888; Cork Examiner, 3 July 1888; Clare Journal, 10 Mar. 1889.

68 Ulster Football and Cycling News, 21 Oct. 1892.

69 I.R.F.U., Northern Branch, minute book, 1902-7 (P.R.O.N.I., D/3867/A/3); Northern Whig, 17 Apr. 1905.

70 Ensor, Ernest, ‘Cricket in Ireland’ in Warner, P. F. (ed.), Imperial cricket (London, 1912), p. 244.Google Scholar

71 Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire (ed.), The encyclopedia of sports and games (4 vols, London, 1911), iii, 166.Google Scholar

72 Ireland’s Saturday Night, 15 Oct. 1898; Van Esbeck, Edmund, The story of Irish rugby (London, 1986), pp 910Google Scholar; de Búrea, , G.A.A., p. 3.Google Scholar

73 In the context of rugby football in England, and a myth that anchored a sport to a class as much as a place, see Baker, W. J., ‘William Webb Ellis and the origins of rugby football: the life and death of a Victorian myth’ in Albion, xiii (1979) pp 3157Google Scholar. For the ‘invention’ of baseball by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, New York, in 1839 see Seymour, Henry, Baseball: the early years (New York, 1960)Google Scholar.

74 For a neat summary of the process of codification see Tranter, Neil, Sport, economy and society in Britain, 1750-1914 (Cambridge, 1998), pp 225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

75 Garnham, Neal, Association football and society in pre-partition Ireland (Belfast, 2004), pp 44—50Google Scholar; Mason, Tony, Association football and English society, 1863-1915 (Brighton, 1980), pp 2731.Google Scholar

76 Freeman’s Journal, 17 Jan. 1885.

77 Le Fanu, W. R., Seventy years of Irish life, being anecdotes and reminiscences (3rd ed., London, 1894), p. 303Google Scholar. For the revealing comment that the victim was additionally the son of a process-server see Birmingham and Aston Chronicle, 9 Sept. 1893.

78 See above, p. 68.

79 Fallon, W. G. to Dineen, F. B. (chairman, G.A.A. Athletics Council), 26 Apr. 1907 (N.L.I., Fallon papers, MS 22577).Google Scholar

80 Ulster Football and Cycling News, 11, 18 Apr. 1890, 28 Oct. 1892; Cork Sportsman, 17 Oct. 1908; Sport, 29 Oct. 1904.

81 Ulster Football and Cycling News, 10 Jan. 1896.

82 MacCarthy, , ‘International football: Ireland’, p. 222.Google Scholar

83 Northern Whig, 14 Mar. 1904; Irish Times, 14 Mar. 1904; Ireland’s Saturday Night, 12 Mar. 1904.

84 De Búrea, G.A.A., pp 23-58.