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The GAA- A People's History

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Mark Duncan and Paul Rouse are here with us today to talk about their new book 'The GAA - A People's History'.

Collins Press- Press Release "Ireland without the GAA is unimaginable. As the Association moves past its 125th anniversary, this is the story of how it carved for itself a unique place at the heart of Irish life. It outlines how Gaelic games and the social world, which revolves around the Association, has shaped the lives of generations of Irish people at home and abroad. From parades and ballads to epic journeys across land and sea, this history of the GAA is as much about what happened off the field as what happened on it.

Lavishly illustrated with previously unseen photographs and original historical documents, this is a book with absorbing insights into a world that is both uniquely Irish, yet has a global reach. It sets the GAA experience in the context of an island in the midst of significant change. Political revolution, social upheaval and a shifting cultural landscape are all reflected in the story of the GAA. It documents the successes and failures, the controversies, the diversity, the passion and the sheer fascination of life with the GAA. This book is about how generations of Irish people have spent their time in the hours between work and sleep, in thrall to their games and the Association that organises them".

GAA 125th anniversary

On the 1st of November 1884 a group of men - including Michael Cusack and Maurice Davin met in Thurles, County Tipperary. It was at this meeting that Michael Davitt - Leader of the land league, Charles Stewart Parnell and Archbishop Thomas Croke of Cashel would be patrons of the new Association.
Michael O' Hehir dominated the broadcasting of Gaelic games for over five decades. He commented on Ninety Nine All-Ireland finals between 1938 and 1985.
The GAA published its own annuals in the beginning of the twentieth century. After 1900 GAA coverage of the games grew in the local and national press.

Collins Press have said "The three authors are directors of the GAA Oral History Project. Commissioned by the GAA and based at Boston College-Ireland, this is the largest sports history project of its kind and aims to record the rich, diverse and complex history of the Association through the words of local people in every parish of the country and among Irish communities overseas.

Mike Cronin, academic director of Boston College-Ireland, has written widely on Ireland's history. His books include The Blueshirts and Irish Politics (1997), Sport and Nationalism in Ireland (1999), and Irish History for Dummies (2006). He contributes to radio and television on Irish and sporting history.

Mark Duncan, a director of the InQuest research group, has worked extensively with RTE Current Affairs and various academic institutions. Central in establishing the GAA Museum at Croke Park in the mid-1990s, he has written widely on the GAA and its history.

Paul Rouse, formerly an award-winning journalist with Prime Time in RTE, has written extensively on the history of Irish sport and on the GAA. He is a lecturer at the School of History and Archives in University College Dublin and is a director of the In Quest research group".

GAA Abroad:
The All Ireland football final was played in New York in 1947 between Cavan and Kerry.

Where ever Irish people settle - games have sprung up. Often you find that games have been modified abroad - sometimes they play seven aside because they don't have enough hurling sticks.

America and Britain were the major places where Irish settled and often the Irish team traveled over to play games. They played in Wembley stadium. Still to this day they travel abroad for games. At the moment the All Stars are on their way down to Argentina in December.

American clubs have developed underage projects where kids can learn to play hurling. This is sweeping across the USA and Canada.

During the 90's the Irish stopped traveling to the USA as the Irish economy was in good form. The GAA has always been strongest abroad during times of emigration.

How has the role of women in sport changed over the years?
The late 19th century the sports were intended for men not for women. Women were featured at the games but often they were just spectators. A lot of the press reported on the fashion of the woman. They were never regarded as serious athletes. A lot of scientific opinion of the time said if they played the sport it could diminish the chances of them having children. Science waived against them and obviously and chauvinism waived against them too. This wasn't an Irish phenomenon even the founder of the modern Olympics says 'The role of women in sport is to shower their men in garlands'. They were decorations.

The kind of sports that women did involve themselves in was gentle pastimes - tennis and golf. They were also generally women of wealthier classes.

How has the GAA changed one town or county?
It has made a huge impression on so many communities. 2,500 - 3,000 clubs - most of them have fields and social clubs in it. It has become a focal point for many nights in the area. If old age pensioners want to go play bingo - where do they go - the GAA club.

Kilkenny in the late 19th century would have had a very strong cricket tradition and then within 20 years of the GAA have been founded it had effectively been replaced by hurling.

A lot of areas were strong cricket followers - Tipperary was the same.

Michael O'Hehir
Michael O'Hehir played a huge role. Radio was such a social importance in the 1940's and 1950's. People who would have never attended matches would have known what was happening through the voice of Michael O'Hehir.

Some houses didn't have a radio and they met in community halls. It was so important.

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