Documentary on One

The All-Ireland Behind Barbed Wire

In 1916, a GAA football match between Kerry and Louth took place on a pitch named Croke Park, at a prisoner of War Camp in Frongoch Wales - where 1,800 Irish volunteers were imprisoned. 100 years on, three relatives retrace their forebearer's footsteps.

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4.3/5 (79 ratings)

Documentary Maker: Sarah Mac Donald

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Documentary maker: Liam O'Brien

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The All-Ireland Behind Barbed Wire

Frongoch internment camp at Frongoch in Merionethshire, Wales was a prisoner of war camp for 1,800 Irish prisoners in the wake of the 1916 Easter Rising, among them such notables as Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith.

The abandoned whisky distillery in Frongoch, north Wales became a makeshift place of imprisonment during the First World War housing German prisoners of war until 1916.

In the wake of the Easter Rising, these German POWs were moved on and Frongoch became a place of internment for approximately 1,800 Irish prisoners, including notables such as Michael Collins, Frank Shouldice, Tomás Mac Curtain and Richard Mulcahy.

Shipped across the Irish Sea on cattle boats, the months in Frongoch, later known as Ollscoil Na Réabhlóide or the ‘University of Revolution’ were used fruitfully by the internees to radicalise, network and learn how guerrilla tactics might ensure the mistakes of the Rising were not repeated.

Sport played an important part in the life of the internees - keeping them fit, focused and keeping their spirits up while also forging close bonds of friendship. With so many of the detainees having played intercounty football, they decided to hold a GAA intercounty football championship.

The field used as the football pitch in Frongoch was named ‘Croke Park’ after the stadium in Dublin on Jones’ Road which the GAA had only just purchased for £2,400 in 1913 using record gate money generated by the Croke Memorial Tournament between Louth and Kerry that year.

Posters advertising the Wolfe Tone Tournament final match in Frongoch between old rivals Kerry and Louth informed fans that ‘admission was 5 shillings and wives and sweethearts should be left at home’!

One hundred years on from this All-Ireland behind barbed wire, a grand-daughter of Tom Burke, the man who captained the Louth side and refereed the first All Ireland played for the Sam Maguire Cup in 1928, now wants to find out more about what happened behind the barbed wire.

Together with a grandnephew of the Kerry captain, the great footballer, Dick Fitzgerald, who wrote ‘How to play Gaelic football’, the first handbook of its kind in the GAA, and the grandson of the man who recorded the game, Joe Stanley, who acted as Pearse’s and Connolly’s press officer, printing the War News from the GPO during the Rising, retrace their relatives’ footsteps in search of the story of the unique All-Ireland Final in Frongoch in 1916.

First Broadcast 26th March 2016, 2pm.  Part of Documentary On One 1916 Season

Narrated and produced by Sarah MacDonald

Production Supervision by Liam O’Brien

Sources used in the making of this documentary:

  • Fr Tom Looney - author of ‘Dick Fitzgerald: King in a Kingdom of Kings’ (Currach Press, 2008). 
  • The papers of Joe Stanley
  • Dr Richard McElligott - author of 'Forging A Kingdom, The GAA in Kerry 1884-1934' (Collins Press 2014).
  • Tom Reilly’s book: 'Joe Stanley, Printer To The Rising' (Brandon 2005).
  • Mark Reynolds - GAA Museum Archivist at Croke Park and contributor to: 'The GAA & Revolution in Ireland 1913–1923' (Collins Press 2015). 
  • Noelle Dowling - Archivist at Dublin Diocesan Archives, Holy Cross College Clonliffe, Dublin. 
  • Robert McEvoy - Project Archivist, Military Service Pensions Collection, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines, Dublin 6.

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.

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