The most Irish of games

Hurling is said to be older than the recorded history of Ireland and to predate Christianity. In Seamus King’s remarkable book The History of Hurling, there is a reference from Irish verbal history of hurling being played as far back as 1,200BC in Tara, County Meath. The earliest written references to the sport in Brehon law are from the fifth century.

It was played in ancient times by teams representing villages. Hundreds of players would be involved and the game might last several hours or even days.

When the GAA was founded in 1884, the game was organised around a common set of rules. The All-Ireland and Provincial Championships came into existence in 1887 and have been played since. The GAA has been responsible for developing loyalty to ‘the jersey’, whether it be playing for and supporting one’s county or the ‘pride of the parish’.

So it was no surprise then that 4,000 people turned up in the Sportsground in 1929 for the hurling league final between two adjoining parishes, Galway city and the Claddagh. There was intense rivalry between the two sides, so much so that within one minute of the ball being thrown in, two players were sent off. Twelve minutes later, the match had to be abandoned as the pitch was invaded and order could not be restored. The referee awarded the match to the Claddagh.

Led by the Amalgamated Transport Workers Union (I wonder why? ), the Claddagh team and some 2,000 followers marched through the city’s main streets back to the Claddagh to celebrate their ‘victory’.

Our photograph today (courtesy of Crowe’s Pub in Bohermore ) shows the Galway city team that featured in that ‘game’. In no particular order, included are Patrick O’Connor, captain; Patrick Hurney; M Cunningham; Michael King; Martin King; Thomas King; Michael O’Lynskey; John O’Lynskey; Ed O’Lynskey; John Brown; Michael Feeney; Michael White; John Graham; Matt Hackett; Tim Hackett; Michael Duggan; James Duggan; and John Crowe.

In all my days going to Croke Park, I have never known anything like the support given to the Galway hurlers in the drawn final, so let’s get on our bikes, bring out the colours and flags, and make up the 16th man to encourage our heroes and help them bring McCarthy over the Shannon again.


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