We know from the old sliotars on exhibition in the folk museum in Turlough near Castlebar that the game of hurling has been played for many centuries, but what of the game of camogie? Two prominent Irish language enthusiasts and cultural nationalists, Máire Ní Chinnéide and Cáit Ni Dhonchadha, were credited with having created the sport while a brother of Cáit, Tadg, was the person who drew up the rules in 1903. So there was always a male presence within the administrative ranks of the sport. The game emanated from the Gaelic League and was dependent on the structures and networks provided by that organisation during the initial expansion of the sport. It was also closely linked with the GAA.
In the beginning the pitches were shorter than standard, the teams were 12-a-side, and the games lasted 50 minutes. In 1999 camogie moved to the normal GAA field size, teams became 15-a-side and they adopted the standard GAA formation of 1-3-3-2-3-3.
Men used to play with a camán, but the women used to play with a shorter stick described in the diminutive form ‘camóg’, so the game was called ‘camógaíocht’ and this was anglicised to camogie. The very first All-Ireland final was played in the Sportsground in 1933 when Dublin beat Galway by 3-2 to 0-2.
This quintessential Irish game for women is played by some 100,000 participants. There are 34 clubs in County Galway which is why the game is strong here. We have competed in many Senior All-Ireland finals, but have only been victorious once, in 1996. Galway has won Senior League titles in 1994, 2002, and 2005 and the following clubs have won the All-Ireland Club Championships— Oranmore, Pearse’s, Athenry, and Mullagh. The county has won seven junior championships, two minor championships, one intermediate, nine under-16 All-Ireland championships, and three National Junior League titles.
Let us hope Galway can add to those statistics on Sunday next when our senior team takes on Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final in Croke Park at 4pm, and our intermediates play their final against Limerick at 2pm, also in Croke Park.
So to honour the occasion we thought to show you a team of yesteryear who represented the Presentation School with great honour. They are, back row, left to right: Sheila Stewart, Mary Hegarty, Winnie Carlos, Maudie McComiskey, Theresa McComiskey, and Rose Hegarty. In front are Maura McDonagh, Claire Butler, Ronnie Brannily, Mary Tompkins, Teresa Hynes, Helen Brannily, and Ena Byrne.
This column is dedicated to Galway camogie’s greatest supporter, Mary Maloney.
This evening at 8.30pm, the Old Galway Society will host a lecture by Ronnie O’Gorman entitled ‘Maamtrasna and the New York Times’. It will take place in the Mercy Convent School, Newtownsmith, and all are welcome.
On Wednesday next at 8pm in The Ardilaun hotel, Dr Christy Cunniffe will give the An Taisce lecture on ‘Religious and Secular Iconography from Graveyards of Galway’, and again, all are welcome.