In this the final of our three part look at the clash of the ash and salmon like leaps for midfield aerial supremacy across the world of Gaelic games, we recall some famous and infamous Gaelic sporting events from days of yore, where in some remote or fabled corner there remains fields and memories which remain forever Irish.
Ireland v Scotland, 1897- at Celtic FC soccer grounds, Parkhead, the first Hurling Shinty International Match
Michael Cusack himself presented the Celtic Times Challenge Cup (in whose honor this parish is named) in 1897 to mark the first international hurling/shinty match between Ireland and Scotland at the soccer grounds of Celtic FC in Parkhead, and indeed officiated thereafter at a return match played at Jones’ Road in Dublin that same year.
It marked the culmination of close ties and communication between the Scottish Caledonian Society and Irish cultural and sporting revivalists since the early moves to form the GAA.
John Murdoch, the renowned Scottish land league leader and founder/editor of The Highlander newspaper had, along with fellow Scot and entrepreneur, Morrison Millar, (who helped Cusack establish the Celtic Times newspaper) cultivated sporting links with Irish sports enthusiasts. The founding father of Gaelic games, strongly influenced by the Irish independence leader P.W. Nally (later to suffer horrific conditions while incarcerated in the UK and in whose honour the Nally Stand at Croke Park is named) had an internationalised vision for Gaelic games as had the land leaguer and labour leader Michael Davitt who shared his ideas about Tailteann games with Cusack and the world champion athlete and the first president of the GAA, Maurice Davin.
|The old Madison Square Gardens|
|Collins and the Killkenny team|
|Yankee Stadium, 1936|
Yankee Stadium, 1936
Ireland takes on America in two separate International GAA contests on Babe Ruth and Iron Man Lou Gehrig’s hallowed turf.
Polo Grounds, NYC 1947
The 1947 All-Ireland final is held for the first time outside of the mother country, as Cavan and Kerry hit the Big Apple, along with the truly great commentator, Micheal O'Hehir.
Off to ‘Nam
Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam war, American Gaels took huge interest in the GAA exhibition matches and competitions which were organised at the US military camps in the Carolinas prior to the young Irish being sent to war for Uncle Sam. Around seventy years earlier and in a similar environment, Mr Naismith had invented basketball to keep troops entertained at their New England base – thus began the phenomenon of the hoops.
The Hurling Boys of Buenos Aires
Until WW1 and the short supply of ash, hurling was immensely popular in Argentina, a country where even Gaeltachts existed in the early 20th century. The Hurling club in Buenos Aires remains today a favoured haunt of the Irish. This parish contended previously in an earlier work, Ireland’s Banner County (and yes, we will shamelessly plug that some copies from a second print are available directly from the Celtic Times or from Gerry Griffin’s much loved Scéal Eile in Market St., Ennis, don’t be foolish enough to pay the €1000 or so quoted online for a 1st edition signed copy previously advertised by some boyo) that there was a larger Clare Gaeltacht in 1930s Argentina than there was in the Banner itself, even accounting for the still magnificently scenic and poignant Carrigaholt and Gleninagh districts.
Of course, there are close ties with our Argentinean brethren, which is probably why our rugby internationals with them have taken on something of a civil war nature with them. It was the Christian Brothers who brought our caid version of the rugby out to the South Americans.
Don’t forget either, it was a Clare man who stuck the winning goal in the world cup soccer final versus West Germany in 1986, Jose Luis Brown - the old townies offspring from Ennis were always good for a goal or two. Although I am not sure if Brown ever got a chance to wear the Tipperary inspired colours of Diego Maradona’s Boca Juniors, which an Irish missionary priest introduced to Buenos Aires
Rules Made to be Broken…
A cursory overview of Gaelic sports abroad would be incomplete without mention of the good, the bad, and Triple X rated ugly as the catch and kick cousins from Ireland and Oz catch up with each other regularly nowadays in the International Rules Series, the next joust is a few weeks away. And we remind all Aussies how we allowed them borrow our four goalposts field alignment of earlier days.
It is ironic that the lesser played of the GAA sports, handball, has had the greatest international platform and can afford to the very best a professional livelihood. And as for the Citizen Cusack’s beloved weight throwing, the most traditional of Irish sports, sure didn’t we provide up to Dr Pat O’Callaghan and the 1932 Olympics almost forty unbroken years of world dominance. Perhaps the modern Olympics father, Baron de Coubertin, picked up his sporting inspiration for Olympism from his lengthy Irish stay in the 1890s in pursuit of an elusive cailín.
PS: Congratulations to Clondegad GAA for attaining Clare senior status recently when annexing the Talty Cup; it is some parish to hold two vibrant senior teams, Lissycasey being the other - together they'd rule Munster football although the steadfast sons of Kilmurry Ibrickane may have a say yet on that for some time to come!!
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