What follows is a brief historical examination of some of the processes by which Gaelic games became the cultural heartbeat of the nation. I then consider the uniqueness of Gaelic games set against the broad outline of patterns of participationin sport across the world more generally. Here, the focus is on the distinctive commitment to an amateur ethos as reflected in the importance of community, or what Tovey and Share have termed the ‘urge to community’. In this context, I argue that the GAA is the dominant marker of Irish cultural identity and difference,not only because of the objective reality of it as an institution and how it permeates families and communities, but also because of the images and identitiesit conjures up, and the thoughts, emotions and actions it inspires.
|Title of host publication||Are the Irish Different?|
|Place of Publication||Manchester|
|Publisher||Manchester University Press|
|Publication status||Published - 14 Nov 2014|
Bibliographical noteReference text: 1 Séan Kelly, Rule 42 and All That (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, TRR8), p. 44.
T Séan Kelly, Rule 42 and All That, p. 197.
3 In a related sense, Seán Kelly’s TRR9 election to the European Parliament was also intimately
tied to his GAA profile.
4 See Paul Darby, Gaelic Games, Nationalism and the Irish Diaspora in the United States
(Dublin, UCD Press, TRR9) for an in-depth study of GAA communities in the US.
TR8 Katie Liston
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5 Hilary Tovey and Perry Share, A Sociology of Ireland (Dublin: Gil and Macmillan, TRR3),
6 Seán O’Ryan, ‘Empire Games: Letter from President, GAA’, The Kerryman, T August 193R.
7 See Norbert Elias and Eric Dunning, Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilising
Process (Dublin:University College Dublin Press, TRR8).
8 The latter was established in 1893 by Douglas Hyde to foster Irish culture and the Irish
language, including particular notions of sobriety and conduct.
9 See, for example: Adrian Devine and Frances Devine, ‘The Politics of Sports Tourism in
Northern Ireland’, Sport & Tourism, 9:T (TRR4), pp. 171–8T; Alan Bairner, Sport, Nationalism
and Globalization (New York: SUNY Press, TRR1); David Hassan, ‘Sport, Identity and
Irish Nationalism in Northern Ireland’, in Alan Bairner (ed.), Sport and the Irish: Histories,
Identities, Issues (Dublin: University College Dublin Press, TRR5), pp.1T3–39.
1R See Donal Óg Cusack, Come What May: The Autobiography (Dublin: Penguin, TRR9), p. vii.
11 Kelly, Rule 42 and All That, p. 37.
1T See Tovey and Share, A Sociology of Ireland, p.111.
14 The Council of Europe defines sport as ‘all forms of physical activity which, through casual
or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental wellbeing,
forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels’
15 Arthur Aughey and John Oakland, Irish Civilization: An Introduction (London: Routledge,
TR13), p. 1T5.
16 See http://irishsport.ie/wpress/index.php/about-us/background/. In TRR9, an estimated
1.T4 million people attended horse race meetings throughout Ireland: http://
hripressoffice.ie/assets/TR13/R3/Racing_The_Irish_Way.pdf. This equates to approximately
one-fifth of the island’s population.
17 See www.sportni.net/NR/rdonlyres/78979REE-73AC-4TE3–AECC-CC9E4TD397C3/R/
EconomicImpactofSport.pdf. Here Sport NI included the following sectors in its economic
analysis: sports clothing and footwear; sports equipment; health and fitness; other participant
sports; boats; spectator sports; sport gambling; sport TV and video; sport-related
publications and sport-related travel.
18 Interestingly, most estimates of the economic return on sport exclude any analysis of the
costs associated with the immediate diagnosis and treatment of sports-related injuries, the
related impact on absenteeism from work and the longer-term health consequences for
overall quality of life. See Rupert Kisser and Robert Bauer, The Burden of Sport Injuries in the
European Union (Vienna: Kuratorium für Verkehrssicherheit KFV), available at
19 Irish Sports Council, Irish Sports Monitor 2011 Annual Report (Dublin: Irish Sports
TR Cuchulainn also appears in Manx and Scottish folklore.
T1 See, for example, Irish Independent, T4 August TR13, ‘On dark days, we rejoice in sport as
opium of the masses’.
TT www.bbc.co.uk/sport/R/horse-racing/TT311838, accessed 14 August TR13; http://
accessed14 August TR13.
The GAA and the sporting Irish TR9
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T3 Tom Inglis, Global Ireland: Same Difference (New York: Routledge, TRR8), p. 5.