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The History of Hurling

Iomáin Léana an Bhábhúin (Contd.)

Bhí dís de mhuintir Mhéarlaigh ann comh cliste leis na héanlaith,
Is an balla leo 'sna néalta in airde;
Ó Dufaigh beag leis féin ann go scafánta i mbéal éaga,
Is ní bhfuighe a dhá leithéid go Bail' Shláine.
Bhí cúpla d'fheara éachtach de shliocht Eochaidh ar a'léana
Do bharánta maith daingean chun spairne,
Beirt eile teacht 'na naghaidh go ró-chliste leis a'liathróid,
De mhaithe agus de thogha mhuintir'Ágain.

Ach tuirseach libh na scéala heagmhadh chugainn go déanach,
Gur theastaigh Paitsí an tsléibhe óna pháirtí?
'S nach ar dhruid sé sé láá déag tar éis iomáána an léana,
Nuair a goineadh ag an éag uainn ár spairní.
An macaomh geanúil tréitheach, a raibh carthanacht is méin ann,
Fearúlacht, féile agus áille;
Bhí grá na bhfear go léir air, bhí aoibh an laig 's an tréin leis,
Is ba scathán ban is maighdean ar clár é.

Bhí an chúis go maith go léir nó go gcluinfidh sibh na scéala,
Mar sheasaigh Paitsí an tsléibhe ins an Bábhún;
Theilg sé de a léine, is d'fhiafraigh sé go neamh-chladhartha -
"Cá háit ar ghaibh an liathróid nó an báire?"
Duirt mise nach arbh'fheidir dúinn castáil lena chéile,
Mar heagmhadh 'n lá ag fearthainn's ag baistí;
Ar seisean "Scor dod théama 's dá ainneoin a bhfuil in Éirinn
Ní bhfuigfidh mise an léana gan sásamh".
(Collection of the Songs of Dundalk and its Hinterland) - Seamas Mac Seain, 1981.

(A popular English version of the poem makes reference to “Football” instead of Hurling even though the poem title hasn’t been lost in the translation!)

One of the first modern attempts to standardize the game with a formal, written set of rules came with the foundation of the Irish Hurling Union at Trinity College Dublin in 1879. Its aim was… "To draw up a code of rules for all clubs in the union and to foster that manly and noble game of hurling in this, its native country”

The Real Revival...

An article appeared in the United Ireland of 11th October 1884 under a heading “A word about Irish Athletics”. It was unsigned but later revealed to be from the pen of Michael Cusack. Its message was simple: the national pastimes of the people were an essential element to a successful nation. Part of it went as follows…

“Voluntary neglect of such pastimes is a sure sign national decay and approaching dissolution. The strength and energy of a race are largely dependant on the national pastimes for a development of a spirit of courage and endurance … The corrupting influences which have been for several years devastating the sporting grounds of our cities and towns are fast spreading to our rural population.”

Michael Cusack believed that foreign laws were hostile to the Irish people and caused them to abandon their native pastimes. And when an attempt was made to revive those pastimes it did not originate with those who were sympathetic towards Ireland and the Irish people.

In the following week’s issue of the United Ireland Maurice Davin (a respected Irish athlete) replied to Michael Cusack’s article when he called for the publication of a rule book on Irish games. He concluded by saying that he would willingly lend a hand to any movement involving the revival and encouragement of Irish games. On the 25th October Michael Cusack replied to Maurice Davin’s piece in the United Ireland and this time he signed his name to the article. The two men, inspired by each others enthusiasm, acted immediately and on the 27th October a circular was sent out calling for a meeting at 2pm on 1st November in the Commercial Hotel (Hayes Hotel), Thurles “to take steps for the formation of a Gaelic Association for the preservation and cultivation of the national pastimes and for providing amusements for the Irish people during their leisure hours”.

On the 1st of November 1884 the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) was founded and turned around a trend of terminal decline by organizing the game around a common set of written rules.

The All-Ireland Hurling Championship came into existence along with the provincial championships. Cork, Kilkenny and Tipperary dominated hurling in the 20th century with each of these counties winning more than 20 All-Ireland titles each. Wexford, Waterford, Clare, Limerick, Offaly, Dublin, and Galway were also strong hurling counties during the 20th century.

As hurling entered the new millennium, it has remained as one of Ireland's most popular sports and the inauguration of the Christy Ring Cup and Nicky Rackard Cup gave a new dimension to the hurling championships for counties not as strong as those in the top tier and the opportunity to play in the hallowed grounds of Croke Park.

Although hurling is second to Gaelic football in terms of numbers playing the sport, it remains truly at favourite in the hearts of Irish people and a symbol of their heritage.

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