Recent Publications - 2013
Forging a Kingdom: The G.A.A. In Kerry 1884-1934 is the standout publication among the G.A.A. books this year. Close to 500 pages, it shows how the establishment of the G.A.A. in the county ushered in a sporting revolution and how Kerry had become one of the bastions of the Association by the end of the first fifty years.
This is a scholarly work by Dr. Richard McElligott, a native of of Kilflynn, who completed his Ph.D on the early history of the G.A.A. with the School of History and Archives, U.C.D. He brings to the work a broad range of knowledge on the history of the G.A.A. together with a rigorous academic discipline. It is a major work of history that puts virtually all existing county histories in the shade.
Caid before Football!
In the light of the excellence in football later achieved by Kerry players, the description of the game of caid as played in the county before the foundation of the G.A.A. is revealing:
'Matches were usually played between teams of men from two neighbouring parishes, the ball being thrown up among them at an agreed central point. The game was played cross-country over fields and hedges, and tripping, pushing and wrestling or 'handigrips' were all recognised methods used to try and impede the progress of opponents. Fast runners were often placed on the outside of the large crush of men wrestling for the ball to enable them to gain ground quickly when their side succeeded in moving the ball out to them. The winning team was the one that first managed to bring the ball 'home' to their own parish.' Surprisingly like rugby?
For a county that was later to become such a prominent presence in the association it was late forming a county board. Not until late 1888 was the board formed and this was chiefly due to the efforts of the main founding father, Maurice Moynihan, who went on to spearhead the spread of the association in the county.
According to the author the spread of the G.A.A. in the county was due more to the economic and political climate at the time than to the influence of the I.R.B. He goes on to expand on the diverse reasons for forming clubs in the county. He cites examples of clubs formed by teachers who had trained in Dublin, learned about the G.A.A. and set up clubs where they started to teach. Also, following the tradition of landlord involvement, he cites the case of J. F. Fitzgerald in Cahersiveen, who facilitated the setting up of the club by giving a field.
One of the greatest influences in the formation of the club was the parish. The G.A.A. grafted itself on to the parish and by doing so exploited long held traditional local allegiances and rivalries. The club became an integral part of the local community almost immediately. Another influence in the formation of clubs was the National League, the local organisation of the Irish Parliamentary Party.
In many instances the personnel in charge of the club and the league were the same.
It took some time for clubs to learn the rules of the game and there were many examples of differences in interpretation. The author cites the example of a game between Waterville and Cahersiveen when every 'real or supposed infringement of the rules took place . . . (the referee) was immediately surrounded by both teams .... this unseemly practrice became so frequent that ten minutes play alternated with five minutes argument.' Both teams were described as 'utterly oblivious of the functions of the referee', and the 'official himself seemed fairly bewildered.'
The author also has this comment to make on the accepted mantra that the G.A.A eased the tensions in the county following the Civil War, According to him 'The reality, though, was much more complex. While the G.A.A. did play a role in Kerry in helping t heal the wounds of civil conflict, it could not wash away all that enmity through the process of winning All-Irelands. Tensions and conflicts within the Kerry G.A.A. frequently threatened to split the association there in the fifteen years following their All-Ireland success in 1925.'
I have only scratched the surface of this fascinating book. The chapter notes and bibliography extend to over sixty pages and are a study in themselves. The book is published by Collins Press and retails at €17.99
A Great Goalkeeper
I mention My Father: A Hurling Revolutionary by Con Power for two reasons, even though the book was published in November 2009. Sub-titled The Life and Times of Ned Power and written by his son, I somehow missed it at the time it was published.
Most people remember Ned Power because of the famous photograph, a classic action shot that has appeared in numerous locations around the world. The photographer was a man named Louis McMonagle and it was entitled 'Hell's Kitchen'. It's a mixture of 'physical force, danger, speed and pure skill'. I have used the photograph and wrongly attributed it to the 1959 Munster championship game whereas it was taken on June 8th, 1962 in a Munster semi-final match between Cork and Waterford.
It seems as if Ned Power is at the top of his game in the picture. In fact he was far from that. He had been dropped from the county side following an uncharacteristically poor display in 1961 and his playing days appeared over. Then after a frustrating year he got a phone call that he was wanted again. He gave vent to his feelings and said that 'he must have been the best of a bad lot.' 'So along he came and the months and weeks of pent-up frustration and preparation for this moment launched him into a sparkling display that peaked with that famous leap into the sky, caught magically here for eternity.'
The second reason I mention the publication in this yearbook is because Ned Power's widow recently presented his All-Ireland winning medal of 1959, a Munster medal and his Oireachtas medal to Lár na Páirce. The museum was thrilled to get this collection and will display it, together with the famous photograph, in a special case in the near future.
You can read all about the man, the photograph and how Ned Power brought revolutionary ideas to coaching when his playing days were over in this biography.
D. J. & Sean Óg
There are two other books that will while away the winter hours the biographies of D. J. Carey (with Martin Breheny) and Sean Óg Ó hAilpín (with Michael Moynihan, Penguin Ireland).
D.J. A Sporting Legend (Blackwater Press) is a major publishing event. The player left such an impression from his playing days that seven years after he retired, his biography should create such a stir, including an appearance on the Late Late Show. DJ's is a fascinating tale of a hurling genius who had to endure as much invasion of privacy as some of the media stars and whose decision to retire in 1997 drew such an avalanche of letters to him.
The interest in Sean Og Ó hAilpin is different, the public fascination with a player whose father was from Fermanagh and mother from Fiji, neither notable places for hurling, as some commentator remarked. To this fascination was added a player of admirable behaviour who set standards of behaviour on the field of play for all players to follow.
Rover Review 2013
There is a virtual famine in G.A.A. publications from the county this year. The only one I have come across is a publication called the Rovers Review 2013. Produced by Liam Hogan and the Shannon Rovers club, this is really an annual and has appeared since 2006. It has 64 pages of text and pictures relating to the achievements of the club during the year.
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 2014, pp.50-51