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Formation of the GAA

When Michael Cusack moved to Dublin, in 1877, to open his academy preparing Irish students for the Civil Service examinations, sport throughout Ireland was the preserve of the middle and ascended classes.

Within Cusack's academy sport was central with students who were encouraged to participate in rugby, cricket, rowing and weight-throwing. In the early 1880's Cusack turned his attentions to indigenous Irish sports. In 1882 he attended the first meeting of the Dublin Hurling Club, formed 'for the purpose of taking steps to re-establish the national game of hurling'.



The weekly games of hurling, in the Phoenix Park, became so popular that, in 1883, Cusack had sufficient numbers to found 'Cusack's Academy Hurling Club' which, in turn, led to the establishment of the Metropolitan Hurling Club. On Easter Monday 1884 the Metropolitans played Killimor, in Galway. The game had to be stopped on numerous occasions as the two teams were playing to different rules. It was this clash of styles that convinced Cusack that not only did the rules of the games need to be standardised but that a body must be established to govern Irish sports.

Cusack was also a journalist and he used the nationalist press of the day to further his cause for the creation of a body to organise and govern athletics in Ireland. On October 11 1884 an article, written by Cusack, called 'A word about Irish Athletics' appeared in the United Ireland and The Irishman.

These articles were supported a week later by a letter from Maurice Davin, one of three Tipperary brothers, who had dominated athletics for over a decade and who gave his full support to the October 11 articles. A week later Cusack submitted a signed letter to both papers announcing that a meeting would take place in Hayes's Commercial Hotel, Thurles on November 1, 1884. On this historic date Cusack convened the first meeting of the 'Gaelic Athletic Association for the Preservation and Cultivation of national Pastimes'. Maurice Davin was elected President, Cusack, Wyse-Power and McKay were elected Secretaries and it was agreed that Archbishop Croke, Charles Stewart Parnell and Michael Davitt would be asked to become Patrons. From that initial, subdued first meeting grew the Association we know today.


About Hurling

Hurling is Europe's oldest field game. It is played with a stick or "hurley" (called camán in Irish) which is curved outwards at the end, to provide the striking surface. The hurley is made from Ash. The ball or "sliothar" is made from leather. It has raised ridges from where the leather is stitched. Hurling is played on a pitch approximately 137m long (min 130m - max 145m) and 85m wide (min 80m - max 90m). The goalposts are a 'H' shape, with the crossbar 2.5m above the ground. You may strike the ball on the ground, or in the air.



You may pick up the ball with your hurley and carry it for not more than four steps in the hand. After those steps you may bounce the ball on the hurley and back to the hand, but you are forbidden to catch the ball more than twice. To get around this, one of the skills is running with the ball balanced on the hurley. To score, you put the ball over the crossbar with the hurley or under the crossbar and into the net by the hurley for a goal, the latter being the equivalent of three points.

Each team consists of fifteen players, lining out as follows: 1 goalkeeper, three full-backs, three half-backs, two midfielders, three half-forwards and three full-forwards. Players wear a jersey with their team colours and number on the back. Both teams must have different colour jerseys. Teams are allowed a maximum of five substitutes in a game. Players may switch positions on the field of play as much as they wish but this is usually on the instructions of team officials.



Officials for a game comprise of a referee, two linesmen (to indicate when the ball leaves the field of play at the side and to mark '65'' free shots and 4 umpires (to signal scores, assist the referee in controlling the games, and to assist linesmen in positioning ''65' frees). A goal is signalled by raising a green flag, placed to the left of the goal. A point is signalled by raising a white flag, placed to the right of goal. A '65' is signalled by the umpire raising his/her outside arm. A 'square ball', when a player scores having arrived in the 'square' prior to receiving the ball, is signalled by pointing at the small parallelogram.


History of Hurling:

Hurling was cited in the Brehon Laws during the 8th century as a way to settle disputes, either one on one, or sometimes entire villages fought each other. Of course Brehon law covered compensation for the families of anyone killed during these match ups. Eventually hurling evolved into a feis game that grew in popularity through medieval times.



The medieval version had two teams working with hurleys (sticks) to get the sliothar (small ball) past the other team's goal. The ball was made of bronze, leather-bound wood, or hard-packed hair wrapped with twine. The best wood for the hurley was ash, a tapered stick to scoop the ball on one end, the other end wrapped with metal for a good gripping handle.

There were many futile attempts to outlaw hurling, either because of the risk of life and limb, or because it became so closely linked with faction-fighting. The Galway Statutes around 1527 finally succeeded in banning the sport, at least for awhile, and it was replaced by Gaelic football.

Two hundred years later, hurling came back with a vengeance, taken up by the gentry, who organized teams and leagues and toned down the original version by establishing strict rules. The Great Famine, however, put an end to the sport's renaissance. The game returned once again when, in 1884, the Gaelic Athletic Association made it the official game of Ireland, with established rules governing the leagues and games.