THE whole nation is celebrating after Ireland beat England in the World Cup….at CRICKET!
But don’t be fooled…for cricket is in fact a native Irish sport!
John Devlin is the Head Librarian at Letterkenny IT. Here, in this personal piece for Foinse last year, he argued that the GAA should embrace cricket as a national sport…..
“Recently a local newspaper printed an article about some local would-be cricket players who were unable to find a ground to play a game.
The answer is simple, given that cricket is a traditional Gaelic sport – a local GAA ground. The GAA was set up to encourage and develop native Irish games and if we exclude athletics which would be universal the native Irish games are hurling, handball, cricket and croquet.
I will leave aside hurling and handball as their Irishness has been well documented elsewhere and concentrate on those two other two great games of the Gaels…cricket and croquet.
I will refer you to page 54 of Eoghan Corry’s ”The GAA Book of Lists” (Hodder Headline Ireland, 2005] and the chapter headed :”Cricket: the other Gaelic game.” In this Corry points out that in 1882 Michael Cusack wrote ”that the game best suited to the Irish character was cricket.”
In his ”Our Boys ” column in ”The Shamrock” he declared ” that cricket was an Irish game suitable for young men to play”…….and advised readers of the rules of the game how to form a club and the requite equipment required. He also suggested that the young play childrens’ games (ludo as Gaeilge] , balloons (self explanatory], and boulders ( possibly road bowls which would now be lethal…….one would not send a child out on a bike now never mind hurling a boulder down the dual carriageway].
Indeed, the term ”All Ireland” is a derivation of the term ”All England” as used by organisations as diverse as tennis ,cricket and lacrosse for their tournaments and the GAA based their All Ireland Championships on the English County cricket championship dating back to 1864.
This model was easily adopted as cricket was widely played in Ireland (see Bobby Rackard’s autobiography…..the great Wexford hurler started as a cricketer in the cricket hot bed of Wexford] and cricket was a game of the Irish people in the 1880s until the GAA changed its mind about cherishing the native games and invented the game of Gaelic (sic.] football , in reality a cross between two English public school games, Association football and rugby ; and about as relevant to Irish traditional games as the Corrs are to Irish traditional music.
This cricket, as a game of the common people, continued in rural areas like Lecale into the 1970s with all classes and creeds competing for the Trades League Cup in the Downpatrick region with teams being organised on work places as in the Inter Firms road race in Letterkenny or on townlands like Ardmeen.
Indeed, the English even acknowledge cricket as an Irish game . Corry quotes Andrew Laing in his 1912 ”Imperial Cricket” that the earliest references to cricket are in the 11th century Irish Annals. Cuchlainn is described as ”defending the hole” in a game variously described as ”lub , luban or lubog” which seems to be a primitive form of cricket without stumps, bails or Henry Blofeld.
However, Laing rather patronisingly ruins his acknowledgement to Irish tradition by condescendingly writing that although the game was invented in Ireland ”it was the genius of England which filled the hole, added the stumps, and carried the implements to perfection.” He might have added a century later that England would also steal our best players and not play them.
Thus the case is made that the players of this most Gaelic of games should not be begging for somewhere to play but should be welcomed by the GAA , those self appointed guardians of traditional Irish sport , to play on GAA grounds instead of hosting a faux Irish game like Gaelic (sic.] football which is an invention of the calibre of the Ulster Scots language and invented for the same reason:” We’re different from usuns and we have our own game /language to prove it.”
As for croquet the Derry socialist, Civil Rights campaigner , environmentalist, cricket enthusiast and thorn in the side of pomposity and humbug ,Eamonn McCann , wrote in an ”Hot Press” article that croquet is Irish and that as Gaelic football is ”just real football ruined to give it a faux Irish twist” that Croke Park should be renamed ”Croquet Park”.
He writes:” Croquet emerged with written rules more than 200 years ago…a lifetime before gaelic football was invented by priests, alcoholics and Hibernians” and quotes Martin and Williams in their definitive (I will take Eamonn’s word on this] history of the game that British regiments and the aristocracy took this great old Irish game to England .
McCann quotes the ‘revered’ croquet historian Dr. Prior , writing in 1872 ,”that one thing is certain :it is from Ireland that that croquet came to England.” It was the Irish who founded the Wimbledon Croquet and Tennis Club but croquet was soon discarded as the genteel Irish game was elbowed aside by a brash English riff-raff who preferred to see women flaunt their ankles and promoted tennis.
Therefore, the Irish gave England Christianity (see Dan Snow and Cormac Bourke on the BBC’s current series on Celtic Christianity ], cricket and croquet and they gave us …..All Ireland Final Day and the Premier League on SKY.
I think that the point has been made that instead of opening up Croke Park to Association Football and rugby, Croquet Park should be retained for the real traditional Irish sports of hurling,handball, cricket and croquet.
Hurling has been let down by the GAA as it thrives competitively at senior level little beyond Munster and Kilkenny; handball has been sidelined and cricket and croquet not only ignored but disparaged…and for what ?……a game with a tradition as deep as the last Westlife single. It is therefore plain that an indigenous game like cricket should be played on a GAA pitch.”
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