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KGAA 125 - Before 1889

posted 30 Oct 2014, 06:56 by Garret Byrne
Kinvara GAA was founded in 1889, just 5 years after the GAA was formed in 1884. But 1889 wasn't the beginning of hurling and football in the Kinvara parish.  The games were played for many years before that but 1884 was the beginning of the organisation, structure and rules as we see it today.

We do know that there was, at one stage, at least 3 different teams in Kinvara parish - Killina, Doorus and Kinvara itself. It is likely to assume that there was possibly a team in Northampton also, and that perhaps by 1884 those players may have joined up with either the Kinvara or Killina teams. 

In 1885 there is newspaper references of tournament matches being played around the county, with teams from Doorus, Kinvara and Killina taking part. There was often police harressment at these meetings, with players often members of the Land League. 

Shortly after the GAA was founded in 1884, clubs begun to be affliliated and formed, with often parishes with two or three teams combing together as the one GAA club. In Kinvara this was slow to happen as there was some disunity between Kinvara (National League supporters) and Doorus (Mostly GAA). 
Evictions were becoming more commonplace, and so support for the National League increased. 
By the end of 1888 it appears that both Killina and Kinvara teams had already joined up and playing under the one banner. This new team would also have included the Northampton players, and so it was that the full parish was almost united as one team. 
That extra step for unity was taken on 12th April 1889 when a delegation from Kinvara met with the men from Doorus after mass, and so the Killoveragh Club was formed.

Here is the first few pages extract from the 2006 book - "A History of Kinvara GAA", by Toddie Byrne.

"Hurling – Pre Foundation of G.A.A


The very fact that there were 3 teams in Kinvara – Doorus, Killina and Kinvara – at the time the G.A.A was founded in 1884 means that hurling (or a game of goals) had been played there, as in many parts of South Galway, for many generations.  As far back as 1957, the Galway City Council passed a law, which forbade hurling. A Frenchman, Coquebert de Montbret, who travelled through Ireland in 1791, wrote that the game began in August and was usually played in a commonage or turlough. The ball was made of cow’s hair knitted tightly together and covered with a leather covering. The hurley’s shaped more like hockey sticks, roughly carved from ash and blackthorn. The Frenchman was struck by the different coloured hats worn and the frenzied players, while the spectators watched and danced. In the period 1791 to 1884, there are references to teams from East Galway crossing the River Shannon to play teams in Offaly and Tipperary.


The Great Famine had an adverse effect on the game of hurling, with deaths from starvation and emigration denuding the countryside. The Catholic clergy were not over anxious to promote the game as they looked on games as occasions of intemperance and injurious to morals of younger classes. The police were suspicious of mass gatherings while the landlords, magistrates and protestant clergy frowned on playing games on Sundays. Major Wilson Lynch, landlord in Galway City and Doorus, Kinvara, however, was complimented for his support in promoting the game. He must certainly have encouraged his Doorus tenants and where better to play the game than in the wide expansive field behind Doorus N.S.


The evictions and police harassment gradually stirred up the flames of nationalism. And it can be quite accurate to state that the Irish Republican Brotherhood, were actually using occasions of matches and athletic events to awaken the people. This led to a monster convention being held in Athenry in 1882 where a branch of the National League was set up. Home Rule, land reforms and tenant rights were now being demanded. The West was awake.


The earliest recorded rules were the Killimor Rules 1869 (Perhaps there are earlier rules in the Brehon Laws). Surprisingly there were no rules for size of pitch, width and height of goalposts, number of players, sidelines or puck out frees. Basically there was no handling of the ball – all ground hurling. Only goals could be scored. Not less than thirty players could be accepted to hurl a challenge; teams to wear different coloured caps; no substitutes allowed unless for accidents.


Michael Cusack


Born in Carron, Co.Clare, he advanced from being a school monitor to being a teacher. He taught for 5 years (1866 – 1871) in Lough Cutra N.S. Gort, where he made friends with many people in South Galway. After some years being involved in various sports and athletics in Dublin, he set about reorganising athletics and embraced the cause of restoring the Irish language. He founded the Metropolitan hurling club. A challenge was issued by Killimor and a game was fixed for Ballinasloe. It was to be played in four half hour sessions, with no tripping or taking holds. A timekeeper, touch judges and umpires were appointed. Cusack refused to continue after the first session and determined to draw up more suitable rules. However, as was the feature at the time, pony races, athletics and tug-of-war events took place after. 1884 was to be “the” year for Michael Cusack when on November 1st the G.A.A. was set up with approval of Church and State under the patronage of Dr. Croke, Bishop of Cashel and with Maurice Davin, an Olympic hammer winner, as first president.


Early G.A.A. Rules


In olden times, prior to the foundation of the G.A.A., goals were from fence to fence and at least 500-yard lines. Gradually the idea of upright poles as goals emerged and for some time, there were disputes over width between goals. Eventually the G.A.A rules were accepted and have been well modified since. The rules laid down in February 1885 were as follows:

1.      Ground 200 yds by 150 yds.

2.      Boundary lines at least 5 yards from fence.

3.      Two upright posts 20 feet apart, crossbar 10 feet from the ground.

4.      Ball is not to be lifted off the ground with the hand while in play.

5.      Not less than 14 or more than 21 players aside.

6.      Umpire for each side and a referee, who will decide in cases where umpires disagree. He also keeps time and throws in the ball at the commencement of each game.

7.      Time of play: one hour and twenty minutes. Sides to be changed at half time. The ordinary practice in Galway was that the sides changed when a goal was scored.

8.      Players who catch, trip or push from behind are disqualified and a free puck to the opposite side.

9.      Same penalty for player who strikes intentionally another player.

10.  In a line ball situation, the referee or umpire threw in the ball.

11.  If the ball goes wide the goalkeeper shall have a free puck out, twenty yards from the goal posts.

12.  Before commencement of game, hurlers shall draw up in two straight lines in centre of field, catch hands or hurleys and then separate.



The 1st Year – 1885


From July to December, a series of matches took place in Craughwell, Clarenbridge, Oranmore, Tiernevin, Ballindereen, Labane, Tubber and Doorus. These were great social occasions, with marching brass bands and fife and drum bands, cheers for Dr. Croke, with athletic events and dancing. While many clubs turned up at each venue, only two matches were played as a rule. Up to 7,000 attended each venue. The first mention of Doorus and Killina teams relates to Labane tournament held on November 21st. The following week Killina beat Gort and lost to Kilchreest in Tubber tournament. The last tournament of the year was held in Doorus on December 21st. Doorus beat Ballindereen and Kilmacduagh beat a Tubber/Killina combination. At this later tournament, Kinvara, strange to relate, didn’t come – probably the start of a split between Land Leaguers and G.A.A players. A feature of these tournaments was the police harassment, where names were taken of players and spokesmen. By the years end, the new movement had take root.


1886 to 1888

Tournaments were held throughout the South and east of the County. Football also began to take root but not yet in the South. Athletic events were common in regattas as at Kinvara on October 12th 1888, where a 12-ton hooker race was won by Keane, with Connolly second and O’Brien third. The puckaun race was won by John Keane with Pat Keane second and Tom Moran third. Sports were held in Hansberry’s field, where footracing, donkey races and bag races took place. There was a big tournament organised by Killina players and played in Cahermore Turlough in October 86 – the last quarter of the year, the favourite time for matches when all the farm work – done manually- was finished. The same year, a meeting held in Doorus chapel yard after mass, unanimously elected James Mahon, formerly of Northampton, as captain. There was still disunity between Kinvara (National League supporters) and Doorus (mostly G.A.A.). With evictions rife, the G.A.A. became embroiled in the ongoing political situation and support at tournaments for the National League increased.


In this period, we read of points being scored in a match – for sending ball wide over the end line, not over the bar. We also read of County Conventions, county teams and Annual Congress. There is no record if any Kinvara parish involvement.