The Celtic Times:
Michael Cusack's Gaelic Games Newspaper 1887
The Irish Examiner
12th July 2003
The Celtic Times:
Michael Cusack’s Gaelic Games Newspaper 1887
Ancient Sporting Echoes from a Resurrected Paper by Cormac MacConnell.
A newspaper died this week in Dublin.
That’s always sad. But the ghost of another newspaper, a very famous
one, is being re-launched this very day in Killarney.
It is the glowing facsimile of the long-lost
Celtic Times, the penny newspaper launched in 1886 by Michael Cusack.
It was devoted to the coverage of the new Gaelic games and to everything
Irish. It folded in January 1888 for lack of funds, though Cusack sold
his watch to try to pay the printers. But now, in an imaginative development,
you can buy The Celtic Times once more.
Fascinating stuff, thrilling stuff altogether.
The original paper cost one old penny. Today you will have to fork out
seventy-five euro! But for that you get all the surviving issues, from
February to December of 1887. It is worth every cent.
In synopsis, the story is that GAA historians
believed for years that the files of the historic paper had been lost
or destroyed. But the file was handed to journalist Breandán Mac
Lua (The Irish Post) in Cathedral Street in Dublin by the legendary Kilkenny
publican, republican and Gael Tommy Moore in 1969. It was handed over
without a word, and Mac Lua became the guardian. In recent times, being
a Clare man from Cusack’s native Carron, he gave the file to Clare
Librarian Noel Crowley, through his
linkage with the splendid Clasp Press in Clare, the local studies project,
took it from there. Thanks to the support of the GAA Munster Council,
today sees the rebirth, in a way, of The Celtic Times.
History being made. There is a year’s
reading at least in here. However, since Tipperary and Galway are clashing
this weekend, (and since there is more coverage of Tipperary GAA games
than any others), here’s just a flavour of the reportage of hurling
matches - between clubs rather than counties - back in those days of twenty-a-side.
It shows that few holds were barred.
This is part of the coverage of a hurling match in April of 1887 between
Moycarkey and North Tipperary, in Templemore, on a comparatively level
field amongst wooded hills, before an attendance of 7,000 excited followers.
At half-time, in a fierce battle, the score stood at Moycarkey 5 points
(3 forfeits) to North Tipp 5 points (4 forfeits).
“When the ball was again set in
motion Moycarkey had, of course, to play against the strong wind. The
very first puck was hit by a Moycarkey man, who sent it swift as an arrow
for North Tipp’s goal.
“On it came straight for the centre
of the goal, in another second it would be at the other side of the posts,
but between them stood ‘Ned’ Hills as cool as a cucumber and
not the least dismayed by the approaching object. He calmly advanced one
step forward and, gently raising that dark dreadful object with his camán,
with one powerful stroke he sent it flying down the centre… but
this was immediately followed by a goal gained by Moycarkey in magnificent
“The scene that ensued baffled
description. Hats were thrown in the air; men were carried on other men’s
shoulders; even Major O’Kelly himself, who witnessed exciting scenes
in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, was carried away with enthusiasm
and was guilty of the rash act of throwing his hat high into the air;
and, to conclude this strange eventful incident, Mrs Grundy was carried
off the field in a fit….”
Towards the end of this great battle
the Moycarkey men left the field and refused to carry on. What has changed?
Turning to Galway, there is little coverage of hurling and football in
the county. But this month in 1887, Cusack reported that the Galway hurlers
“were so shamefully treated in a Dublin tournament last Sunday…that
I ventured to join the throng that evidently sympathised with the gallant
hurlers when an ugly dispute arose…I don’t like quarrelling
though I have not the slightest objection to engaging in any legitimate
transaction in the fighting line.”
Elsewhere in the same month he reports
that: “The Galway Blazers came to Dublin to hurl against Wexford.
The Executive left them alone. They got free admission to Elm Park but
they were charged fourpence for half a glass of whiskey. Mr O’Reilly
and company were cheering vigorously for Wexford, who had the use of a
dressing tent, while the Galwaymen had the open spaces outside…Galway
played a glorious game and completely turned the tide of popular favour.
They won by three goals and some points to a goal….”
The reappearance of The Celtic Times
enhances the context in which the descendants of the hardy first generation
of hurlers meet again, yet again, in another century, in another era.
And there will be no reports of the Tipperary and Galway clash as colourful
as those of Cusack and his correspondents, that’s for sure. And
we will forever wonder if Mrs Grundy recovered.
Further information on The Celtic Times
is available from CLASP Press.
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