The GAA Could Have Been Very Different Had This 'Irish' Sport Been Included...

The GAA Could Have Been Very Different Had This 'Irish' Sport Been Included...

The man after whom the Cusack Stand is named was an influential figure in Irish life in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

A professor, a Gaelic Leaguer and a newspaper founder (he wasn't especially successful in the latter endeavour), Cusack was a garrulous type who made a big impression around Dublin town.

He was unflatteringly portrayed in 'Ulysses', with the character of 'The Citizen', the anti-semitic ultra-nationalist who lobs a biscuit tin at Leopold Bloom, being based on his personality (or at least the portraits of his personality that Joyce had read).

Shortly before the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association, he took his Dublin Metropolitan hurling club - which used to play out of the Phoenix Park - down to the west to take on the Killimor hurling team in Ballinasloe. Incidentally, the earliest evidence of written rules for the sport of hurling were the Killimor rules of 1869.

Cusack was bullish beforehand and boldly asserted that hurling represented the spirit of the nation.

Hurling is the most dangerous game ever played on this planet. The game was invented by the most sublimely energetic and warlike race the world has ever known.

He wasn't so boastful afterwards as his team of Dublin based sophisticates were badly beaten up by the Ballinasloe fellas. The setback prompted him to go whinging to the Irish Times, of all papers, where he lamented Killimor's rough-house 'tactics'. No doubt, the Killimor boys responded by saying they didn't do tactics.


Cusack was no stranger to grand claims.

As Paul Rouse has detailed in his latest book, 'Sport and Ireland: A History', Cusack used his newspaper 'The Celtic Times' to push the idea that the game of chess had been invented in Ireland.

And he meant actual chess. We can confirm he was not merely talking about Ulster football in metaphorical terms when he said this.

Yes, the game of Garry Kasparov and Bobby Fischer was invented in Ireland, according to Cusack. Historian Brian Nugent has also documented his claims. Here is what he wrote in his paper 'The Celtic Times' in 1887.

This week we give our readers a few introductory paragraphs about chess. We earnestly recommend our readers fall into line with us here, as they have done on the hurling field... We cannot hurl very well when night sets in, but we can then cultivate our minds, and we know no better skill game better calculated to do this than the peaceable warlike game of chess... It ought to be played because it was Irish and National, and especially because it was the principal instrument of culture among the most glorious people that ever lived in Ireland - the Fenians of ancient Erin.

Cusack went on the claim that the reason there are 32 pieces on a chess board is because there are 32 counties in Ireland.

What a pity then that Ireland have struggled so much at chess in the past couple of centuries. We're doing worse at a sport we invented than the English are doing at the ones they invented.

The only Irish chess grandmaster is one Alexander Baburin who doesn't even qualify under the Granny rule. We can confidently assert that both of his grannies were born in eastern Europe. No, like Trent Johnston he qualifies via the residency rule, having lived in Dublin for twenty years.

Read more: The 5 Different Reactions In The South To Northern Ireland Qualifying For Euro 2016


Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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