26 Sep 2023
A new exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, tells the fascinating story of the unique role that Gaelic games have played in Irish history.
The traditional Irish sports of Gaelic football, hurling, camogie, handball and rounders are deeply engrained in Irish national identity and culture.
The games have a long history, with hurling dating back to ancient Celtic times. It is said to be the world’s fastest field game and together with camogie (the form of hurling played by women) has been inscribed on a UNESCO representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
The new multi-media exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland – GAA: People, Objects & Stories – looks at the history of Gaelic games and their place in Irish culture. The exhibition has been curated by Dr Siobhán Doyle, author of the critically acclaimed book A History of the GAA in 100 Objects.
Among the more unusual objects on display are hurling balls made from matted cow hair with plaited horsehair dating to the fifteenth century and a medieval mether (communal drinking cup). The design of the trophy awarded to the winners of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship is based on a mether.
A Medieval Mether, at the National Museum of Ireland.
A handwoven tweed camogie dress from the 1960s, a commemorative porcelain plate manufactured by Belleek Pottery in 1976 and a 10-carat gold GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) medal made in New York, dated 1936, are other highlights.
Also on display are a 1969 illustration of camogie uniforms by fashion designer Neillí Mulcahy, a rugby football used by prisoners to play Gaelic football in Frongoch internment camp in Wales in 1916 and a hurl owned by Michael Collins, who was a significant figure in Ireland’s fight for independence.
Amongst the themes explored in the exhibition are how the GAA has influenced artists in the 20th century, the evolution of GAA jersey designs and the crossover in design between the Sam Maguire Cup and the Ardagh Chalice, one of the greatest treasures of the early Irish Church.
Visitors to the exhibition are invited to contribute their own GAA memories which will be compiled in an exhibition archive that will preserve the stories for future generations.
The GAA was formally established in 1884 and is headquartered in Croke Park in Dublin where you can view the GAA Museum, do a stadium tour, enjoy a thrilling rooftop walkway 17 storeys up or, of course, witness the passion and excitement of a live Gaelic football or hurling match.
Medal presented to Austin Stack, 1904-1905.
Neillí Mulcahy Camogie Illustrations.
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