Book on early history of the GAA

Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is Dr Richard McElligott. I am from north Kerry and I currently work teaching and lecturing with the School of History and Archives in University College Dublin.

I am contacting you about something which I hope will be of keen interest to toall supporters of the GAA and lovers of its history.

Last September, I graduated with a PhD from UCD for my thesis which examined the early history of the GAA in Ireland, which looked at Kerry as a case study to explore its profound impact on the political, social and cultural life of Ireland during its first fifty years between 1884 and 1934. A book I have written, which is based on this PhD, has just been released. This work explores the establishment and development of the GAA and its unique tradition in Kerry during the tumultuous first fifty years of the Association in Ireland. It is entitled: Forging A Kingdom: The GAA in Kerry, 1884-1934 and is being published by the Collins Press and will retail at €17.99.

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The book examines the reasons behind the formation of the GAA both nationally and locally in in county Kerry. It explores what sport in Ireland was like before the GAA arrived. It assesses the reasons for the GAA’s initial popularity among Irish people both in terms of politics, culture and economics. It details the problems involved in the formation of the first clubs in Kerry, their adaption to the GAA’s rules and the hard struggle in forming a County Board and trying to run and administer the GAA’s organisation in such a large and physically challenging county. It looks at the problems surrounding early county championships and also national competitions. The book deals with clashes between the GAA and the Church and the attempts of Fenian and revolutionary movements to gain control and corrupt the GAA and its membership, both nationally, and in Kerry. It also looks in detail at the role of the GAA in the Gaelic Revival and the influence of Irish political nationalism on the Association at large. Likewise, links with cultural and revolutionary movements such as the Gaelic League, the IRB and Sinn Féin are all examined. The work also explores the emergence of Kerry’s unique footballing tradition and examines why hurling fell by the wayside and never gained equal recognition. How the rise of Kerry as a footballing power was fundamental to the GAA itself becoming the most popular and widely supported sports body in Ireland is highlighted. Yet the book also looks at the increasingly desperate attempts to make hurling as much a part of the emerging Kerry tradition, a process which ultimately failed.

The book explores the GAA’s relationship with other sports like rugby in Kerry and how the conflict between both sports there was actually the catalyst for Listowel man, Thomas F. O’Sullivan, to force through the infamous ‘Foreign Games Ban’ in 1905. The role of the  GAA members nationally and locally in events such as the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence, and Civil War, and the effects of political violence on the GAA are outlined. After the Civil War, the senior Kerry side emerged politically divided yet united, the symbol Irish society craved in its search for unity. The work explores this teams origins and its immense impact on the history of Gaelic football at the time. Yet their story is not as simple as it has previously been told and the book also details how Kerry and other counties remained a political hotbed for Republicanism and how this continually manifested itself among the hierarchy of the GAA in the years up until 1934 and beyond.

I hope from the above brief synopsis you get a sense of how historically important and hopefully popular, this book has the potential to be. It is not solely a local history of the Kerry GAA. Rather it is an examination of the entire history of the Association which takes Kerry as its case study. It is the first historically researched work on the development of the GAA at a county level. As such, I believe it is one of the most important works ever produced on the history of that great body and a template for all those who wish to write about the development of the GAA in their own counties.

I was hoping that you may be able to help raise awareness of the publication of the book in your own county, as I think it would be immense interest to GAA followers across Ireland.

I’m planning to have an official national launch in  Dublin on Thursday 7 November at 6pm in the city centre, venue to be finalised. Jimmy Deenihan will launch it. The following Thursday, 14 November will be the Kerry launch in Tralee library with Weeshie Fogarty launching it.

Any bit of publicity or awareness you could raise about the book and the upcoming launches would be greatly appreciated.

I look forward to hearing from you,


Dr Richard McElligott,Occasional Lecturer in Modern Irish History,
School of History and Archives,
University College Dublin.