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Gaelic Football History

References to the Gaelic Games, in particular hurling, go back to 1272BC. The earliest accounts of football date from county Meath in 1670. In the 17th and 18th Century both games were noted to be important to Irish life.

Gaelic Athletic Association
In 1884 on the 1st November a group of men, between 7 and 14, met in the Commercial Hotel in Thurles and founded the Gaelic Athletic Association for the Preservation and Cultivation of National Pastimes. The foundation appears to be the culmination of a lot of ground work being done behind the scenes by Michael Cusack.

Cusack was a native of the Burren in County Clare. At an early age he played hurling as well as Rugby Union. He spoke fluent Irish. He trained as a teacher and eventually settled in Dublin where he set up an academy to assist in the entrance of students to the Police and Civil Service. He was particularly interested in the revival of Hurling. The Cusack Stand in Croke park was named after him in recognition of his contribution.

The stamp at right was issued on the 23rd August 2006 to commemorate the Centenary of his death.

If Cusack was the driving force, it was Maurice Davin, the first President, who nurtured the organisation through its initial years.

Rules for football and hurling were drawn up in January 1885 and the first championship was played in 1887 with eight of the counties participating in football.

In 1887 the radical secret society the Irish Brotherhood tried to take over the association but this was resisted, with the resignation of Davin. A "reconstruction" conference restored Davin in 1888.

Politics and the GAA have always been frequent bedfellows. In 1902 Rule 27 was passed. It read "any member of the association who plays or encourages in any way rugby, football, hockey or any imported game which is calculated or injuriously affect our national pastimes, is suspended from the association."  It was deleted in 1971.

Rule 21 prohibits members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and British Defense Forces from participating in Gaelic Games. The reality is it is probably of little relevance.

The 1934 Hurling stamp was issued to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the GAA while one stamp each for football and Hurling were issued in 1984 to celebrate the Centenary of the GAA.


Archbishop Croke

Archbishop Croke was born in Cork in 1823. He was ordained a priest in 1847 in Rome and returned to Ireland during the Great Famine. After attending the first Vatican Council he became Bishop of Auckland in New Zealand. He returned in 1875 to become Archbishop of Cashel. He became involved in social policy and openly supported home rule and the Land League. His enthusiastic support of the GAA contributed to its rapid development throughout rural Ireland. His name is perpetuated in Croke Park, the Dublin headquarters of the GAA. He died in 1902.

The stamp at left was issued on 17th September 2002 to commemorate his death.

Michael Davitt
He was Born at Straide, County Mayo in 1846. He was the son of a small farmer. He was imprisoned between 1870 and 1877 for his political activities. On August 16th, 1879, the Land League of Mayo was formally founded in Castlebar, with the active support of Charles Stewart Parnell. On October 21st, 1879, the National Land League was formed in Dublin with Parnell as President, and Davitt as one of the secretaries. From that time right on to 1882 the Land War was fought in earnest.- British Prime Minister Gladstone at first replied with coercion, but was finally forced into making important concessions. Davitt served as an MP for County Meath, North Meath and South Mayo and was a patron of the GAA from its foundation.

The stamp above was issued on 4th July 1996  to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of his birth. Another
stamp was issued on 5th September 2006 on the Centenary of his death.

Charles Parnell

Parnell was a protestant landlord whose family estate was at Avondale, Co. Wicklow. He was first elected to parliament in the Meath by-election of April 1875 and joined the Home Rule Party. Parnell was only twenty-nine when he entered parliament. On 21 October 1879, Davitt founded the Irish National Land League in Dublin with Parnell as President. The main objectives of the League were to provide tenants with a fair rent, fixed tenure and free sale. The long term aim was that farmers would own the land (peasant proprietorship). Trouble loomed for Parnell however, in his private life. He had secretly courted a married woman, Kathleen O'Shea, the husband of whom filed for divorce, naming Parnell as the co-respondent. He tried to ignore the scandal and continued his public life. Public pressure in Ireland and from Gladstone in England eventually brought his downfall and he died shortly afterwards, in 1891.

The above stamp was issued in 1991 to commemorate the Centenary of his death, while the set below was issued on the 16th September 1946 to commemorate the birth of both Davitt and Parnell.