International Sports History Ireland Conference at NUI Galway

Feb 09 2007 Posted: 00:00 GMT

09 February 2007: Scholars from all over the world will attend the Annual Conference of Sports History Ireland which will be held in connection with the Centre for Irish Studies, NUI Galway on the 16 – 17 February, 2007. This is the third annual conference of Sports History Ireland, a society dedicated towards the development of the study of the history of sport amongst amateur and professional historians.

Dr. Iognáid o Muircheartaigh, President, NUI Galway, said: "This year's conference has secured what appears to be the most impressive list of speakers to date, including established and emerging scholars in the world of sports history from Ireland, France, the United Kingdom and Australia".

One particularly controversial feature of this year's conference will be Liam O'Callaghan's paper 'Reflecting on the brave and the faithful: the invention of tradition in Munster rugby', which will expose the myth surrounding the Munster Rugby phenomenon. Another innovative feature of this year's conference is Sean Crosson's investigation into representations of Gaelic Games in narrative cinema. A special feature of this presentation will be the screening of the Oscar nominated Paramount Pictures short on hurling, Three Kisses (Justin Herman, 1955).

Among the other titles in the conference programme are:

  • The 'Lion of Lahinch: an IRA man at the Walker Cup'
  • Les Bleus multicolores: Contesting identities and French Football
  • Batting on a sticky wicket: George Frith Barry and the growth of chess in Victorian Ireland
  • Gaelic games versus "Cromwell s game": the GAA and association football in Derry City, 1884-1934
  • How to become an Irish sporting hero: lessons from Dan Donnelly.

Dr. Paul Rouse, Chair of Sports History Ireland, remarked that "the ambition of the society is to use the conference to further promote the study of sports history both in the universities and in local communities." He also mentioned "the society would welcome secondary school students to the conference, especially with sport now a part of the history curriculum".

Topics to be addressed during the two-day conference include Sinn Fein's attempt to stop hunting in 1919; Ireland's last rugby international in Belfast; Representations of Gaelic Games in narrative cinema; The journalistic career of Michael Cusack; The sporting pursuits of women in the nineteenth century Ireland; and the relationship between sport and the Irish Anti-Apartheid movement, 1964-74.

Distinguished guest speakers will include Dr. Phil Dine from the National University of Ireland, Galway; Professor Conal Hooper, Director, Centre for Sport Studies, UCD; Professor Mike Cronin, Boston College; Dr. Dilwyn Porter and Professor Richard Holt from the International Centre for Sport History and Culture, De Montfort University, Leicester.

The conference will be officially launched by Dr. Iognáid G. Ó Muircheartaigh, President, National University of Ireland, Galway, in the Moore Institute, NUI Galway on 16 February and the full conference programme is available on the Centre for Irish Studies website at:

- Ends -

For further information, please contact David Doyle, Conference Co-Ordinator, Centre for Irish Studies, NUI Galway. Phone: 091-492051 mobile: 0868798479 or email:

Notes to Editor:

The Sports History Ireland society was formed in 2005 under the direction of Dr. Paul Rouse (University College Dublin) and Dr. William Murphy (Mater Dei) in an attempt to promote the highest levels of scholarship in Irish sports history in a way that is inclusive to general public. This has been the hallmark of the society's endeavours so far, something that the society prides itself on. The first two conferences were held in University College Dublin and the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, respectively. Both conferences were complete sell-outs and drew much media attention, as a result of the line-up of national and international speakers.


  • Professor Conal Hooper, Director, Centre for Sport Studies, UCD School of Public Health and Population Science.
  • Dr. John Newell, Lecturer in Statistics, Department of Mathematics, NUI Galway, Consultant Statistician, Sports Performance Units, Newcastle United F.C. and Celtic F.C.
  • Dr. Phil Dine, Lecturer, Department of French, NUI Galway.

Sport and Identity in France: Practices, Locations, Representations. (An ongoing project funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences)

  • Dr. Jim Shanahan, Trinity College Dublin

Paper: Sean Burke, the Lion of Lahinch : an IRA man at the Walker Cup

This paper will focus on a little-known event in Irish sporting history, the story of Sean Burke s experience at the 1932 Walker Cup at Brookline, Mass., USA. Burke (1899-1974) was Ireland s finest amateur golfer in the 1930s and 40s, winning the Irish Open Amateur championship in 1947, eight Irish Close titles, eleven South of Irelands, and six West of Ireland championships. He was only selected for one Walker Cup team, however, and this paper examines why. Burke was the first player from the Free State to be selected for the Walker Cup, but he was also the first working man to feature on the team, and his golfing career sheds light on the exclusive nature of amateur golf in both Ireland and Britain in the early decades of the twentieth century. Concentrating on Burke s own account of his experiences at the Walker Cup as told to his friends and family, it reveals how his past as an IRA volunteer came to light, and how he was ostracised by the Royal and Ancient GC and his fellow team mates, despite being the best performer in practice. Even today, he is not mentioned in Gordon Simmond s officially-sanctioned history of the Walker Cup. I will argue that Burke s experience provides valuable perspectives on the organisation of golf in Ireland and Britain, and on attitudes to British-Irish relations in the decade after the War of Independence.

  • Liam O Callaghan, PhD Candidate, Leeds Metropolitan University.
Paper: Reflecting on the brave and the faithful: the invention of tradition in Munster rugby


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