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All The Things You Want To Know About The 2018 All-Ireland Hurling Final

galway limerick hurling final

Written by Matt O’Donnell

Despite games such as rugby invading the hearts and minds of people in Ireland, there’s no hiding the fact that the All-Ireland finals are among the most watched events on television every year. Many people with either no Irish blood or a lack of skin in the game often only get their eyes in front of the competition when it finally comes down to the two best counties playing on the final match day of the year (for inter-county play). This being the case, we’ll take a look at this year’s participants, Limerick and the reigning champions, Galway. We’ll see them from a standpoint of their county’s history as well as a look at the road that each took to get to Croke Park this coming Sunday. 

Galway and Limerick are two of those counties that are fairly bound together in destiny for hurling. Despite having only irregular matches due to playing in different provinces and different periods of dominance affecting their standings in the same division of the National League, they’ve faced off in the All-Ireland season eleven times. While Limerick owns a winning record of 6 matches to Galway’s 4 (plus a draw), a pair of Galway’s wins are the 1923 and 1980 All-Ireland Championship medals. 


134 years after the establishment of the GAA, many counties can claim to be thought of as important to the game. No matter who you’d support, though, its easy to agree that Galway has been a solid rock since the establishment of organized play. Even if we overlook an apocryphal story about Michael Cusack wanting to establish the GAA in Galway (a story full of plot holes), we know that early hurling tournaments were a huge draw in the county by 1887. The popularity and skill shown in Galway led them to enter a team in the first All-Ireland championship that year. Under the banner of the Meelick club, Galway would reach the final before losing to the Tipperary champions, Thurles. They have never received the losers’ medals that they are entitled to.

Despite nearly two decades of dominance in Connacht provincial play after the dawn of the 20th century, Galway would finally stand alone as champions in 1923, losing the following three finals they appeared in. Despite incredible club hurling in the county, the inter-county record in the decades that followed for the Tribesmen resulted in not much more than heartbreak. The side would finally raise the cup in 1980, defeating…Limerick. This championship came at a time of pain for the west of Ireland, suffering from both great economic hardship and subsequent mass emigration. The speeches of Joe Connolly and Joe McDonagh from the Hogan Stand live on in glory to this day. Senior medals were won in 1987 and 1988 against perennial powers Kilkenny and Tipp, respectively. Despite overwhelming wins in the All-Ireland club championship, The West would only awaken again in 2017 to finally win a championship for modern hurling phenom Joe Canning. 


In light of Galway’s unity and prominence from near enough the moment that organized play under the GAA began, it’s with a more somber mood that we consider the early years of Limerick. Despite the Limerick Commercials winning a senior football title for the county in 1887, unrest of the political flavor caused bitter division and controversy for a decade. Despite walkouts, abandonment of fixtures, and even multiple county boards at one point, Limerick recovered thanks to an emergency convention to establish a new governing body in 1894. Commercials would claim their second football title in 1896. Then finally, in 1897, the Kilfinane club would topple Tullaroan from Kilkenny to make Limerick All-Ireland Senior Hurling champions for the first time. 

1910 would be the next time that Limerick, represented by the Castleconnell club, would reach a final. 1918 would see another title, spurred by a new dedication to preparation. Limerick adopted the style or training pioneered by Clare and Laois of players being on a strict diet, grueling physical regimen, and a training camp held in the lead-up to the final. Having lost to Wexford in their previous appearance, Limerick won the final this time by 26 points, an utterly crushing contest. They’d do it all over again in 1921, beating Dublin 8-5 to 3-2, but the real story of The Shannonsiders would be told through the 1930’s. In that decade, they’d win not only the 1934, 1936, and 1940 All-Ireland titles, but they’d also win the National League a ridiculous 5 times in a row, from seasons ending in 1934 through 1938. 

Limerick’s 1973 All-Ireland is their only senior title since 1940. Despite this, polling in the decades that have passed shows that passion, participation, and support for Gaelic games in the county have never dwindled. This will be their first appearance in the Croke Park final since 2007. 

The 2018 Hurling Season

At the GAA Special Congress in 2017, it was decided that rather than have provincial knockout tournaments, the Senior Hurling Championship would be played using round-robin groups of 5 teams in both Leinster and Munster, while the B Championship would move to a system more like the National League (the specifics of this are available upon request, though it’s worth mentioning that the cup for the new highest tier of the B system has been named after the aforementioned Galway man, Joe McDonagh). Most agreed from the very start of the summer that this system helped produce the most exciting hurling championship in recent memory, with the most extreme saying that it’s by far the best ever. 

It’s truly hard to say which side had the harder time of it getting to this Sunday. Limerick finished straight in the middle of the pack of the Munster Championship, with 2 wins, a draw, and a loss. They opened with a less than comfortable, in hurling score possibility, win over Tipperary 1-23 to 2-14, before moving on to draw with eventual division winners Cork. They would work through the back half of the Munster group 2-26 to 1-16 before taking it on the chin from Clare by 9 points. Thanks to the 3rd place finish in the province, they placed in the preliminary quarter-finals, starting with an absolute demolition of Carlow, scoring 5-22 to 13 points. In the quarter-final, they just barely got over the line against Kilkenny, taking a single point to victory for the first time in the competition since 1973. Only a slightly larger 4 points would separate them from Cork in the semi-final, in what was absolutely be a classic game for the ages. Watch it if you can. 

On the other hand, Galway are here by some combination of dominance and good fortune. No one could touch them through the round-robin phase of the Leinster Championship, trouncing Offaly, Kilkenny, Wexford, and Dublin in order. On July 1st, nothing separated Galway from Kilkenny at 18 points each in the Leinster final, forcing them to do it again the next week. On that day, 3 goals from Kilkenny weren’t enough to stifle an increased number of players joining in the scoring and they fell to the Tribesmen. As provincial winners, Galway didn’t appear again until the All-Ireland semi-final round, where they faced off against Clare, who had just knocked off Davy Fitz’s continual building side from Wexford. Galway were again made honest men of when they drew Clare at 1-30 apiece, forcing a replay. While the defending champions were able to adjust to Kilkenny and win that replay by 7 points, the repeat of the semi-final was only decided by a point.

While there have been plenty of storied meetings between these two counties, the easiest place we can look to find what we may need to know was during this year’s National League. Limerick took the day back in March, defeating Galway by a score of 2-18 to 1-19. The already oft-mentioned Joe Canning is second in total points scored in this championship with 1-69, while Limerick’s seventh placer Aaron Gillane sits with only 1-34. At the same time, both Gillane and Shane Dowling both make the top list of scorers in a single game at 0-13 and 0-15 respectively. 

Many GAA pundits see the maturity, consistency, and toughness of Limerick’s play over the full 70 minutes as possibly being an edge, if there is one favoring Limerick. In both semi-final appearances against Clare, Galway bounded out ahead early before letting Clare come back and make it worrisome for Micheál Donoghue’s squad until the final whistle. On one hand, the dominance of a scorer like Canning and his supporting cast including Cathal Mannion playing in a direct return to the Croke Park final gives them an experience that Limerick haven’t had for a moment in time, only last having lost to Kilkenny in 2007, the second of four consecutive titles for an utterly dominant side of The Cats. Irish bookmakers Paddy Power set the odds for this match at Galway 4/7 and Limerick 11/8, with 9/1 odds of a draw. No matter which captain raises the Liam MacCarthy Cup on Sunday, it will have been well earned. 


*If you want to watch it all go down with the NGAC, join us at 9 am on August 19 at East Nashville Beer Works. We’ll have Irish Breakfast Pizza on a pizza buffet ($10), plus beer and wine available.

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Just Games? Gaelic Sunday 100 Years On

Gaelic sunday

Written by Matt O’Donnell

Whether you come to the GAA or Gaelic games through Irish or American heritage (which we are lucky to have both of in our Nashville club), it’s easy to feel connected in self-determination, defiance, and revolution. That connection is easy to embody by remembering that when our oppressors came to keep us in line, they came for our leisure.

For Americans, they will think back to when the British government came to profit from our tea. For the Irish, memory may be best served by considering when they came for our games.

This year, August 4th will continue the glacial, yet powerful drive of Ireland’s “decade of centenaries” with commemorations of what we know as Gaelic Sunday. That day, which represents a vibrant balance of bold, systematic defiance and thankfully peaceful protest, is underrepresented as one of the tentpole acts of defiance against the rule of London in Ireland.

Scholarship on the GAA and the Irish Revolution has done much in recent years leading up to the centenary of these events to pull together the dual narratives of the organization as a driving revolutionary force and of its failure to adopt any official stance into one much more realistic view.

August 1918 was not the first time that we could have seen action taken against GAA fixtures. As early as 1914, during debates for the Day of Rest bill (regarding the legalities of work and activities on Sundays), an argument was made that Ireland deserved special dispensation for the principles that led Gaelic games to thrive and entertain. It was worried by many MP’s that holding the GAA in contempt of the bill for fixing matches on Sundays would cause great harm to Irish society, particularly to the working classes.

While it can never truly be said that all members of the British government were unsympathetic to the self-determination of Ireland, attitudes would change at its higher levels as the tide of revolution moved in. It’s important to remember that Gaelic games returned to prominence and organized in 1884 as part of a greater move to increase Gaelic identity in a time when a great number of the population could close their eyes and remember the Great Famine, its subsequent widespread emigration, and the holding down of any calls for Ireland being ruled locally from Dublin. It would only make sense that members of the GAA would be incredibly likely to join organizations such as the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the Irish Volunteers, and others who lit the tinder box of Ireland.

It was easier to see the ties out in the open during the aftermath of the Easter Rising in April 1916. As many members of the GAA participated, Dublin Castle began to keep more of an eye on meetings held in Dublin, which were dubbed the “Central Council of the GAA.” Matches were a routine part of the day for prisoners held in Frongoch, Wales. Tournaments were held in November 1916 and March 1917 to benefit the Irish National Aid and Volunteer Dependents’ Fund, which overwhelmingly supported all political prisoners interred for Nationalist activity. In fact, the GAA rapidly because the highest source of finance for the fund, both through these tournaments and from collections taken at matches.

As the situation in Ireland began to be too much of a surge for the British government to hold back, it was decided in July 1918 to prohibit the holding of any public meetings in Ireland except under official permit. The GAA fell under this order, having been dubbed a “dangerous organization.” Shortly after, soldiers caused confrontations over matches in Offaly, Down, Kildare, and Cork. And so, on July 20th a unanimous decision was taken by those present at a GAA meeting that “no permits would be asked for under any conditions; and provisional councils, county committees, leagues and clubs were to be notified accordingly; and also, that no member was to participate in any competition if any permit had already been obtained.” Furthermore, they arranged that a mass fixture of matches would be set for 3pm on Sunday, August 4th.

When August 4th came, practically every hurling and football club affiliated with the GAA took part. Thanks to the size of the participation, exact metrics are hard to pin down for certain. The general accepted number of matches of either sport that occurred is placed at 1,500 (though numbers as high as 1,800 have been commonly used as the high end, as well). The August 5th edition of the Freeman’s Journal reported that 54,000 players took part, while speculation of any number between 45,000 and 100,000 was claimed by the newspaper Sport. The number of spectators that came to support the matches was titanic, and no attempt at putting a number on the crowds is readily available.

Dublin alone would see 24 matches played (22 football, 2 hurling). Seventeen matches were played in Kildare, where the county board decreed that any club that did not participate would face certain suspension. Cork would fix around 40 matches, though heavy rains would force most of them to be abandoned. Matches were also played between nationalist prisoners in a Belfast jail. In one minor victory for the authorities, Camogie players were barred from entering Croke Park. Instead, they played a match in the middle of Jones’ Road to a large crowd.

At this level of widespread civil disobedience, the British authorities were utterly powerless. One match report notes that there were a large crowd of police at a match, but only as ticketed spectators.

Gaelic Sunday is a true triumph in many ways. We can see it as a victory for the GAA in multiple ways. Not only did this mark an overt look towards a true statement by a previously a political facing organization, but as a beautiful expression of the way the sport is organized given that it was left to each county board to fix its own matches. The level of participation by every county is a mindblowing statement of the dedication to Gaelic games, whether you were standing up because the GAA represented something greater to your national identity or whether it was the fruition of the (likely long forgotten) debate on the Day of Rest bill in 1914. August 4th, 1918 is arguably the “largest, most widespread and successful act of public defiance against British rule in Ireland in the period between 1916 and 1922”. As previously stated, the fact that an act this size can be looked back on with clear certainty as a day of peaceful protest should gain it a greater place in the Irish Revolution.

How glad we are that the centenary of Gaelic Sunday again falls on a weekend so that every club, no matter where, can remember this as we watch the late stages of All Ireland Championships in both football and hurling. Or perhaps even better, especially at home in the NGAC, take the field to play Gaelic games ourselves.




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The Stages of Falling in Love with Irish Sports

Hey, you. Yeah, you over there, hiding behind the tree. We see you watching. Don’t worry, everyone looks like that the first time they see hurling or Gaelic football.


Once you get past the initial shock and really start to pay attention to what’s going on, an even deeper amazement will set in. You probably won’t be able to believe your eyes.


But that’s okay. It’s normal, I promise. Someone will probably approach you at this point to ask if you want to give it a shot. You might run away. A lot of people do.


And that’s okay, too. But we know you’ll be back, watching from behind the trees.


You won’t be able to help yourself.


Because the bug has already bitten you. You’re going to learn Irish sports.


So, you come out to give it a shot, even though you say you’ve never really been good at sports.


And even though you have absolutely no idea what’s going on.


But after one training, you know you’ve found your people.


So you go home and start training like crazy.


And you bring out all your friends, too. Who can learn about Irish sports and not want to share?!


And then you score your first point. There’s no turning back now.


You’re in love, and you don’t care who knows it!


Does this sound like you? Sign up for our hurling league now, and come out to one of our training sessions. On August 29, we’ll hold our final park tour date at Centennial Park, so you should have plenty of other new players to join. If you can’t make that, we’ll have training again on August 31. Just watch the Facebook page to keep track of any future dates. We can’t wait to meet you!

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Where Have I Seen Hurling Before?

hurling in pop culture

When we tell people about hurling, we generally get the same three or four responses from those unfamiliar with the game.

  • Curling? Like with the broom and the ice?
  • Hurling? Like when you drink too much and throw up?
  • I think I’ve seen it before, but I don’t know where.

If you’re someone giving that third response, maybe we can help. Believe it or not, you probably have seen hurling before. Maybe you just didn’t know what you were looking at. We’ve tracked down some of the most popular hurling appearances in American pop culture to help you out.

President Obama Gives Hurling a Try

There is no greater American reference to hurling than our president wielding a hurl.

Making a Murderer Lawyer Loves Hurling

making a murderer hurling

Attorney Dean Strang was surprised to learn how many people were interested in that hurling statue. As popular as the sport is growing in America, he shouldn’t have been.

Jason Statham Gives Us the Perfect Description

Ahh, the phrase that launched a thousand T-shirts.

ER Started It All

It’s possible this reference is so old that you’re more familiar with hurling than you are with ER. If that’s the case, don’t even tell me about it.

CSI:NY Joins In

Well, they tried.


Did any of these introduce you to hurling? These are decidedly American references, so they don’t cover all the bases. You may have also seen the opening scene in The Wind That Shakes the Barley. You might have caught the reference in The Quiet Man. It’s possible you heard Shane McGowan and The Pogues sing about it in The Broad Majestic Shannon. These are all even more possible if you’re in touch with your Irish roots.

If you’re intrigued and want to know more than ER or CSI:NY could ever tell you, drop us a line. We’ll let you know the next time we’re playing so you can see it for yourself.













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NGAC to Host Intro to Hurling Session Aug 20

intro to hurling

After the wildly successful Intro to Gaelic Football session in July, the Nashville GAC decided to hold a similar training/workshop for anyone in Music City who may be interested in learning hurling and camogie. The intro session will take place on August 20 at 4 pm at Heartland Soccer Fields.

Anyone over the age of 18 is encouraged to join the fun. The club is a great way to get active, learn a new sport, and make new friends of all ages and fitness levels. Regardless of your athletic ability, you will get to play. Even the most experienced hurlers and camogs love to see new people come out to learn the sport, so you’ll have a warm reception, excellent instruction, and patient training.

As always, we’ll head over to Homegrown Taproom in Donelson to enjoy fellowship and #frostybevs. Make plans now to join us!