Detailed Information

Sport and Society in Ireland

Why do we play the sports we play in the way that we play them?There are aspects of Ireland’s sporting history that are uniquely Irish and defined by the peculiarities of life on a small island on the edge of Europe. The Irish sporting world is unique only in part, however; much of the history of Irish sport is a shared history with that of other societies. This course assesses the place of sport in Irish life, tracing the origins of its ball games and the significance of animals to the Irish sporting tradition, from the role of horses and dogs in racing and hunting, to the cocks, bulls, and bears that were involved in fighting and baiting. The course offers an original insight into the history of Ireland. It will trace the emergence and development of modern sporting organisations from the anarchic rituals of the peasantry and the leisure pursuits of the aristocracy. It depicts the local passions of Irish sport, the influence of the British Empire on Irish culture, the impact of partition, how sport shapes policy-making in modern states, and the ways in which sport has been colonized by the media and has colonized it in turn. Ultimately, it is a story located within Irish political, social, and cultural history, and within the global history of
 sport. Among the themes explored will be the manner in which the formal organisation of sport was involved in notions of education, religion, class and the prosecution of war. Ultimately, these themes will be drawn together to assess the relationship between sport and modern society.

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  1. How sport has changed from the Middle Ages to the New Millenium
  2. Cockfighting, bullbaiting and hunting
  3. Sport and war
  4. Sport and the law
  5. Sport and 1916
  6. Origins of the GAA
  7. Spread of Rugby and Soccer
  8. Women and Sport
  9. Impact of the border on Irish sport
  10. Ireland and the Olympics
  11. Sport for all
  12. Sport and social life
  1. Understand various ideas and manifestations of sport and to situate these within the evolution of modern society in Ireland.
  2. Assess the relationship between sport and money.
  3. Discuss the impact of the industrial revolution on sport and how people spent their leisure time.
  4. Assess the impact of Ireland’s position within the British Empire on the organisation of sport.
  5. Understand the complex relationship between continuity and change in the development of the modern sporting world.
  6. Explore the ways in which various interest groups seek to use sport and sporting organisations.

Paul Rouse is a lecturer in the School of History in UCD. He has written extensively on the history of Irish sport, culminating in Sport and Ireland: A History (2015), which was published by Oxford University Press. A former reporter with Prime Time Investigates on RTÉ, he is a regular contributor to radio and TV and writes a weeky column on sport for the Irish Examiner.

Main Course Book: Paul Rouse, Sport and Ireland: A History (2015),

Additional Reading in the National Library:

On the early history of hurling: Art Ó Maolfabhail, Camán: 2000 Years Of Irish Hurling (1973), Liam Ó Caithnia, Scéal na hiomána: ó thosach ama go dtí 1884 (1980).

On Urban Sport: See the Irish Historic Towns Atlas series.

On horseracing: Fergus D’Arcy, Horses, Lords and Racing Men (1991), John Welcome, Irish Horse-racing: An Illustrated History (1982), Tony Sweeney and Annie Sweeney, The Sweeney Guide to the Irish Turf 1501-2001 (2002).

On Cricket: David Underdown, Start of Play Cricket and Culture in Eighteenth-Century England (2000), Derek Birley, A Social History of English Cricket (1999); Gerald Siggins, Green days: Cricket in Ireland 1792-2005 (2005); Patrick Bracken, Cricket in County Tipperary (2005); WP Hone, Cricket in Ireland (1956); WH Samuels, Early cricket in Ireland (1956).

On the role of the public school: JA Mangan, Physical education and sport (1973); Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown’s Schooldays (many editions); J.A. Mangan, Athleticism in the Victorian and Edwardian Public School (2000).

On Soccer: Adrian Harvey, Football: The First Hundred Years: The Untold Story (2005), Tony Mason, Association football and English society (1980); James Walvin, The people’s game (2000); David Goldblatt, The ball is round: a global history of soccer (2008); David Toms, Soccer in Munster: A Social History 1877-1937 (2015); Neal Garnham, Association football and society in pre-partition Ireland (2005); Neal Garnham, The origins and development of football in Ireland (1999); Sean Ryan, The boys in green: the FAI international story (1997); Peter Byrne, Football Association of Ireland: 75 years (1996); Malcolm Brodie, The history of Irish soccer (1968); Malcolm Brodie, One hundred years of Irish football (1980).

On Rugby:

Liam O’Callaghan, Rugby in Munster: A Social and Cultural History (Cork, 2011), Neal Garnham, The origins and development of football in Ireland (1999); Edmund Van Esbeck, One hundred years of Irish rugby (1974); Sean Diffley, The men in Green; the history of Irish rugby (1973); Ralph O’Gorman, Rugby in Connacht (1996); Barry Coughlan, The Irish Lions 1896-1983 (1983);  Tony Collins, Rugby’s Great Split: Class, culture and the origins of rugby league football.

On hockey: TSC Dagg, Hockey in Ireland (1944).

On Golf: Dermot Gilleece and John Redmond, Irish Ladies Golf Union (1993); W.A. Menton, The Golfing Union of Ireland 1891-1991 (1992).

On The Gaelic Athletic Association: W. F. Mandle, The GAA and Irish nationalist politics (1987); Breandán Ó hÉithir, Over the bar (1991); Seamus Ó Riain, Maurice Davin, 1842-1927 (1998); JJ Barrett, In the name of the game (1997);  Tom McElligott, The story of handball (1984); Mike Cronin, Mark Duncan, Paul Rouse, The GAA: A People’s History (2009); Mike Cronin, William Murphy, Paul Rouse (eds.), The GAA: 1884-2009 (2009).

On Irish sporting elites: Colin Lewis, Hunting in Ireland (1975); William Carleton, Tales and sketches illustrating the character, usages, traditions and sports (1845); Willi