Organised sport was practically unheard of in nineteenth century Ireland. One might say that the whole country suffered from a stagnation of which both Michael Cusack and Archbishop Croke were acutely aware, and deplored. Archbishop Croke noted: ‘during my visitations there was nothing that grieved me so much as to see fine strapping big fellows lying beside the ditches on their faces and hands, or otherwise sneaking about with their hands in their pockets and humps on them’ .

There was a definite class barrier in the sports which did exist, especially in athletics, as it was believed that sport was only for ‘gentlemen’. In the eyes of those who organised sports at that time, this excluded the vast majority of the people of Ireland. Added to this was the fact that the rules of rural games and sports, which existed, varied from place to place. The size of the ball, the number on a team, the duration of a game and the proper supervision of games was so unpredictable that at times games went so far out of hand that they resembled a faction fight rather than a sporting event . The first printed rules for hurling were drawn up by Pat Larkin of Kiltormer in 1869 .

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