November 7, 2018

Hurling hasreturned to Kilkee and the surrounding areas. Under the watchful eyes ofMichael O’Neill and Paddy McDonnell training has been on going on the beachover the past few months with a view to competing, in the coming season, at u21and Junior level.
MichaelO’Neill, is a native of Kilkee and lived at the Marine Parade. He is now retired and  resides in Querrin. Paddy McDonnell has shownin the past his enthusiasm for the game of hurling and Paddy was never happywhen the playing of the  game was not apart of his native town.
There hasbeen a big turn-out for practice with players from all over the Corca Baiscinnarea, taking part. Everybody is enveloped with the enthusiasm shown by theafore mentioned mentors.
Social Media is also playing a big partand the hurling club, which is now under the umbrella of St. Senan’s, and itnow has a Facebook page.
 It has been well documented in various reportshow the game of hurling was played on this same beach as far back as the 18thCentury
The game became less warlike in the decades preceding theGreat famine, and while still retaining the physicality aspect, more emphasiswas placed on skill, endurance and speed. The following extract from acontemporary account gives a great insight into the early tactics of the game:
The forms of the game are these. The players sometimes tothe number fifty or
sixty, being chosen from each side, they are arrangedusually barefoot in two
opposing ranks, to await the tossing up of the ball, thegoals being previously
fixed at the extremities of the green. Then there are twopicked men chosen to
keep the goal on each side, the duty of these goalkeepersbeing to arrest the ball
in case of its near approach to that station, and return itback to that on the opposite
party. A person is chosen to throw up the ball which is doneas straight as possible.
Now comes the crack of mimic war, hurleys rattle againsthurleys. The ball is
struck and restruck often for several minutes, withoutadvancing much nearer to
either goal. When one is lucky to get a clear puck, it isnow followed by the entire
party at their utmost speed. The men grapple, wrestle andtoss each other with
amazing agility, neither victor nor vanquished, waiting totake breath. The best
runners watch each other, and keep almost shoulder toshoulder through the play,
and the best wrestlers keep as close to them as possible toslow down their
progress. The ball must not be taken from the ground by thehand, and the tact
and skill shown in taking it on the point of the hurley andrunning with it, half the
length of the field and when too closely pressed, strikingit towards the goal is a
matter of astonishment to those who are not acquainted withthe play.
There are plenty of news items in the journals of the daythat the game of hurling was
alive and well in the seaside town of Kilkee.
The Limerick Evening Post and ClareSentinel, 11 June 1830, had the following reference in a generalarticle on Kilkee andLahinch:
‘It is intended to get up a succession of rural amusements forwhich the strands
of these delightful retreats are well calculated such ashorse-racing, hurling etc.’ We
receive further evidence that hurling thrived locally whenwe read of a court case in
1839 involving a Mr John Browne, Esq. J.P. versus Father MichaelComyns P.P.,
Kilferagh/Killard from the pages of The Limerick Reporter, 13 September 1839. It
appears that a somewhat excitable Limerick Magistrate namedJohn Browne observed a mob of between 50 to 70 people approaching him from thedirection of the hurling ground (then situated in a field at the back of modernday O’Connell Street,near the Kilrush Cross). The people were in exuberant mood after a hurlingmatch and the Magistrate mistook their behaviour for a riot, duly writing to Dublin Castleseeking a Magisterial Investigation. Father Comyns was with the crowd havingcalled a halt to
the game, by the simple expedient of taking up the ball, aswas his wont.
Local politics came to bear on the evening in question, asFather Comyns was physically attacked by a Tom O’Donnell later on to become DrThomas Blood O’Donnell, brother of Frank O’Donnell, a Protestant candidate whohad recently been defeated in a local election by a Catholic candidate. Theinference behind this said attack was that Father Comyns had exerted undueinfluence on the voters.
The people stood between the Priest and his attacker whenBrown happened upon the scene. Comynswon the Court case, which was dismissedbecause the Magistrate had jumped to the wrong conclusion as to the boisteroushurlers.
The hearing took four days and there were several witnesses,one of whom was a Father  Reid, whodescribed in detail, the usual routine adopted by the P.P. on the day of ahurling match.
The people are in the habit of assembling on Sunday evenings,for the purpose
of hurling and dancing. They usually assemble about halfpast two p.m. and
disperse at seven. They laterally hurled on Sunday eveningconvenient to the
chapel. Father Comyns their Parish Priest who is verypopular with them, is in
the habit of walking out, when they disperse and of going upto the hurling
ground and if he thinks the proper time has arrived, hegenerally takes up the
ball. They always disperse quietly when he desires them.
The “goaling match” as it was then called, was played at theback of Father Comyns’
house, probably where the Kilkee National School was later built. The Limerick
Chronicle, 25August 1841 relates another hurling episode in Kilkee:
There was a great match of goal after divine service onSunday at The Strand,
Kilkee between the “Bachelors” and the “Benedicts” twenty oneach side,
distinguished by red and green caps. The contest wasdistinguished by the usual
vigor, agility and good humour of the natives, and after awell fought battle, the
Bachelors had the mortification of losing the ball, to thegreat amusement of the
many visitors who enjoyed the animating spectacle.
The Limerick Chronicle features a published song by Paddy O’Neill which contained a
verse on to hurling:
“On Sabbath day, you”re off to pray, theres nothing likedevotion.
Or from the cliffs, observe the skiffs, a rowlin in theocean,
in the evenin’ chaps mid coloured caps, get up a hurlin’match sir
and I’m not lyin’ - tis P.O.B. M regulates each batch sir.”
Paddy O’Neill was a native of Lisdeen, an Irish poet whopublished humorous songs in
the Limerick papers. He wasalso a piper of note and is mentioned in W.R. Le Fanu’s
Seventy years of Irish Life. We are led to believe he died in 1849, a possible faminevictim.
It is plain to see that hurling was played and enjoyed everybit as much in the west of
the county as it was in the capital or indeed further east.People didn’t have much money and the political situation was all wrong, butpeople had their health and were very adept at creating enjoyment from verylittle. All this was to change however when famine struck the country from1845-51 and wreaked devastation on the Irish population.

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