Hollywood Hurling! NUI Galway Academic to Launch New Book on Examining Gaelic Games on Film

May 07 2019 Posted: 10:20 IST

A major new study, Gaelic Games on Film: From silent films to Hollywood hurling, horror and the emergence of Irish cinema, examining the depiction of Gaelic games on film has been published by NUI Galway Huston School of Film & Digital Media academic Dr Seán Crosson. The new book, published by Cork University Press, will be officially launched by Dr Paul Rouse, School of History, UCD and author of Sport and Ireland: A History, on Wednesday, 15 May at 6pm in Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar, Dublin.

While Gaelic games are among the most popular sports played and followed in Ireland, few perhaps will be aware of the long tradition of depicting these games in the cinema, a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of the cinema. As early as 1901 the Irish Animated Photo Company filmed a Cullen’s Challenge Cup hurling game between ‘Rovers’ and ‘Grocers’ played at Jones’ Road – now Croke Park – on Sunday, 8 December that year, a film that was screened as part of a ‘Grand Gaelic Night’ at the Rotunda on Parnell Street the following Wednesday. In subsequent years, Gaelic games have repeatedly provided filmmakers with a resonant motif to represent perceived aspects of Irish identity, perceived as these representations have been neither straightforward nor unproblematic.

Dr Crosson said: “Perhaps the most extraordinary and fascinating aspect of this story is the enduring relationship between hurling and Hollywood. Most of the major Hollywood studios, including MGM, Paramount, and Warner Bros, have produced films focused on this most distinctive of Irish sports. In 1936, MGM released a short, simply titled Hurling as part of their highly-popular ‘Pete Smith Specialities series’. This extraordinary depiction described hurling as Ireland’s ‘game of assault and battery’ and drew heavily on established and problematic stereotypes concerning Ireland and Irish people at the time. The peak for Hollywood short films on hurling came in 1955 when the ‘Paramount Topper’, Three Kisses, was nominated for an Oscar.”

While these international depictions of Gaelic games provide revealing insights into the depiction of Ireland and Irish culture often from afar, the emergence of an indigenous film culture is inextricably linked to the representation of Gaelic games. The earliest surviving depictions we have of Gaelic games – a 1914 actuality of the All-Ireland football final replay of that year between Kerry and Wexford, and a sequence in the 1918 feature film Knocknagow – emerged from the efforts of pioneering companies and individuals in the story of Irish cinema, including the Irish Animated Picture Company (the first indigenous film producer and distributor) and the Film Company of Ireland, Ireland’s first producer of feature films. In the aftermath of World War II, an Irish Film culture began to coalesce around the efforts of the National Film Institute of Ireland and subsequently Gael Linn. For both organisations, film depictions of Gaelic games were key concerns and featured among their most popular productions, including Gael Linn’s coaching films Peil (1962) and Christy Ring (1964).

Seán Crosson is Co-Director of the MA Sports Journalism and Communication and Director of Graduate Research and Teaching at the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at NUI Galway. He is also leader of the Sport & Exercise Research Group, based in the Moore Institute in NUI Galway, and has published widely on film, focusing in particular in recent years on the representation of sport in film. His previous publications include the award-winning Sport and Film, (as co-editor) Sport, Representation and Evolving Identities in Europe, and a special issue of Media History journal on ‘Sport and the Media in Ireland’.

The launch will be followed by screenings at 7pm of rarely seen films featuring Gaelic games, including Rooney (1958).


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