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THE REVIVAL OF IRISH ATHLETICS

Leinster Leader 10/1/1885
 
The Revival of Irish Athletics
 
 The movement for the restoration of our fast disappearing national games is one deserving the active support of everyone calling himself an Irishman, or who wishes to revive and keep alive the past glory of Irish muscle and nerve. All over the world, in the old and new hemispheres, the name of an Irishman is one consonant with dexterity and strength. The young, fiery, hot-blooded Celt, trained on the hurling field to deeds of daring, in Tipperary, or in the wrestling-ring of Kildare, showed the influence of early training in their career, when called upon to show the stuff they were made of on another arena, in the hissing cauldron of shot and shell, amid death and danger, on the blood stained fields of Fredericksburgh and Antietam, where the deadly death-dealing rifle took the place of the hurling-club, and where the ringing Irish cheers which greeted the flushed and excited winners of the village green were changed into piercing shrieks and agonized cries of the wounded soldiers on the battlefield. The fame of the Irish athlete is known the whole world over, and at the present moment in every branch of athletics, from the champion oarsman down to the professor of the “manly art of self defence” Irishmen hold a conspicuous place.
About six years ago, an event occurred which shows how much latient [sic] qualities lie concealed beneath many an [sic] humble coat. An able young fellow from the “short grass” emigrated to America and settled down in California. At this time all the States were filled with the fame, and astonished by the prowess of a Frenchman name Leroy, for his deeds in the wrestling arena. He had met and vanquished the picked men of all nationalities in America. The young Irishman before he left home had the name of being rather smart in the ring. Yielding to the solicitations of some friends who were aware of his abilities, he consented to measure swords with the indomitable Gaul. In the presence of an immense concourse of spectators he actually “swept the floor with him” tossing the Frenchman three times successfully, thus gaining the belt and a large sum of money to boot.
 Accursed English preponderance asserts itself even in our sports. We cannot get up a foot-race, or in fact any species of manly competion [sic] unless we go to London for rules to guide us. Everything must be done according to their standard. How in the world can it be expected that a hundred yards race is of any earthly use in developing muscle? I consider it has the contrary effect, as the severe training and fasting necessary to go through in order to compete in such a farce of a race must have an injurious effect on the constitution, and yet under the enlightened Saxon rules such a race is all the “go”. When the managers of the English meetings saw all the long-jump, weight throwing, and high-jump prizes carried off by Irishmen, they took a very decisive step to put a stop to such a state of affairs: they quietly eliminated such contests from their programmes and thus the Celts might stay at home. It remains with us to show our English neighbours and their pliant tools here in Ireland that we can and will manage our own athletics in Ireland just as well as we expect to manage our political affairs in College Green without their unwelcome aid. One very good sign of the furore this movement is apt to create, and the interest and competion [sic] it will inspire, is the absolute silence with which it is regarded by the Press of the West British faction in Ireland. The Irish Sportsman is dumb on the subject, although it would go into ecstacies [sic] of delight over the presence of a few English crack runners who would come over to Ireland and condescend to win all the la-di-da contests of Landsdowne Road. About a year ago the Field had a very pathetic article on the “Decline of Irish Athletics”. It raised a crow of triumph, of malice and spleen, as bitter and brutal as did its big brother the Times, when it gleefully said that “The Celts are gone, gone with a vengeance”. But thank God if the English “Irish Athletics” are gone, the “Gaelic Athletic Association" is not – Correspondent.
 

A Leinster Leader correspondent in 1885 reflects on the prowess of Irish athletes abroad and the  movement for the restoration of national games in Ireland (spelling and grammar as in original article).


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