This book examines the development of a nationalist agenda within Irish sport and searches for a definition of nationalism in this context. The question of what Irish nationalism is, and what forces shape it, has stretched the minds of generations of Irish historians and political scientists. For some the answer has been found within the realms of political history, while others have examined how the cultural impact of Irish literature and drama has shaped nationalism. These genres relied on elites, be they political or literary, within Irish society to understand the evolution of nationalist thinking and the operation of nationalism as an ideal. Sport offers a new way of looking at nationalism as it offers mass-consumed low culture as a vehicle. Since the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in 1884 through to the current popularity of soccer, sporting events have been played by tens of thousand and watched by hundreds of thousands of Irish people both at home and as part of the diaspora. This means that sport has a greater resonance and meaning for the experience of the multitude of the Irish in stark contrast to the operation of Dublin-centred politics and literature.
This book defines sporting nationalism through the experience of Gaelic games and soccer as examples of mass spectator sport. The choice of a mass spectator sport which a nation chooses to support will demonstrate the perceived place of that nation within the world and the trends prevalent within its society, thereby intrinsically defining the state of its nationalism.