This book consists of a selection of ballads written to commemorate sporting events in the world of the Gaelic Athletic Association. Collected from every county in Ireland, over a period of twenty years, it also has a number of ballads relating to games played before the foundation of the Association in 1884. The ballads are divided into the following categories:
- songs and poems concerning hurling from 1300 to 2003
- songs relating to football from 1700 to 2004
- tributes in song to the great players, both in hurling and football
- ballads commemorating camogie and handball games and players.
Biographical details of authors are given and explanatory notes provide a context to each ballad.
An introduction by Professor Dáithí Ó hÓgáin situates the games, the ballad tradition, and the hero figure, in both Irish mythology and history. There follows a memoir of his own hurling life by Jimmy Smyth, County Clare’s hero and author of this book. Smyth’s evocative account of his development as one of Ireland’s finest players is permeated with affection for his native parish, Ruan, and county, Clare. Both introduction and memoir seamlessly combine to connect games, players, and communities to the fabric of Ireland.
Most of the ballads were written by partisans of the winners and provide a narrative of the important events and great players, which the ballad-makers were moved to remember in song. Their ambition was to abolish time and establish memory. Heroes demand immortality and this extraordinary collection brings them to life as if it were only yesterday the games were played.