Treasures of Lár na Páirce

Munster senior hurling quarter-final, Cork v Tipperary at Thurles, May 21, 2017


In an effort to inform people on the exhibits to be seen on a visit to Lár na Páirce, the Museum of Gaelic Games in Thurles, we have started a weekly post on our website, called the Treasures of Lár na Pairce.

We started with Pat Madden’s hurley. Pat, as you know, was the Meelick man, who captained Galway in the first All-Ireland. Recently, a very impressive monument to a hurler was erected in Farrell’s Field, Birr, where the game was played. Pat’s hurley is anything but impressive, a roughly-hewn piece of timber that would probably be disallowed today on health and safety grounds!
Incidentally, Thurles Sarsfields are re-enacting the first All-Ireland at the Thurles Sports Fest on July 1. The two teams will be suitably outfitted in the playing gear of the period and there will be a vintage parade as well.

Another ‘treasure’ posted was the Tubberadora Cap.  Part of the playing gear of the famous Tubberadora team of the end of the 19thth century was a cap. The navy blue caps bore the embroidered letters T H C, Tubberadora Hurling Club, in gold. The caps were part of the playing gear presented to the Tubberadora team by Tipperary Grocers’ Assistants, residing in Dublin. The players wore the caps not solely for the team photograph but also wore them while the game was in progress. 

What was regarded as the first inter-county hurling game under G.A.A. rules, was played in the Phoenix Park, Dublin on Tuesday, February 9, 1886. The teams involved were North Tipperary and South Galway. Tipperary won by 1-0 to nil, the only score got by Charles McSorley of the Silvermines club. Michael Cusack organised the game and had a cup sponsored. It is regarded as the oldest G.A.A. trophy and it’s on permanent loan to Lár na Páirce, courtesy of the Silvermines Club, where the cup ended up and got its name.

The dress of the early camogie players in 1904 aped the Victorian dress fashions then in vogue. The players wore long skirts and a blouse and one of the rules stated that ‘Skirts to be worn not less than 6 inches from the ground.’ One of the curious rules at the time stated that ‘intentionally stopping the ball with the skirt was a foul’! When one looks at the dress in Lár na Páirce today one’s immediate reaction is: How was it possible not to stop the ball with a dress so long?

To date there have been eight posts of the treasures and it is intended to continue to post one a week or, as often as time constraints allow. Of course, you can see all the treasurers mentioned as well as many more by visiting the museum.



Ned Treston’s Photograph

One of Michael Cusack’s efforts to promote the game of hurling soon after the foundation of the G.A.A. was an exhibition match in the Phoenix Park, Dublin on February 16, 1886. The teams came from South Galway and North Tipperary and they travelled by train to Dublin on the previous day. They were greeted by Cusack and marched to the Clarence Hotel, where they stayed.

Following a meal, Cusack held a meeting with both sides in which the rules of the game were discussed and agreed. These were the days when most hurling rules were local and the new common set hadn’t yet been widely accepted. 

The next item to be discussed was the sliotar to be used. The Tipperary side introduced their sliotar, which was larger than that used in Galway, and it wasn’t well-received by the Galway players. The latter were then invited to show theirs and it was only then they realised they had left it at home in Gort! 

This was where the Galway captain stepped into the breach. Ned Treston was a saddler by trade and he decided to make the Galway ball. Before he retired for the night he made the cork core of the sliotar and waited until morning to find a harness maker to cover it with leather. 

As soon as businesses were open he did the rounds of the streets in the neighbourhood of the Clarence. There were quite a number of harness makers but five of them refused his request to cover the cork core with leather. The sixth man he came across said to him:  ‘Maybe you could do it yourself?’ which Ned did. It was the forerunner of the modern sliotar, based on the design of the cupped hand. 

The teams marched from the Clarence Hotel, four deep, with their hurleys on their shoulders to the Fifteen Acres in the Phoenix Park. According to Galway G.A.A. historian, Padraic Ó Laoi ‘The substitutes carried the goalposts.’ The field was marked with the players’ coats. There was no charge to see the game, which had been billed by Cusack as ‘The Championship of Ireland’.
It was nearly three o’clock before the teams lined up with Cusack as referee. Before the game started Dan Burke objected that the Tipperary team wasn’t properly dressed, as they wore neither shoes nor short pants. In the invitation to the teams Cusack had requested that the teams wear a distinctive dress. Cusack agreed with Burke that the Tipperary players were breaking the rules, yet he allowed them to play. 

The Galway men got a great reception when they stepped on to the field dressed with green caps, white jerseys. knickerbockers and shoes.

The Tipperary ball was used in the first half and the sides were level at halftime. The smaller Galway sliotar was used in the second half but it didn’t do Galway any favours. Ten minutes from the end Charlie McSorley of the Silvermines scored a goal for Tipperary and the only score of the game gave them victory.

Ned Treston’s ball, which became the prototype of all subsequent sliotars, no longer exists but his photograph holds pride of place in Lár na Páirce with the Silver Cup, which was presented to the Tipperary captain after the victory.