The growth and development of sport in Co. Tipperary, 1840 to 1880, was promoted and supported by the landed elite and military officer classes. In the instances of cricket, rugby union and association football, the military were the principle agency through which these sports were spread and made known among the people in the county. Sporting trends which were fashionable in Great Britain also became evident in Ireland, and by extension, Tipperary.
The degree to which horse racing and hunting to hounds became an integral aspect of the social lives of the elite class is reflected countywide. The associational culture among this class became evident in summer time recreations most notably archery, lawn tennis and cricket. Cricket was the one sport which was quickly diffused throughout the sporting community of Tipperary as it became, in the 1870s, the most prolific team sport in the county and played by all classes.
Sport took place without borders and to this end patronage was a key element of this support. There were some notable supporters who gave of their time and money to ensure that the best resources were in place to bring this about.
This book creates an important link between the pre-famine and post-famine era, in a way which has not been investigated previously, either nationally or locally. Using Tipperary as a county unit, this new approach to the growth of sport, in the pre-GAA era, also challenges the notion that hurling was a game of the past. The evidence from the research suggest otherwise. Sport was popular among all the classes, though there was a great emphasis on recreational sport among families in country houses and estates. Recreations practiced, reflected the games culture of the time in England. The book is very topical as it explores the rise and fall of various games countywide, indicating the fluid nature of sport and the ephemeral nature of play.
It also demonstrates that there was a great awareness among the participants of the rules and laws of various activities. Some activities were constant throughout the era under review, notably horse racing and hunting to hounds. Indeed, information compiled from the contemporary press suggests that hunting to hounds was at its height in the county, prior to the onset of the Land Wars. All aspects of sport are covered from lawn games; water sports; field sports and equine events. The role of female activity in sport is a crucial part of the study. Overall, this book is a thorough assessment of sport in Tipperary, between 1840 and 1880, on a scale not previously undertaken for any other county in Ireland.
Pat Bracken is a Staff Officer at Tipperary County Council Library Service
Cover Image: ‘The Marquis of Waterford and Members of the Tipperary Hunt (The Noble Tips): Tipperary Boys’ By Francis Calcraft Turner, 1842, Paul Mellon Collection, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.