Founding of the GAA

The Founding of the Gaelic Athletic Association

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The GAA was founded on November 1 in 1884.

The man credited with much of the original impetus for founding the GAA was a Clareman named Michael Cusack.  Born in 1847, Cusack pursued a career as a teacher at Blackrock College, in Dublin.  In 1877, set up his own cramming school, the Civil Service Academy, to prepare students for examinations into the British Civil Service.  “Cusack’s Academy,” as it was known, and its pupils, did extremely well, resulting in soaring attendance.  Pupils at the Academy were encouraged to get involved in all forms of physical exercise. Cusack was troubled by falling standards in specifically Irish games.

Cussack met with several other enthusiasts on Saturday, November 1, 1884, in the Hayes’ Hotel, Thurles, County Tipperary.

The foundation day was chosen for its mythological significance: according to legend, Samhain (November 1) was the day when the Fianna’s power died.  Cusack meant this choice of day to symbolize the rebirth of the Irish heroes, and the Gaelic Athletic Association for the Cultivation and Preservation of National Pastimes was established, its name subsequently shortened to Gaelic Athletic Association.

Within a few weeks of the organization’s foundation, Thomas Croke, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel, gave it his approval and became its first patron.  Its other patrons included both Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell.  Cusack was a difficult man to get along with, but in the first few months of the organization he proved to be an excellent organizer.  He did not, however continue to run the association for long after its foundation.  Within eighteen months he was obliged to resign as a result of his failure to submit accounts for auditing.  Croke introduced a new rule which forbade members of the GAA from playing “foreign and fantastic games”[citation needed] such as tennis, cricket, polo, and croquet.

Over the next few years the GAA evolved even more.  In 1886, county committees were established.  These became the units of representation for the new All-Ireland championship.  Later, new rules for Gaelic football and hurling were drawn up by the Association and were published in the United Irishman newspaper.  The year 1887 saw the first All-Ireland Championships being held in both codes of sport.  Thirteen (13) GAA counties of the 32 counties of Ireland entered, although only five competed in hurling and eight in football.