Wednesday, November 10, 2010

'GAA Gold' DVD Launched at Croke Park

Today will surely go down as one of the most interesting in my time at the IFI Irish Film Archive, as I got to hold a camán on the pitch at Croke Park alongside Críostóir Ó Cuana, President of the GAA, and hurling legends such as Seán Óg Ó Ceallacháin, Sean Cronin, Norman Allen and Tony Wall. The occasion was the launch of the latest IFI DVD release GAA Gold which brings together 11 All-Ireland hurling finals (1948-1959) which had been filmed by the National Film Institute and had been safely held in the Archive's vaults for the last few decades but had not been widely shared with the public until now.

This DVD covers the period 1948 to 1959 and brings us back to a golden age in hurling’s history. A time of flat caps, before shin guards and helmets, before cruciate ligaments had been invented, and when you actually had a chance of seeing Dublin in a hurling final! The DVD contains rare footage of some of the greatest players ever to lift the camán, legends such as John Keane, Tony Reddin, Jimmy Doyle, the Rackard brothers, Eddie Keher and of course Christy Ring, to name but a few. Cork and Tipperary’s three-in-a-row wins are featured, as is the legendary Kilkenny win of 1957, and Waterford’s only All-Ireland hurling victories, which are the opening and closing matches on the DVD.

But the DVD is more than just a record of great hurling achievements; it also provides us with a snap shot of an Ireland long gone. The camera team skilfully recorded the excitement in the capital on match day as they follow the crowds from Heuston Station, down O’Connell Street, and up to Jones’s road. For me these crowd scenes are almost as compelling as the match footage. Other highlights are the small details: Mattie Fouhy and Willie John Daley playing bootless, a canine spectator invading the pitch and being escorted to the sideline, crowds hanging from the railings and lining the wall behind the score board in the days before health and safety spoiled the fun, linesman smoking as they wave their flags, and footage of the opening of the new Hogan Stand in 1959.

However, I don’t think there will be much debate about the fact that it is Micheal O’Hehir’s rousing commentary that steals the show. In the early days much of the action was missed by a single cameraman struggling to keep up with the fast play, but O’Hehir’s enthusiastic commentary more than fills the gaps, creates a sense of occasion, and succeeds in building an air of tension for the audience who already would, of course, have known the score.

The 11 matches contained on this DVD are the beginning of what we hope will be a series of All-Ireland DVDs from the Archive collection. We aim to follow up with the football finals of the same period. The fact that this footage survives is due to the on going work of the IFI Irish Film Archive. The DVD serves as reminder that our moving image heritage is invaluable and needs to be given the same protection as the cultural collections held in our museums, libraries and paper archives. The proceeds of the sale of this DVD will go towards the cost of preserving our national moving image collection for the benefit of current and future generations.

Kasandra O'Connell
Head of Irish Film Archive


  1. Excellent DVD, Lovely to see old footage of our National Game like this. Thank you IFI.

  2. Any Chance you could tell me how i could get a copy of this DVD, The man in the second photo down is my Grandfather, Paddy Barry. My Dad would love to see a match his old man played. IT would be amazing to have it.

  3. When was the Kilkenny hurling picture taken?