This book examines the development of sport in Victorian Ireland using the example of Westmeath as a case study. It explores the development of hunting, racing, commercial sports (golf, cycling and tennis), cricket, hurling and football, soccer, rugby. It also examines the importance of spectator sport and its variety of ancillary attractions.
It examines the importance of the club as a vehicle for facilitating sporting involvement, the financing of sport and recreation, the commercialisation of sports and the importance of codification. It also constructs a social profile of individuals active in the various sports. The role of sport in providing recreational opportunities for women is examined as is the importance of the military to sports promotion and the importance of sport to the military.
The book illustrates the importance of sport in creating a social life for participants at all levels of society. The crucial importance of post-1900 developments in cultural nationalism and their impact on recreational activities and in particular the re-emergence of the GAA are also investigated. The information is placed in a comparative context and links Westmeath to the Irish sporting world and places the developments in Westmeath within the sporting revolution of the wider Victorian world.
The book demolishes various established ideas of the Victorian sporting world in rural Ireland and enhances our understanding of what games people were playing and why they played them. The range of sports examined contributes to the production of an inclusive and comprehensive study that enhances our understanding of the social history of several groups in society.
Tom Hunt is a native of Clonea-Power, County Waterford and is a teacher in Mullingar Community College. He is author of Portlaw, County Waterford, 1825-1876: Portrait of an Industrial Village and Its Cotton Industry and was a former County footballer with Waterford.