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17 October 2014

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The first combined shinty/hurling match 1897

Fad air ais ann an ceò na h-eachdraidh, thàinig laoch a dh'Alba a Eireann. Le tri ceumanan mòra, thàinig e na chruinn-leum bho fhaicheanan na h-Eireann Chun Eilein Sgiathanaich. Crochte ri gach sliasaid agus e na shiubhal bha ceithir fichead neach : ceithir fichead eile air gach gàirdean: naoinear eile gan toinnemh na fhalt. Thàinig e a dh'Alba ga fhòghlam air altruim còmhla ris a' Bhànrigh Sgàthach; a dh'ionnsachadh armachd agus gaol. Mar thiodhlag, thug e an gèam camanachd do mhuinntir na h-Alba.

Shinty in London


Way back in the mists of time, a hero came to Scotland from Ireland. With three massive steps, he came bounding over from the green swards of the Emerald Isle to the Isle of Skye. Hanging off his thighs and travelling with him were 80 other people: 80 more on each arm; nine more spinning in his hair. He came to Scotland to compete his education as a fosterling with the Warrior Queen Sgathach; to learn to battle and love. As a gift in return, he gave the game of shinty to Scotland.

The common heritage – the mythical part at any rate - of shinty and hurling can be traced back 2,000 years. The parting of the ways came much more recently when both were formally codified. The establishment of shinty's ruling body the Camanachd Association (1893) and the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland (1884) should be seen in the context of prevailing conditions in two quite separate and distinct environments.

In Ireland, the great mass of the people had been demoralised throughout the years of colonialism and particularly as a consequence of the Great Famine of the 19th century. The Famine had destroyed everything and hurling suffered a disastrous decline in the decades following Irish famines of the late 1840s.

In Scotland the impact of the Clearances was severe also, but remarkably, towards the end of the century, there was an element of cross-fertilisation between the two stick codes. A frenetic rash of activity culminated in the first ever shinty/hurling “international in Glasgow in 1897.

That this event ever took place was due in no small part top two key people, John Murdoch in Scotland and Michael Cusack in Ireland, both of whom were involved with newspapers, the Highlander in Scotland and The Celtic Times which was a unique venture in Irish sporting journalism, running for the whole of the year 1887.

In that year Cusack donated the Celtic Times Challenge Cup for an annual hurling versus shinty game which is understood to have taken place intermittently in Dublin at least up to 1919.

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