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100 years on from Gaelic Sunday: When the GAA made a defiant stand against the British Empire

This weekend clubs across Ireland are asked to honour the brave men and women who gathered in uprising against their oppressors.

THIS WEEKEND, THE GAA will mark the centenary of Gaelic Sunday.

100 years ago, on 4 August 1918, the GAA made a defiant stand against British Empire. It was one of the most significant days in the history of the Association and helped GAA become firmly stitched into the fabric of Irish life.

Source: officialgaa/YouTube

In 1918 the British were intent on suppressing Irish nationalism and they saw the popularity of Gaelic Games as a contributing factor to that.

On 9 July of that year, the Ulster semi-final between Cavan and Armagh at Cootehill was prevented from taking place.

“A permit was requested and 150 armed British soldiers were on the pitch when the GAA arrived,” former GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghaíl said at a recent talk at Croke Park’s GAA Museum.

“A permit was presented to Eoin O’Duffy, who was Secretary of the Ulster Council. He was told if he signed it the match could go ahead, but he refused to sign it and it led to a standoff.

“An emergency meeting of the Ulster Council endorsed what O’Duffy had done.”

The British authorities attempted a crackdown on GAA activities by insisting that no matches could take place without permission being granted.

GAA decided to defy the order and hold a match in every parish in Ireland at 3pm on Sunday 4 August. The protest was wildly successful and an estimated 54,000 players took part in games with over 100,000 watching games across the entire island.

It all took place without incident and will forever be remembered as the day the GAA stood peacefull against the British Empire.

This weekend, the centenary of Gaelic Sunday will be marked at the All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals. All clubs are also asked to mark this inaugural Lá na gClub in whatever way they feel is appropriate this weekend to honour the brave men and women who gathered in uprising against their oppressors.

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Kevin O'Brien

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