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Rugby in Munster

A Social and Cultural History

Liam O'Callaghan

Publication Year: 2011

This study is the first book-length academic treatment of rugby football in Ireland. Covering the period from the game’s origins in Ireland in the 1870s through to the onset of professional rugby in the twenty-first century, this book seeks to examine Munster rugby within the context of broader social, cultural and political trends in Irish society. As well as providing a thorough chronological survey of the game’s development, key themes such as violence, masculinity, class and politics are subject to more detailed treatment.

Published by: Cork University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v

List of Tables and Figures

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pp. vi

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pp. vii-viii

Over the years of research and writing that culminated in this book, I have accumulated considerable debts of gratitude to many individuals and institutions. I would particularly like to thank the supervisory team who oversaw the PhD...

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pp. 1-12

When the Munster rugby team were crowned European champions for the second time in May 2008, the victory was arguably the highpoint in a period of unprecedented change in the nature of the game in the province. Neatly dovetailing the most impressive era of economic growth in the history of independent...

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CHAPTER 1: Origins

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pp. 13-28

The emergence of specific sets of rules governing different forms of football in the late nineteenth century and their social delineation was a gradual process. In Irish press reports, for instance, the generic term ‘football’ appeared above accounts of both rugby and soccer until well into the 1880s. R.M. Peter, in his...

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CHAPTER 2: Overview since 1880

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pp. 29-64

In the three and a half decades from the formation of the Munster Branch of the IRFU in 1879 to the outbreak of the First World War, rugby in the southern-most province of Ireland developed a durable club and competitive structure. By 1914, rugby...

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CHAPTER 3: Class and Community

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pp. 65-110

‘Is not the artisan who plays football as good a sportsman as the gentle man? One stands to lose much, the other little.’1 Such was the question posed by T. Desmond, the honorary secretary of Cork Constitution RFC, in the aftermath of controversial comments made by H.C. Sheppard, the...

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CHAPTER 4: Violence and Masculinity

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pp. 111-140

In the build-up to the European Rugby Cup final in 2002, the legendary actor and one-time Young Munster and Munster schools second-row forward Richard Harris recalled his rugby-playing days in typically theatrical terms:

Limerick rugby was – is – a parish thing. The junior teams were based around the parishes and local pride was always at stake. It was intense and bloody hard but...

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CHAPTER 5: Politics and Culture

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pp. 141-177

In March 1966, the Munster Branch of the IRFU granted permission to Westport RFC to field Munster players in a rugby match commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.1 An innocuous decision, one could argue, given the nationwide festivities held for the same reason that...

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CHAPTER 6: Finance and Infrastructure

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pp. 178-209

This chapter will examine the economic history of rugby football in Munster. Though the ideological tenets of amateurism sought to undermine any potential financial function in sport, formal clubs and governing bodies could not be run free of expense and thus had no choice but to cultivate some means of raising revenue in order to survive. In Ireland...

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CHAPTER 7: Professionalism

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pp. 210-227

The centrality of amateurism to the overall ethos of rugby union ensured that when the game ‘went open’ in 1995, it became the last major international sport to embrace professionalism. This development, though immediately attributable to the irresistible commercial power of satellite broadcasting, was ultimately...

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pp. 228-239

History and the modern ‘Munster Rugby’ phenomenon
‘Munster is a state of mind or, if you like, a state of heart. And rugby is the great unifying force. This was true a century ago and hasn’t changed’1 Such were the sentiments...

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APPENDIX: A note on sources

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pp. 241-244

It is only in recent years that Irish historians have slowly come to recognise the value of sport as a subject of enquiry. This has been visible in the inclusion of sport-related material in general works of synthesis. R.V. Comerford included an entire chapter on sport in his Inventing the Nation,1 while Richard...

Notes and References

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pp. 245-275


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pp. 277-288


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pp. 289-300

E-ISBN-13: 9781908634191
E-ISBN-10: 1908634197
Print-ISBN-13: 9781859184806
Print-ISBN-10: 1859184804

Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1