Kilmihil G.A.A. History
There is no clear evidence as to when the G.A.A. was founded in Kilmihil although the records indicate that Newmarket on Fergus and Kilmihil were the first two clubs to be registered with the County Board.
The National Museum in Dublin holds many precious relics of the past. Amongst them is part of a hair hurling ball, which was found by Thomas Haugh while cutting turf in his bog in Knockmore, Kilmihil, and which was presented to the museum in 1971. This would suggest that hurling must have been a pastime in Kilmihil parish as far back as the 17th century, otherwise how could the ball have found its way to the depth of five feet, where it was found in Knockmore bog.
We are aware that hurling was played in Kilmihil long before football, but in the course of our history, it died as the major sport of the parish, and although it has been revived at different times, it never took hold as football did.
In the 18th century there was a type of football played, which was known as "Cross-country Cad". It was played during the winter months. The object of the game was to take home the "Cad", and it was usually played by two neighbouring parishes. There were no restrictions on the number of players- it was a case of mustering up as many men as possible. The "Cad", which was made of horse-hide or ox-hide, stuffed with hay or straw, was thrown in on the parish boundary, and the game lasted all day until one of the teams brought it home to the "cad". Wrestling and holding were permitted, and it was generally a case of the survival of the fittest. The expression which is often referred to today to describe a badly beaten team; "they were kicked home" can trace its origin to this game.
There is clear evidence that hurling and football flourished in Ireland prior to the foundation of the G.A.A. in 1884.
Once the association was formed, new rules and regulations were compiled. From then on a football or hurling team consisted of 21 a side, and only goals counted. Later points were introduced, and there was what was called a ‘forfeit point’. This happened when a defender put a ball over his own end line. Wrestling was allowed, and was not prohibited until 1886. The ‘forfeit points’ were not abolished until 1888, and it was then that the ‘free kicks’ of 50 yards were introduced. In 1892, teams were reduced from 21 to 17, and 5 points were declared equal to 1 goal. In 1895, the goal was reduced to 3 points. In 1913. teams were reduced to the present number of 15 a side.
The Association was started in Clare in 1886, by P.J Hoctor, an active organiser, whose efforts met with considerable success. About 70 clubs were eventually founded, and Clare took rank among the best-organised counties in Ireland.
However, in 1887, at the Annual Convention in Thurles, a split occurred in the organisation, which did not help matters. Politics had crept in, but through the good offices of Dr.Croke, the crisis passed. The movement however, began to decline, the meetings became smaller, and the number of Clubs rapidly decreased. Then came the Parnell split, and after Parnell died, thousands left the Association. So that at the Convention of 1893, Clare was not represented, as by then the G.A.A was only nominally in existence in Clare. Only three counties were present at that Convention. The following year only six attended. The outlook was gloomy for the young G.A.A, but brighter days were ahead.
The Gaelic League was started in 1893, by Eoin MacNeill with double objective of preserving and restoring Irish as the spoken language, and of the creation and publication of Literature in modern Irish. Michael Cusack realised the importance of the language, and so we find that the G.A.A and the Gaelic League were now working hand in hand. Teachers, bankers and other educated people soon joined the ranks. Administration improved, and by the turn of the century, the Association was on firm ground.
We cannot say with certainty, when Kilmihil joined the organisation, but we do know that it had joined by 1888, as in the Saturday Record of the 18th February 1888, in the county championship fixture list, Kilmihil were nominated to play Miltown (the lord Clares) at Kilimer.
According to the Saturday Record of the 10th March 1888, "the Lord Clares were to have played Kilmihil on Sunday, and were on the appointed ‘battle ground’ at 2.30 o’clock, but were doomed to disappointment, as the latter were unable to attend, through business arrangements, in connection with the Annual Elections for Poor Law Guardians, and also the election of Coroner for West Clare. An adjournment was therefore decided on, until next Sunday, when the match will be played on the beautiful lawn at Freagh castle, which has been kindly given by Mr. Kenny."
The result of the match was not published, but we can assume that Kilmihil were defeated, as Miltown went on to play further matches.