Irish Rugby and the First World War

O'Callaghan, Liam (2016) Irish Rugby and the First World War. Sport in Society, 19 (1). pp. 95-109. ISSN 1743-0437

Liam O'Callaghan Irish Rugby_war.pdf

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This article explores the relationship between Irish rugby and the First World War. When the war initially broke out, the response of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) was much in keeping with that of their English counterpart: fixtures were cancelled and clubs were encouraged to urge enlistment among players and members. The IRFU set up a Volunteer Corps from which a ‘pals’ regiment fought at Gallipoli. Yet for all this ostensibly selfless support, the game of rugby in Ireland, collectively, had a complex relationship with the War. Though rugby players in significant numbers signed up, the motivations for enlistment were complex and contingent upon multiple factors, many of which may not have been rugby-related. Nevertheless, the rugby establishment in Ireland attempted to carve out a special claim for the game of rugby union and its contribution to war effort. This was done mainly through sympathetic newspaper editorials highlighting the sacrifice of individual clubs and players, and making favourable comparisons between the war record of rugby union and other less ‘loyal’ sports. It is argued, ultimately, that the sport may have made exaggerated claims for itself and that these, in turn, were inspired by a hostile political context that threatened the position of southern Irish protestants, the group from which the rugby establishment was largely drawn.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information and Comments: This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article whose final and definitive form, the Version of Record, has been published in Sport in Society, 15 May 2015, copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at:
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Science > School of Health Sciences
Depositing User: Users 23 not found.
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2016 10:09
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2016 01:15

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