The first formally established cricket club in the country was Ballinasloe, established in 1825, and they would go on to dominate cricket in Galway and indeed Ireland for many years.
Ballinasloe were eventually joined by dozens of other formally established clubs as many villages and towns fielded teams each year, and with some areas fielding several sides.
Now, drawing on as wide a variety of contemporary sources, including newspapers and sporting journals, a new book seeks to address the imbalance of previous coverage of the cricket in Galway and explore the dynamics and personalities behind the birth, growth and decline of the sport in the county.
The book, All Out: The birth, growth and decline of cricket in County Galway 1825-1925, was written by historian Steve Dolan and was launched during Heritage Week. All proceeds from the sale, and indeed Steve’s other publications during Heritage Week went to various charities including St Vincent de Paul, Galway Hospice and Galway Autism Partnership. Co. Galway’s relationship with cricket was unique.
While in other counties there was a reliance on the military or educational institutions, Galway relied more heavily and for longer on the landed estates. That said, cricket also became an inclusive sport played by farmers and labourers as much as professionals or the gentry.
As the nineteenth century progressed, fledgling clubs were able to travel many miles thanks to the improving rail network – a key factor in cricket’s growth.
For example, Ballinasloe CC would travel all the way to Clonbur CC, some sixty miles. Clonbur is also notable for that fact that 41 games were played there in the year 1866. Coverage of cricket dwarfs the coverage of all other sports combined for decades from the middle of the nineteenth century. The sport dominated life in Ballinasloe, Tuam and Galway City in particular; however from Gort to Dunmore and from Clifden to Portumna clubs were established and thrived.
The decline, when it came in the twentieth century, was gradual and irreversible. While the establishment of the GAA is often referenced, this was only one of several significant factors.
In many ways, the demise of the landed estates brought the demise of the sport. Ultimately the changing Ireland would have no place for cricket.
For those interested in obtaining a copy of Steve’s book, a special limited edition of 100 copies only, they can e-mail email@example.com or text 086 4070851.
All proceeds will go to support RSS schemes who provided the backbone of various meals on wheels and food/medicine delivery initiatives during the Covid-19 emergency.