Tarraing uirri, a Sheaghain. Tharraing erry a hyawn. Draw on it Jack.

Many an objection to a match result in GAA circles has stood or fallen on a misplaced fada.

In the surreal world of GAA administration a working knowledge of Irish is an invaluable weapon, particularly when it comes to disciplinary appeals.

But does Irish matter in a tangible way to GAA people?

Allowing for Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta and the growth of clubs such as Na Gaeil Óg in Dublin, the use of Irish on the field of play is an exceptional event.

It is nonetheless part of the GAA’s cultural heritage that the Irish language is a vital part of every match.

Team lists are filled out in Irish, so are the names of both teams.

Official GAA correspondence is also signed and addressed through Irish.

But the true place of the Irish language within the GAA reflects the position of the language in wider life: official windowdressing, popular disinterest, sporadic enthusiasm.

Everyone who has played Gaelic games is familiar with the pre-match ritual in football and hurling dressing rooms of an unseemly scramble of officials trying to get the team list down in Irish.

It’s a task not made much easier by players unsure of the spelling of their own name.

And for every Dara Ó Cinnéide or Seán Óg Ó hAilpín orating from the middle of the Hogan Stand in flowing, fluent Irish, there are many more captains who, in ugly embarassment, rattle out: ‘Tá an áthas orm an corn seo a glacadh ar son...’ and head straight to the pub for a feed of pints.

Through its Irish language promotion committees and officers, and, at one time, through funds raised for Irish language bodies by the Oireachtas tournament (to mention just two initiatives), the GAA has sought to give practical support to Irish language activities.

If the impact of these initiatives could be measured through the number of new speakers brought to the language, the record is not one of success.

There are those within the GAA whose love of Irish is as central to their lives as their love of hurling and football.

However, the sincerity of their pro-language initiatives is smothered by the disinterest in the wider membership which sees the GAA only as a sporting body.

And there is, of course, as Marcus de Búrca wrote in his history of the GAA, a limit to the contribution which a sports body can make to a cause such as the revival movement.

It is one thing to insist on Irish in official correspondence.

Insisting on Irish on the field of play would fundamentally redefine the number of teams who might reasonably be considered as championship contenders.

Yet this was exactly what the underage section of the Dublin County Board (Cumann na Scoil Condae Átha Cliath) tried in 1918. In attempting to move beyond the rhetoric of language revival, they passed a number of practical rules to improve the Irish of their players. At that point, the board were organising seven competitions in hurling and football for minors and schoolboys across the city — and all players had to speak Irish on the field.

Rule 29 of their official guide stated: “The League Committee shall have power to withold trophies from clubs whose members do not show a knowledge of the Irish language.”

More to the point the Offical Guide stated that it was “... compulsory that every club should assist in the spread of the Gaelic language, and the following list of phrases is compiled with the object of being the best practical use to players, and are the minimum laid down by bye-laws which teams must be acquainted with before being eligible for trophies.” For the committee, it was more significant to spread the use of Irish amongst those who had none, than to merely foster the talent of those already committed.

They stressed the importance of progress, not fluency.

To this end, they awarded a cup for the team that made the most progress in speaking Irish through the course of a year. In addition, to ensure no-one had an excuse to stand quietly by, they published some basic phrases of the game, complete with phonetic spelling.

Did it work? It is not clear what impact, if any, the handout of ‘useful phrases’ was to young Dublin footballers and hurlers, but the above is what they were provided with.

Mion-Chaint Báire: Phrases of the Game

Gach éinne chun a áit fhéin.

Goh-eenga cun a ought hain.

Every man to his own place.

Misneach a bhuacaillí!

Mish-nock a woo-kalee!

Play up, boys!

Bíoídh i gcóir.

Bee gee igore.

Get ready.

Bhfuil sibh go léir i gcóir?

Will shiv gu lair igore?

Are you all ready?

Támuid.

Thawmweed.

Yes.

Tarraing uirri, a Sheaghain.

Tharraing erry a hyawn.

Draw on it Jack.

Buaile ar a dthalaimh í.

Booil er a dholov ee.

Hit it on the ground.

Tóg suas ì.

Thogue soos ee.

Take it up.

Ná bì a tógaint i gcomhnuidhe.

Naw bee awe thogant igoonee.

Don’t be always lifting it.

Tóg ar an ruth ì.

Thogue er a ruoh ee.

Take it on the run.

Tóg t’aimsir.

Thogue thime-shir.

Take your time.

Beir uirre!

Berr erry!

Catch it!

Stop ì!

Sthup ee!

Stop it!

Fáinne óir ort, a bhuachaill.

Faw-in ore urth, a woo-a- kull.

Bravo, my lad.

Go maith, a Phádraig.

Gu moh, a Faw-rig.

Good man, Paddy.

Fáire futh, a Sheumaisìn.

Fwarrih footh, a Haimishin.

Shame, Jimmy.

Brostuig!

Brustig!

Hurry up!

T’aire! Tathair ort. Isteach ar an bhfear.

Tharreh! Thaw-har- urth. Sthoch ar a var.

Mind yourself! He’s on you. In on the man.

Tarslán na Fianna!

Thos slawn na Fee-anah.

Up Fianna.

Gabh as mo slige.

Gew ass mu hlee

Come out of my way.

Fág fúm é.

Faug foomh eh.

Leave it to me.

Amach.

A-moch.

Outside.

Cé dó an puck sun?

Kay gu an puck sun?

Whose puck is this?

Is do Clann Ui Néill é.

Iss dhu Clown-ee- naill eh.

Claun O’Neill’s.

Is linn ì shin.

Iss lingeh ee shin.

That’s ours (our ball).

Buail ì sin, a Liam.

Booil ee shin, a Leem.

Hit that, Bill.

Isteach léithe.

Sthock lay-hee.

In with it (score).

Ar thugadhar libh ì?

Err hugawer live ee?

Did ye score?

Thugamar.

Hugamer.

Yes.

Mì-rath a Chraobh Ruadh!

Mee-roch a Crave Rue!

Hard lines, Craobh Ruadh!

Cé bhuaig?

Kay vooig?

Who won?

Fianna go Bráth

Fianeh gu braw.

Hurrah for Fianna.


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