The GAA Collection
The National Film Institute (NFI), now called the Irish Film Institute, was officially incorporated on June 2, 1945 under the patronage of the influential and controversial Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid. One of McQuaid’s goals was to combat what Pope Pius XI described as ‘the school of corruption’ in the motion picture industry at the time, and he set about transforming production ‘into an effectual instrument for the education and the elevation of mankind.’ From the 1940s and under this direction, the NFI distributed a library of films to institutions nationwide and began producing safety, health and educational films. In addition to these educational titles, the Institute also made entertainment films, the best known of which was a series of GAA football and hurling All-Ireland final highlights from 1948 to 1979.
Demand for the series was spurred by the superbly popular 1947 All-Ireland Football Final, which was held in New York and filmed by Winik Films. Paddy O’Keefe (then General Secretary of the GAA and member of NFI’s Board of Directors) suggested the Institute begin to film and distribute the All-Ireland finals. With the GAA’s cooperation, several of Ireland’s most legendary cameramen including Bob Monks, Brendan Stafford, Vincent Corcoran and George Fleischman partnered with Micheál O’Hehir’s lively commentary to communicate the excitement, sense of occasion and thrilling highlights. The films were distributed by Abbey Films and General Film Distributors and screened to large audiences across the country. However, as the 1960s progressed and RTÉ’s coverage of the matches grew, demand for these highlights waned.
With this collection we witness an insight into football and hurling of the time as well as Irish society. We are brought on a journey through the evolution of Irish sport and film development. As the teams and their tactics mature, so too do camera skills and equipment. The eventual changeover to colour film in 1959 was a huge achievement for the NFI as RTÉ would not begin colour broadcasting until 1969. The films in this collection may not match today’s professional, multi-angle, live television coverage but they depict a remarkable ambition to capture one of the fastest field sports on 16mm film, the development of Irish camera techniques and story-telling, the rich heritage of these games and the thrill of the match.
The GAA Collection covers All-Ireland football highlights from 1947 to 1959 and hurling highlights from 1948 to 1968. This material is available free-to-view worldwide for a limited time on the IFI Player and IFI Player suite of apps. Boxsets of the collection are available to purchase – please contact the IFI Film Shop for more details.
Kasandra O’Connell, Head of the IFI Irish Film Archive.
With kind thanks to Dr. Seán Crosson for extensive match notes and background information for All-Ireland football 1947-1959 and All-Ireland hurling 1948-1959, and to Annmarie Gray for match notes for All-Ireland hurling 1960-1968.