What abolition of Rule 21 meant to cricket

A few years back in Belfast taxi, myself and the driver got talking about sport. He’d returned to Belfast seven years earlier after years living in southern England, where he’d picked up a passion for playing cricket. I asked him whether he’d continued playing when he returned. “No” he said, “I live in a nationalist area. I wouldn’t dream of mentioning my love of the game to a soul, never mind playing it”. This piece looks at how the now abolished rule 21 affected people keen on playing games outside the Gaelic code. Thanks to reader 6countyprod for the heads up.

  • David

    As a youngster I used to play both cricket and GAA and I never felt burdened by any prejudice from my Gealic collegues. I did however feel a lot of animosity from my cricket playing collegues so I feel that this discrimination and prejudice cuts both ways

  • Baluba

    After living in Australia for 2 years I despise cricket with the most burning of burning passions. It’s not a sport. It’s nonsense. I say this not out of bigotry (because it’s an English sport/Protestant sport blah, blah, blah), but because it’s on every bloody channel in the place for months and is as exciting as watching paint dry (whilst getting a sunburn).

    Sorry cricket lovers! Your sport sucks!

  • barney

    Rick’s inability to distinguish between religious and political beliefs explains the confused ramblings of his article which adds nothing to the reader’s knowledge of Irish history or sport.
    The real reason for cricket’s weakness in Ireland and most of Britain is perfectly obvious to anyone who has seen it – the game is stunningly boring.
    Another piece of slipshod revisionism.

  • The Beach Tree

    As I stated in an earlier unrelated thread, I’ve played both Gaelic Football and Cricket at club level (and soccer, table tennis and volleyball for that matter). Not only was my open and noisy love of cricket tolerated in my neighbourhood, I as a youngster got several neighbours both young and old playing it with me.

    My local GAA coach was somewhat worried it would distract from duties at left full back – but to be honest he wasn’t at all fussed on even hurlers playing for him – in other words, not bigotry, but pure myopic over-competitiveness.

    My cricket club were originally a little reticent (more out of fear or apprehension through ignorance than through any person animosity or genuine bigotry) but I was soon very welcome as a decent No. 3. My very poor right arm finger spin was less welcome!

    The article is well raised by 6countyprod, but I fear somwhat inaccurate in parts. Notably in attempting to link GAA to the Catholic church. No doubt there was huge overlap given the obvious demographics of the south, but I can’t honestly say that the church had much influence beyond providing perhaps a higher than average number of volunteer coaches, as did the teaching profession for that matter.

    The GAA is (rabidly) pro irish and (rabidly) pro gaelic, quite obviously so. Indeed, the promotion of gaelic-irish culture is its entire raison d’etre. And I understand that there are those who find gaelic-irish culture distasteful. I don’t accept however the link with the Church, and for every example of church influence, there is another of non church influence – for every archbishop croke, a sam maguire you might say.

    I like curries, vindaloos, naan bread, watching kibaddi, and certain bollywood films. All these are indian culture. In the case of the sport and bollywood, very openly and deliberately so. I’m not indian, but I still enjoy their culture for what it is. And I don’t have to accept their political stance on Kashmir to do so.

    I fear the Article is a little too focused on ‘themuns’ again. A little too worked up about the evil of an association of people doing what they enjoy, on their own property, without any meaningful public disorder, to which any paying customer can gain entry. I’m glad the rule on foreign sports is gone – I understand the paranoia that drove it, rather than bigotry, but I’m very glad its gone. I’m glad that Rule 21 is gone – not because it was anti-protestant (I don’t remember Brian McCargo getting dispensation as a catholic ruc man!) but because it was a stick to beat the general playing membership of the association with, a stick sometimes employed by genuinely concerned people who wanted reconciliation, but unfortunately much more often employed by people who despised the very existance of the organisation, rule 21 or no, simply because it was identifiably irish, gaelic and unapologetic. I’m glad to take that stick from them.

    If you are interested in GAA but are worried about the irish dimension, try shinty, a good scottish, british, presbyterian, gaelic sport instead! The choices are there, you know.

    But if you simply dislike the existance of the GAA and gaelic sport, perhaps its your on heart you need to look into.

  • slug9987

    It doesn’t require you to be too fit. Its quite a social game in the sense that you can take your hand to it. Even to middle age.

    Nice and relaxing, and can be exciting when you get into it.

  • reality check

    The GAA ceased to exist the day rule 21 was scraped

  • The Beach Tree

    reality check.

    A fairly ludicrous statement. About a 9.2 on the Sphincter Scale.

    A quick check of the GAA.ie website should disabuse you of the notion that the organisation has vanished. RTE any given summer sunday will also help your re-education.

  • reality check

    Yes it has.By allowing british soldiers with connections to loyalists who murdered those who play in the GAA.Does the case of Sean Brown showcase my point you twat

  • The Beach Tree

    reality check

    dear oh dear. “you twat”. Yes, an impressive insult, and an impressive insulter.

    The case of Sean Brown showcases absolutely nothing except the case of Sean Brown.

    His murder was barbaric, disgusting, sectarian, cowardly, and absolutely irrelevant as to whether the organisation known as the GAA exists or not. It plainly does. You might not like that but, so what. what you like is irrelevant.

    You clearly put your dislike of security forces and loyalists above the good of the sport, the organisation known as the GAA or its members. Frankly you appear to put it ahead of sanity and facing reality.

    That’s your right. I think it’s pathetic in the extreme to allow your fealings about sports you support to be influenced by people you hate.

    But if the nurture of your own hatred and bile is so important to you, then I’ll leave you to wallow in it.

    But none of this changes the clear fact that the organisation known as the GAA clearly still exists and operates very successfully despite the abolition of rule 21 of its constitution.

    That you wish otherwise is, frankly, of neither relevance, interest nor concern.

    To be frank, the GAA is much the poorer for losing the likes of Sean Brown. it would be much the richer for losing the likes of you.

  • Ricardo

    Reality check

    Let me guess, you’ve no problem with republican terrorists, or people with connections to republican terrorists playing?

  • reality check

    Ricardo-Can you prove that accusation?I doubt you can.

  • reality check

    Beach tree-What i say is irrelevant?It appears you and ricardo are both intolerant of others opinions

  • The Beach Tree

    reality check

    I’m not the least ‘intolerant’ of your opinions. I’m quite content to tolerate them. I even respect your right to make them, and would argue for that to continue.

    It does not change the fact that your opinions are ridiculous bias and bile, and that the few points you make are illogical and, yes, irrelevant.

    I think your mistaking tolerating your opinions with having any respect for them. Two different thinks, unshine.

    Still – Fire away!

  • Ricardo

    Reality check – catch yourself on. No members of the IRA have ever been members of the GAA?? They have clubs and competitions named after them FFS.

    Seeing your so big on proof, which british soldiers with connections to loyalists play GAA?

  • Millie

    I think the reason cricket never took off in predominantly catholic areas of Ireland is because compared to the hurly burly of gaelic games it must have appeared very dull, after all everyone follows english football in Ireland and that’s as english as it gets. As for cricket being regarded as a ‘protestant’ sport that’s just ridiculous.

  • reality check

    Ricardo-Can you name any instances when IRA members played in the GAA?Back your insane claim up.Beach Tree-your thoughts on this are what?

  • The Beach Tree

    reality check

    if i were to be facetious I might say Sam Maguire himself was a fairly famous member of both the GAA and the IRA.

    But presuming you mean the provisional movement…

    Well, how about Martin Ferris and Ian Milne for starters. I name them not to endanger them in any way, but simply because they were both convicted of membership of the IRA and were openly members of GAA clubs. Their membership of both organisations is a matter of public record.

    Now Mr. check, do you want to continue making a fool of yourself like this?

  • reality check

    You’re living in some sort of fantasy.The GAA promotes irish culture.The security forces suppress it.Loyalists regulary attack GAA clubs.they killed prominent members like Sean Brown but you try to ridicule this.You accuse me of being biased,for f*** sake the security forces covered up his murder!What do you want next,the soldiers song scraped while god save the queen plays and the union jack flutters over croke park.I refuse to have my identity erased by unionist sympathisers like you.EIREANN GO BRAE

  • Yokel

    Reality Check, you are the future of Ireland….well done.

  • Yokel

    You tell them like it is…..

  • Wichser

    Whatever happened to Ian Milne, has he ‘retired’ or is he in any way involved in politics these days ?

  • willowfield


    I think the reason cricket never took off in predominantly catholic areas of Ireland is because compared to the hurly burly of gaelic games it must have appeared very dull

    How do you explain it taking off in predominantly Protestant areas, then, when compared to the hurly burly of football, rugby, hockey, etc., it must have appeared very dull?

    (PS. Cricket pre-dates Gaelic sports and all of these other sports.)

    Reality check

    The GAA promotes irish culture.The security forces suppress it.

    It only promotes a particular, exclusive strand of Irish culture.

    I refuse to have my identity erased by unionist sympathisers like you.EIREANN GO BRAE

    You should seek help about your self-confidence issues.

  • henry94

    The thing about cricket is that the skills involved are not immediately apparent to the outsider. In particular the skills of bowling. Many years ago in a pub I had an interesting conversation with a cricket player from the south who explained some of it to me.

    I have forgotten most of it (there was drink taken) but if any of you fans would like to tell us a bit about the game I, for one, would be quite interested.

  • The Beach Tree


    Well, here’s a few tasters from a proudly irish cricket fan.

    1. Cricket was the de facto national game of Ireland before the existance of the GAA (although both cricket and gaelic games have much longer histories), and more popular in large parts of the country than any of the footballing codes. It was in fact the most dangerous ‘foreign sport’ as far as Cusack was concerned.

    2. The key to bowling is accuracy and intelligence. Ron Atkinson famously said of Teddy Sheringham that he was ‘lightning slow’. Watch any cricket for a few days and you’ll usually hear how X or Y was caught out by the ‘slower ball’. If you can get the ball in the right area repeatedly, then it essentially becomes a rather compelling game of bluff with the batsman – with attempts to outwit him with speed, or swing, or length or a combination.

    Much of cricket is in fact tactical rather than basically physical, and that, for its fans, is the joy of it.

  • CavanMan

    Reality Check

    GAA did not die once Rule 21 was removed…tell me how many PSNI and british soldiers have started playing GAA? and getting involved in GAA activities….Removing Rule 21 got rid of a branch which Unionists could beat the GAA with.Therefore a great day for the GAA, and the organisation has not lost one aspect of its greatness over removing it.

  • Realist

    Reality Check,

    “Yes it has.By allowing british soldiers with connections to loyalists who murdered those who play in the GAA.Does the case of Sean Brown showcase my point you twat”

    Refresh my memory.

    Provo “soldiers” who murdered and maimed all and sundry (including fellow GAA members) were not covered by the Rule 21 ban were they?