“The issue of Carson is academic…”

At the press launch of the inaugural “Poc ar an Cnoc” Edward Carson Hurling Trophy, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams leaned heavily on the image of ‘Carson the hurler’ to explain what could have been seen as a deliberately provocative gesture

“I discovered, much to my surprise, that Carson was a hurler in his days at Trinity College (Dublin),” said Adams at Monday’s launch in Parliament Buildings.

“So this man who is arguably the father of unionism was also a Gael and I thought that was an interesting concept.

“When Carson was playing for this hurling club at Trinity he got an honourable mention in the Irish Sportsman (journal of the day) as having distinguished himself on the field so we thought it would be a great idea to have an Edward Carson trophy.”

Not so fast.  According to a reputable source in the News Letter

Dr Paul Rouse from the school of history at UCD, who is also the director of the GAA oral history project, said hurley and hurling players were at loggerheads.

He said hurley players referred to hurling as the “swiping game of the savage”.

“Carson the hurler, not really, Carson the hurley player, absolutely,” he said.

“The difference is there was no game of hurling played in Dublin in the 1870s – there was instead a game in Trinity College called hurley which was most likely brought across by English public schools and organised by Trinity from probably 1869 to the 1880s.

“It was the only hurley club in the city, they used to play games amongst themselves like smokers against non-smokers.”

The rules of the two games were different with hurley players using football’s offside rule as well as only being allowed to hit the ball with one side of the stick, similar to in hockey.

And the Sinn Féin response?  From the same News Letter report

However, a Sinn Fein spokesman denied that Mr Adams had made a gaffe by assuming Lord Carson had taken part in hurling.

“The issue of Carson is academic, what he played is up for debate and that’s fair enough,” he told the News Letter.

“It is unfortunate that some people are choosing to focus on what is a side issue.”

Never mind, Gerry.  Always look on the bright side…