From The United Irishman, May 6, 1899.
Whenever there is a good hurling match within my reach I invariably go to an early Mass. I did not violate this rule of life last Sunday, when becomingly preparing myself for the great hurling match between the Commercials and the Celtics at Donnybrook. While at the 10 o’clock Mass in the Cathedral, I reflected on the infinite solitude of the Man of Calvary and of the terrific significance of His appeal—‘Suffer the little children to come unto Me.’ It was the usual Children’s Mass. I prayed hard that He who wanted their company would pass them along to me for a few hours after Mass to partake of a few hours of healthy, helpful, exultant and hopeful joy on the hurling field.
Is Hurling a Fine Art? I think it is. I know nothing, except the Irish language, that gives more pleasure to those who take part in it, or to those who concentratingly observe it. The mighty spirit of Tolstoi was not more refreshed by his first sight of the mountains after his journey over the vast plains of Russia, than is the soul of a true-born hurler at the sight of a good hurling match. When I reflect on the sublime simplicity of the game, the strength and swiftness of the players, their apparently angelic impetuosity, their apparent recklessness of life or limb, their magic skill, their marvellous escapes, and the overwhelming pleasure they give their friends, I have no hesitation in saying that the game of hurling is in the front rank of the fine arts. Let me explain. Tolstoi says that—
‘Art is a human activity, consisting in this, that one man, consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by those feelings and also experience them.’
My father passed those feelings peculiar to the hurling field on to me. I shoved them a stage further, at least; and now I am luxuriating in the manful enjoyment of those who have taken my place. It is a consolation to me to know ‘in the calm eve of my life’ that I have been an artist. I was quite conscious of what I was doing all along; but I was not aware until recently that I was an artist. Now, I submit that every good hurler is an artist of the finest type. Extending the sphere of thought in which Tolstoi is living, and not in the least disposed to trifle with his simple, yet profound, definition of art, I hazard the opinion that the hurlers of the Gaelic Athletic Association will find a place within the zone that includes the ideals of the democratic count peasant shoemaker of Russia.