It’s Who We Are: Articulating Irish identity in documentary representations of the Gaelic Athletic Association. Irish Screen Studies Seminar, NUIG Galway, 2019

This research with the Department of Film and Screen Media at University College Cork is funded by the Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship scheme.


In the first episode of the three-part 2018 documentary; ‘The Game- The Story of Hurling’, the well-known former GAA player and team manager Ger Loughnane tells us: “Every young lad wants to be the hero, and Cú Chulainn really, was the first hero, it went that deep...”. The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is the most ubiquitous sports and cultural organisation in Ireland, and has a presence in most Irish communities. Through the Irish national broadcaster (RTE) and independent producers, it has been the subject of many documentary productions.
This paper will examine the mapping and articulation of Irish national and cultural identity as seen through representations of the GAA and GAA players in documentary film. Through an identification of formal and structural tropes, I will argue that the lineage of many documentaries about the GAA can be traced back to conventions developed by filmmakers in state-supported constructions of distinct culture, such as in early Soviet cinema, as well as to documentary films that recount the histories and personal stories of liberation and revolutionary movements of the mid-to-late twentieth century. Finally, I will examine how Irish identity is performed, presented and re-articulated in contemporary documentary representations of the GAA using modern filming techniques, editing techniques and video technologies.

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