Tuning In – From Wireless to WiFi is a new exhibition at the GAA Museum, charting the history of the broadcasting of Gaelic games.
With the future of our media connection to the games very much at a time of change and development, it is a timely look back at the roots from which media engagement has grown.
The first live commentary on a field sport in Europe was relayed from Croke Park on 29th August 1926. Ireland’s first radio station, 2RN, broadcast the All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Galway and Kilkenny with commentary by Paddy Mehigan.
In the pre-television era, radio coverage of hurling and football on Sunday afternoons became the focal point for communities across the country as the iconic voice of Michael O’Hehir filled homes and brought to life the action and excitement on the pitch in a colourful and unique way.
Some of the most interesting elements of the exhibition include a number of those beautiful old wireless units, on loan from the Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage radio in Howth.
“It has been in the back of my mind to put on a specific exhibition around the media for a number of years,” said Joanne Clarke, speaking to Sport for Business yesterday.
“There was a broadcast area in the Museum when it first opened in 1998 but as we grew and developed it made way for the Hall of Fame and it was the right time to bring it back.”
“We have a few key artefacts, some of them supplied on loan by Pat Herbert in Howth and there are some wonderful commentaries that will light up people’s very special memories of the GAA.”
“We have a limited scope for including everything we would like but the reaction has been great in terms of capturing the right moments over the near hundred years of GAA Broadcasting.”
“RTÉ has been particularly important in that history and very accommodating in giving us access to their archive. Marty Morrissey and Micheál O’Murcheartaigh are here today and they have both enjoyed looking at how we have put the history together.”
“The demographic of our Museum visitors is around 70 per cent domestic and ranges from school tours to active retirement groups. We need to be conscious of in terms of the presentation of the material to make it as accessible as possible to such diverse groups.”
Among the highlights are commentary and footage from Micheál O’Hehir’s commentary on the 1947 All-Ireland Football Final, broadcast from the Polo Grounds in New York, between Cavan and Kerry.
The medal collection of Cavan’s winning captain, John Joe O’Reilly, are on display alongside jerseys worn by his teammate, Mick Higgins, and Kerry’s Bill Casey.
Seamus Darby’s Offaly jersey from 1982 when his goal stopped Kerry winning the GAA’s first ever five in a row is also given pride of place.
“Communicating the GAA message has always been of utmost importance to us and is one of the reasons why the popularity of the games spread the way it did,” said GAA President John Horan opening the exhibition which will run for 12 months.
“From 1926 broadcasts of our games have illuminated afternoons and fired imaginations with legendary household names being commented upon and commentating.”
“The technology may have changed but the principles remain the same and I look forward to the focus that this GAA Museum exhibition will bring to an important part of our history.”
Tuning in – From Wireless to WiFi is housed on the ground floor of the GAA Museum in Croke Park and will run until June 2020. Admission for match day ticket holders is free and if you have never seen it, you really should take the time.