The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) was founded in 1884, its objective being to promote Irish identity and revive the traditional sports of hurling, football and handball. After the turn of the century, the GAA became politicised, its club committees infiltrated by members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. As Ireland drifted close to civil war in 1914, the Irish Volunteers drilled with hurley sticks in the absence of guns. Many of those interned after the 1916 Rising were GAA members and the British banned Gaelic games after 1918. On Bloody Sunday, 1920, twelve spectators and a player were killed at Croke Park in a raid by British Auxiliary forces.
Tim Pat Coogan charts the relationship between Gaelic sports and Ireland's national struggle in the period 1916–23 and explores the central role they have played in the social, cultural and political life of nationalistic Ireland.