By Paula Redmond
On 3 July, 1918, the British Lord Lieutenant of Ireland declared the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to be a ‘dangerous’ organisation. The next day a British Government order was released preventing all “meetings, assemblies and processions” in public places without prior permission by authorities.
This effectively meant that in order to play a match, the GAA would have to apply for a permit. On August 4th in defiance of the ruling, 54,000 members of the organisation took part in a programme of countrywide games at the pre-arranged time of 3pm. The day became known as ‘Gaelic Sunday’.
The new permit system caused immediate disruption to GAA activities. One of the largest events impacted was the Ulster senior football championship semi-final between Armagh and Cavan. The match was scheduled for four days after the permit arrangement was introduced.
Eoin O’Duffy, the GAA’s Provincial Secretary in Ulster, decided to ignore the new ruling. Three thousand spectators arrived in Cootehill, Co. Cavan to view the match but fearing the repercussions the teams refused O’Duffy’s request to take to the pitch.
RIC and British soldiers positioned themselves in the grounds – with bayonets at the ready – until the crowds dispersed without incident.
In July a number of Dublin club football league matches could not take place in Croke Park as the RIC blocked access to the grounds. The new regulations also led to ridiculous scenarios, such as schoolboys being arrested for playing Gaelic football in the Phoenix Park.