THE naming of a new gaelic hurling trophy after Edward Carson was labelled "inappropriate" yesterday after it emerged the founding father of unionism had never played the game.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams helped organise the inaugural “Poc ar an Cnoc” (puck on the hill) which will take place below Lord Carson’s famous statue in Stormont next month.
The winner of the competition, which is part of this year’s West Belfast Festival, will take home the Edward Carson trophy.
Organisers took the decision to name the trophy after Lord Carson on the understanding he had played hurling when he was a student at Trinity College, Dublin.
In fact, the prominent barrister-turned-unionist leader played “hurley”, a game similar to hockey which was imported from English public schools.
Dr Paul Rouse from the school of history at UCD, who is also the director of the GAA oral history project, said hurley and hurling players were at loggerheads.
He said hurley players referred to hurling as the “swiping game of the savage”.
“Carson the hurler, not really, Carson the hurley player, absolutely,” he said.
“The difference is there was no game of hurling played in Dublin in the 1870s - there was instead a game in Trinity College called hurley which was most likely brought across by English public schools and organised by Trinity from probably 1869 to the 1880s.
“It was the only hurley club in the city, they used to play games amongst themselves like smokers against non-smokers.”
The rules of the two games were different with hurley players using football’s offside rule as well as only being allowed to hit the ball with one side of the stick, similar to in hockey.
While Trinity’s current hurling club claim their roots from the old hurley team, the college hockey team do as well.
The topic was also being debated on GAA internet boards yesterday, with one poster pointing out that Lord Carson studied at Trinity in the 1870s, while the GAA was only founded in 1884.
Another said: “Hurley was a game played by Dublin Protestant aristocrats in the 1870s, which was like hockey not hurling - it was played on the ground and lacked the physicality of hurling.
“So basically, Carson didn't play any form of hurling as we know it and naming a GAA competition after the founder of the UVF isn’t the most appropriate, but on the positive side it might encourage some unionists to participate in a GAA event.”
However, a Sinn Fein spokesman denied that Mr Adams had made a gaffe by assuming Lord Carson had taken part in hurling.
“The issue of Carson is academic, what he played is up for debate and that’s fair enough,” he told the News Letter.
“It is unfortunate that some people are choosing to focus on what is a side issue.”
GAA was outlawed at Trinity until the 1950s and even then players were not allowed to hold matches in the prestigious College Park on campus.
GAA goal posts were installed at College Park for the first time in January of this year allowing gaelic games to be played on the city centre campus for the first time in the 418-year history of the university.