Making hay: the high finance world the GAA in 1950s Monaghan

Family Fortunes: We had a labour force comprised mainly of local teenagers and a few County Council workers after hours

Making hay to pay the rent on the ‘priest’s field’

Making hay to pay the rent on the ‘priest’s field’

 

In my youth, in rural Monaghan in the 1950s, facilities for playing Gaelic football were much more primitive than they are today.

The “playing fields” were just fields borrowed from a farmer – the field might be the flattest in the parish but in Monaghan flat fields were few and far between. I have played in fields which sloped severely to one side and one which was like an amphitheatre rising on all sides from mid-field.

The daddy of them all was Sheskin Park, home of Knockatallen Club, which sloped dramatically from one goal to the other. The half you were playing down the hill was an amazing experience.

Our club, Killeevan Sarsfield’s, pitch was known as “The Priest’s Field”. There was a considerable acreage surrounding the actual pitch, which gave rise to the next part of the story.

At this time, most country pitches had no surrounding fence and if a game was exciting the spectators might encroach on the pitch. Many a time the referee had to stop the match and give orders “Back to the Line!”. It was not unknown for cattle to be grazed on pitches between matches, so there were lots of readymade “tees” for free-takers.

There were no cattle grazing on our pitch, and as a junior club we had very few home matches that spring, so when it came to hay time we had a very good crop on the surrounding area and even on the pitch itself. We decided we would save the hay and maybe make enough to pay the rent of the field.

The hay was duly mowed by a local farmer who was also a Killeevan supporter. When it was ready for cocking we borrowed a pony and a “hauler-in” – a wooden horse-drawn machine for collecting rows of hay to a central point for building. The hay had been raked into rows manually.

We had a labour force comprised mainly of local teenagers and a few County Council workers after hours. We made 30 cocks of hay and sold them for £1 each. The rent of the field was £25. This was the high finance world of the GAA in the 1950s.

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