Small band of GAA information warriors busy joining the dots

MayoGAABlog has fully searchable archive of Mayo results going all the way back to 1902

For an organisation so steeped in its own history, the GAA has always been bad at collating the nuts and bolts of its results into a decent archive. The association website made a stab at it a few years back but the search function wasn’t great and the whole thing became too much of a lucky dip to be presentable.

There was a push within Croke Park to make it a full-time project sometime towards the end of 2019 but then 2020 happened and it understandably tumbled down a long - and lengthening - to-do list.

If and when they get back around to it, they know that some of the hard yards have already been made for them. The small band of determined information warriors around the country have been on the case and for the most part they're only begging to be asked to help. In the past fortnight, the brilliant MayoGAABlog went live with its fully searchable archive of Mayo football results going all the way back to 1902.

"I started the site in 2007," says creator or curator John Gunnigan. "One of the parts of it that I wanted to have was a page with the results from that season, including the teams and subs. And then as the page got fuller, I wanted to add to it, to include the previous year and then another few years and so on.

"And then I was a bit like Mary Harney going into government, this sense that somebody somewhere should be doing something about this. And if you remember the internet at that stage was filled with all kinds of mad people doing mad things, altruistic things like gathering information together like this. And I just thought, 'Well why not?' I tipped away at it and it snowballed."

The result is a monumental resource. Pick a year, pick a Mayo game, go find the result, the team, the subs, the scorers. National League, Connacht Championship, All-Ireland Championship, senior, under-21, minor. Gunnigan has found it to be one of the most popular areas of his site, a place where folk go and get lost, happily swaddled in decades of Mayo arcania.

Patterns

“People go onto the archive and they just mooch around for hours on end. It’s that stuff of finding patterns. When did this player first appear? Did he play minor, did he play under-21? What happened to him? And it could be a lad 40 years ago, they remember him from a match they were at and then they take-off in a dozen different directions from that.

“Those of us who are interested in the GAA, the people we saw playing, the games we remember, they’re fixtures in our minds. We just want to be connected back to it.”

A chap called Pádraig Ferguson emailed him one day a few years back to say he had all the Mayo results ever played and would Gunnigan like access to them. After snapping his hand off and using them for the bones of the archive, Gunnigan started trawling through old newspapers for the meat.

“The Irish Press was a fantastic development for this kind of stuff. They launched in 1932 and from then on, Gaelic Games coverage was way more prominent. The nationals were good right throughout the decades - although for whatever reason, I have found that the 1990s wasn’t as good for GAA coverage as the 1980s. But in general, the nationals were good a lot of the way through and local papers did what they could.

“As you go back to, say, 1950, it’s all pretty decent and you can kind of find what you’re looking for but the war years are hopeless. The war years meant less ink, less paper, less room for anything and everything. There’s no 32-page Mayo News supplement for the Connacht final! And then further back again, it really goes dark.”

But in the end, he got it done. Just as others like Richard Commins have done in Kildare, ditto Gerry Callan in Dublin. That it's all very piecemeal is far from ideal, clearly. Whatever the GAA manages to get around to in the future, it remains a pretty glaring hole to have in their armoury right now.

“The point I would make is that from the GAA’s perspective, it’s a dereliction of duty not to have a centralised database for this stuff,” Gunnigan says. “As well as a sporting organisation, they are a cultural organisation and I would argue they have a duty to put this stuff out there. The museum is so brilliant - they must know from the level of interest and engagement in the museum that there’s an appetite out there for this stuff.

“The website has some good footage of All-Ireland finals and that kind of thing so they clearly are aware of the need for this. But even that footage, it’s kind of out there anyway. You can go and find it if you’re looking for it. This stuff, the basic historic results and line-ups going back through the decades is lacking.”

Not everywhere, though. And hopefully not for long.

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