How the helmet came to hurling
Post match skirmishes were not unknown in the fiercely competitive world of inter varsity hurling in the 1960s but when a group of UCD players surrounded UCC’s mid-fielder, Micheál Murphy, at the final whistle in Croke Park in 1969, it was curiosity – not animosity – that drew them in. That damp, February afternoon, Murphy had lined out with an exotic piece of equipment, something entirely alien to the game of hurling up to then: he was wearing a Canadian ice-hockey helmet!
This was not Murphy’s first venture into protective headgear, a necessity forced upon him as a result of a fractured skull accidently inflicted in an earlier hurling game. He had tried all types protection to enable him continue his career as an accomplished mid-fielder, despite the serious head injury. (All-Ireland senior colleges medal with The North Monastery and Cork county championship medals with UCC and his home club, Blackrock)
Not only is Micheál Murphy wearing the college’s famed black and red jersey but upon his head is a motorcycle helmet.
“A ripple of slight bemusement echoes around the attendance of 12,504 in the old Cork Athletic Grounds midway through the second half of the 1966 Cork county hurling final as a UCC substitute runs on. Not only is Micheál Murphy wearing the college’s famed black and red jersey but upon his head is a motorcycle helmet. Though narrowly beaten by Avondhu, the Blackrock clubman has taken the first major step in pioneering the idea of protective headgear for hurlers, a feat recognised by this paper placing him on our list of the 125 most influential people in the history of the GAA”. (Irish Independent)
Eventually it was a former UCC classmate, Des Walsh, who posted Micheál a Canadian ice hockey helmet from Ontario and the game of hurling was changed forever.
Eventually it was a former UCC classmate, Des Walsh, a post-grad student in Western University, Ontario – who posted Micheál a Canadian ice hockey helmet and the game of hurling was changed forever. The Cooper SK100 was first introduced to the world of hurling in that UCC v UCD Fitzgibbon Cup game in Croke Park in February 1969.
Two months later, on Sunday, 13 April, 1969, Donal Clifford, a team-mate of Murphy’s in UCC, makes his debut for Cork v Tipperary in the NHL semi-final, wearing the new protective headgear and thus ensures himself a permanent place in the record books as the first man to wear a helmet in a senior inter-county match.
Today every player is obliged by rule to wear the protective headgear – the result of a UCC motion first proposed to the Cork County Board and forwarded to the National Congress in 1968.
Today every player is obliged by rule to wear the protective headgear – the result of a UCC motion first proposed to the Cork County Board and forwarded to the National Congress in 1968. From then onwards, players’ headgear was on the agenda albeit it took many years before it was finally adopted by the GAA.
From January 1st. 2010 it became compulsory for all GAA hurlers to wear protective headgear – though not necessarily a motorcycle helmet as worn by Micheál Murphy in the old Cork Athletic Grounds in 1966!