I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Homo Ludens

Sport in Ireland,1600-1840, by James Kelly, Four Courts Press, 384 pp, €39.95, ISBN: 978-1846824937 It is possible to live in modern Ireland and ignore sport, but it is not easy and it certainly requires a conscious effort. This is a singular statement of the importance, the vitality and the sheer scale of modern sport – a global phenomenon spiced with local passions. History has shaped Irish sport in many ways. The legacy of the past is most obvious in the great necklace of sporting facilities – from floodlit grounds to climbing walls and swimming pools – that bejewel the Irish landscape. Some are entirely new, built as interest in particular sports spread and the capital to develop facilities became available in recent decades. Others are built on sites where sport has long been played, often dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when modern sport enjoyed its most formidable period of expansion. Others extend still further back into history: to stand on The Curragh in Co Kildare and watch racehorses gallop in silhouette against the rising sun is to bear witness to something timeless and majestic where past and present stand as one. And then there are the traces of sports long disappeared: the bullrings of Drogheda and Wexford are now ordinary urban streets, with only the name surviving as evidence of their use as venues for the hugely popular sport of bullbaiting, which did not survive the dramatic changes in nineteenth century life. The ubiquity of the sports ground is a consequence of the great expanse of sporting clubs and associations. The impact of associational culture on Irish sport began in the eighteenth century, flowered spectacularly in the late nineteenth and continues to bloom into a new millennium. There is no sense that this is a historical process that is losing momentum; instead the number of sports clubs in Ireland continues to grow, as does the breadth of their activities. The scale of modern sport is evidenced also by its place in the communications revolution. Where once sporting events on television were occasional treats sparsely sprinkled across the schedule, they are now central to mainstream programming, as well as having a growing number of channels dedicated to their coverage. Combined with the rapidly expanding sports applications available on various devices from computers to phones, as well as the increased coverage on radio and in newspapers, there is…

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