Introduction. Contemporaries testified and historians describe how that the GAA transformed social life in Ireland. Writing in 1907 for a collection of essays on the history and achievements of the GAA, Monsignor J. B. Dollard, then based in Ontario, described how the GAA revitalised the parish of Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny, where he spent his childhood and teenage years.
Source. J. B. Dollard, Gaelic Athletic Annual (Dublin 1907–08) 18–19.
I remember the great change that came over the country. Until then everything was lonely and stagnant, and the young men in their idle hours loitered in dull fashion by the street and fence corners. In a few months how different things became! The country was soon humming with interest and activity, the ambitions of the young men were aroused, every parish had its newly-formed hurling or football team, prepared to do or die for the honour of the little village.
The war of championships was on! We followed armies of Gaels many miles along the country roads to the field of combat, where as many as eight or ten teams, gaily clad in their coloured jerseys, struggled for supremacy before our dazzled eyes. To play on the first team was indeed the greatest honour a youth could hope for, and many of us looked forward to that day with swelling hearts
The GAA widened the horizons of the young men and made them proud of their country, giving them a new interest in it. By the strict enforcement of rule on the field, it disciplined the fierce and tumultuous spirits among them. The brawls and fights so common heretofore disappeared from our midst. The young learned that skill and self control were better and nobler than quarrelling and fighting, and that deft handling of the caman was more to be admired than to trounce a brother Irishman with fist or cudgel.