Athleticism (Rooney, 1909)

1.137. William Rooney, Prose Writings, (Dublin and Waterford: M.H. Gill & Son, Ltd., n.d.[1909] ), pp.255-56. BL YA.1991.a.13422

Extract from William Rooney, Prose Writings (1909), on the importance of athleticism.

Stephen’s physical condition in ‘Telemachus’ and throughout Ulysses stands in ironic counterpoint to the contemporary stress laid in Ireland on the importance of athleticism, especially among the young, as championed by the Gaelic Athletic Association and, here, in a piece entitled ‘Athletics and Other Things’, by William Rooney, whose Poems and Ballads Joyce dismissively reviewed in 1902. This passage is the opening of Rooney’s essay, which goes on to decry the increasing popularity in Ireland of British sports, cricket and football in particular, the efforts of the G.A.A. notwithstanding.

One of the features of the times in Ireland is the prominence which more and more every year Athletics take in our daily life. A few years since there were none of the colossal tournaments, and few, if any, of the sporting journals which to-day stare one in the face at every turn. Athleticism, as old as civilisation, has, latterly, in most parts of the world, become almost a necessity to people, and its gatherings recur with the regularity of tides and seasons. That outdoor sports of a bracing, healthy nature are essential to the existence of nations, that they make men better physically and intellectually, are in a manner tonics for the strain which the rush of modern life entails, is so palpable that it need not be laboured here. Of athleticism itself in the abstract there can be no great adverse criticism. Of the manner in which it is carried out in this island of ours there is, unfortunately, much to be said, and little of a complimentary character.