Many handball is told by 18th-century writers who point out that Ireland has been playing wall handball since at least 1700 e.Kr. Modern reports list John Murphy, the rebel leader, as a famous handball player, and many of the venues were places for meetings with his supporters.
Aristocracy was also a proponent and participant in the game. Many landowners gave way to building sites, and as they said, the famous Dublin dandy Buck Whaley, who made 100 guineas ($300), went to Jerusalem and played handball on his walls. The Monaghan Museum has a watercolour dated 1782 depicting a handball match on the walls of Blaney Castle.
Origin of the game
Irish colonists who moved to England introduced the English to the game, and while something happened in the one-wall game, indoor tennis became popular places to play handball. In them, the game behind the side wall became a feature – the fields were too long to play behind the wall. In London, transfer Irishman John Kavanagh is recognised as a handball player without a peer. His obituary, written by Hazlitt in 1819, testified to the great appreciation with which he was held captive. “It is unlikely that anyone will now see that handball will be perfect in the years to come – because Kavanagh is dead and has not fallen behind.”
Bringing Ireland back, just as the British army and police may have brought an extra side factor to Ireland. Landowners encouraged the game among the military and in schools. The side courts are often referred to as the Five courts and can be found in Wexford, Clare and Dublin. Locals, often excluded from these institutions, continued to play with their one-walled “alleys”, often supporting houses and ruins of castles and churches.
Organized games have never been part of this early era. There were no citizens, but it was the earliest professional tour. As early as 1850, players such as Kilkenny’s Martin Butler and Tipperary’s William Baggs travelled without a clear permanent obsession around Ireland to play for the salary of local champions. Another feature was the promotion of handball and other Gaelic sports among Christian brothers and other classes of Catholic teachers. Many of these people later brought the game to South Africa, America and Australia, schools such as Duken University in Pittsburgh and high schools in Butte, Mont.
During this time, many handball champions have excelled in other sports, especially those that require strength and perseverance. Such qualities were essential for matches that sometimes included 21 matches! The best player of the 1880s, David Browning of Limerick, was also a rowing champion, weightlifter and boxer. Finally, in 1885, he was defeated by American John Lolor, who immediately declared himself the Irish champion. Thus, Phil Casey of New York challenged him for the world title and a $1,000 bag. In Cork Court, Lawlor won seven games for Three Casey, but returned to Casey’s own track in Brooklyn. Casey won the eight fights needed to win the title.
The meeting between the American and Irish champions seemed to be the beginning of a fruitful exchange of views between the two countries. There was a lot of interest and widespread publicity, and the game got a big boost because courses in each country rejected hundreds of people who wanted to watch games. However, travel difficulties, differences in courts, rules and balls, and the participation of donors and organisers made it difficult to organise such competitions on a regular basis. Ireland’s Casey Fitzgerald, Again (sometimes written as Egan) and New York’s James Kelly were recognized as world champions. But often the title fights were unsatisfactory. The Eagles’ victory over Cork’s Oliver Drew was accompanied by controversy over the docks and Drew’s trip. Limerick Kelly’s game against J. J. Bowles had a point in his contract that forced the latter to give all the balls to his dominant left hand. Such contradictions and bad feelings quickly led to the series being abandoned, and it took almost 20 years for the problems of Ireland and America to resume.
This chaotic situation required the organisation. In Ireland, the Gaelic Athletic Association tried to put the game in order by codifying the rules and organising tournaments. Similarly, in 1897, AAE, which dominated many amateur sports in America, held the first official tournament between Again and Brooklyn’s James Dunn. Again, easily won this fight, and for the next nine years he traveled a lot in America and played with all the title candidates.