Ancient Hurling at Cunga page 2

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Cath Maige Tuired Cunga

The match was between the Fir Bolg (FEER Ball-ug) and Tuatha Da (TOO-ah DAY).

By legend, Fir Bolg was the first group of people to settle in Ireland. This is not actually true. Fir Bolg, which means 'Men of Lightning', were an Erainn (AY-rahn) Celtic tribe. The Erainn were one of the several Celtic groups which roamed Europe for many centuries. Julius Caesar wrote about them in his memoirs, and called the Erainn the fiercest of all the tribes outside of Rome. He said that these folks kept themselves away from merchants and other things which tend to effeminate the mind. Those are Caesar's words, not mine.

The Erainn and other Celtic groups migrated out of Europe and into the British Isles. The migration may have been an invasion, depending upon your perspective. But the Erainn became one of the more dominant Celtic groups in Ireland. The words Erin, Eire (AIR or AIR-ah), and Ireland are derived from the Erainn.

Tuatha Da means 'tribe of the gods'. The tribe in the story is likely a Gaelic tribe. The Gaels were yet another Celtic group in Europe which migrated to, or invaded, Ireland. The Gaels became the most dominant group, and their language - Gaelic - supplanted all others.

The Gaels probably had a big ego, or else they would not have referred to themselves as the Tribe of the Gods. Or perhaps, the other Celts who lost to the Gaels in battle gave the Gaels this name. There is less shame in losing if the loss is to a tribe of gods. Or perhaps, the story doesn't involve the Gaels at all, but rather a match between the Fir Bolg and a real tribe of gods.

In any event, when Tuatha Da came to Ireland, Fir Bolg was already there. A battle between the tribes was inevitable, and the warriors of the two sides collided near Cunga (COON-ah). Cunga means 'narrows' and it is the name of a narrow strip of land separating two large lakes in the west of Ireland. There is a little creek in the village which is the boundary between County Galway and County Mayo.

The town there is now called Cong, and it was the site for the filming of 'The Quiet Man' movie with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

Go to Ancient Hurling at Cunga page 3