A loan to the National Museum of Ireland
Almost a year ago, we posted a blog about objects Clare Museum had on loan to the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) and Galway City Museum. In September 2023, Clare Museum added another loan out to the list – the goggles that once belonged to John Joe ‘Goggles’ Doyle – for an exhibition on the GAA at the National Museum.
On 13 September, ‘GAA: People, Objects and Stories’, a new exhibition hosted by the Decorative Arts and History Division of the NMI at Collins Barrack’s, Dublin, was opened to the public. The exhibition is curated by Dr Siobhán Doyle of the Technological University Dublin, who authored ‘A History of the GAA in 100 Objects’, which provided a chronological history of the GAA through the perspective of objects. Many of the objects in the book are featured in the display.
Included in the exhibition are items such as:
- A Medieval Mether, found in County Armagh, which provides the design of the iconic Liam McCarthy cup and is part of the NMI collection.
- A 10 carat gold GAA medal made in New York, dating to 1936, which is thought to have been presented to one of the players from the Cavan football team or Limerick hurling team that travelled to play in New York in Yankee Stadium.
- A Yellow Sliotar used in the 2020 All-Ireland senior hurling final between Limerick and Tipperary, which marked the first game in which the yellow sliotar replaced the traditional white sliotar.
- A handwoven tweed camogie dress worn by Maeve Gilroy in the 1960s during a successful decade for Antrim Camogie.
The Clare Museum contribution to the museum exhibition and indeed to the publication ‘A History of the GAA in 100 Objects’ are the goggles, which are on display alongside Brian Cody’s iconic baseball cap.
Who was John Joe ‘Goggles’ Doyle?
John Joe ‘Goggles’ Doyle was born in Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare in 1906 and won six Clare Hurling titles with Newmarket-on-Fergus GAA club, during his hurling career. He was the captain of the Clare team which won the Munster title in 1932, and he captained the side to an All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny that same year.
During this period, he became a regular player on the Munster Hurling team in the inter-provincial Railway Cup competition. Indeed, he won four Railway Cup medals with Munster between 1929 and 1934. He died in 2000, having lived to see Clare win their second and third All-Ireland titles in 1995 and 1997 respectively.
Doyle needed to wear his spectacles while playing the game. In an effort to protect his spectacles during the game, he made his own protective goggles, using bicycle spokes, medical bandages and elastic. This would have been very unusual at the time as, unlike today, personal protection equipment was not the norm in the game at that time. Doyle’s ‘goggles’ were regularly broken during matches, as they did their job protecting his glasses from blows from hurls, and he had to make many new goggles to replace them. We must assume that the goggles in our collection are the last that he owned.
In 1984, the GAA celebrated its centenary. Throughout the year a series of special events were held which included the selection of a GAA Hurling Team of the Century. This team comprised of the greatest players who never won an All Ireland medal.
Doyle’s contribution as a player was recognized when he was picked in the left corner-back position on that team. Six years later, in 1990, Doyle’s reputation was further recognized when he was the recipient of the GAA All-Time All-Star award.
PPE in the GAA
Personal Protection Equipment has come a long way since John Joe’s playing days in the 1930s. Today, hurlers are obliged to wear specially designed helmets with face guards that protect the eyes, nose and mouth from both the hurl and the ball as can be seen here. Technological advances also mean that hurlers no longer have to wear spectacles in the first place, as John Joe did. Today they have been largely replaced by contact lenses. When compared with spectacles, contact lenses typically provide better peripheral vision and do not collect rain, snow, condensation or perspiration. This makes them ideal for sports and other outdoor activities.
Donegan, Des, The Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games (DBA Publications Limited, 2005)
National Museum of Ireland, GAA: People, Objects & Stories [Accessed 21st September, 2023]
Tobar, Mouthguards and Hurling Helmets, [Accessed 25th September, 2023]
Wikipedia, John Joe Doyle [Accessed 21st September, 2023]
Wikipedia, Contact Lenses [Accessed 25th September, 2023]