6 June 2024

Map of handball alley locations included in Foundations to Future exhibition at GAA Museum

A map showing the locations of 550 alleys compiled by this project between 2007 and 2020 can be viewed in the exhibition Foundations to Future at the GAA Museum, from June 2024 to June 2025. The map is based on a set being produced by Charlie Roche for an essay by Áine Ryan on 'handball alley distribution and court types' in the forthcoming book (2025) Atlas of Irish Sport (Cork University Press), edited by John Crowley, Mike Cronin, Cormac Moore, Charlie Roche. The above image is a compilation of draft version of some maps in this set. They show the distribution pattern in three distinct phases of handball alley construction in Ireland between the mid 1700s and mid 1900s. Read More......

24 May 2024

St. Aloysius College, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

St. Aloysius College, Athlone, former religious boys' secondary school Photographs provided by M.Geogehan Read More......

3 April 2024

Ardfert, Co. Kerry

Cornelius Varley, 1781–1873, British, Ardfert Cathedral, Kerry, Ireland, undated, Watercolor, gray wash and graphite on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, B1977.14.4337. (copyright: Public Domain) Information provided by K. Whelan to the following statement in an Ulster Museum catalogue describing another Varley painting: "A large unfinished watercolour by Varley, Ardfert, Kerry, Ireland, in the Yale Center for British Art B1977.14.4337, presumably has its origin on the same Irish tour. It shows the cathedral ruins from the south, with a small church in front, and some boys apparently playing handball on the right". Read More......

14 March 2024

Shannonbridge, Co. Roscommon

Photographed by S. Ryan, February 2024 This alley was built against the fortification walls of an English artillary barracks and across the road from an infantry barrcks. A local person heard over the years that handball was played there into the 1930s and 1940s.
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13 March 2024

The Model School, The Mall, Sligo Town

Messages under posting of this historical photograph on Sligo Heritage and History Facebook-page, by A. O'Neill on 5.2.24 Use of photograph purchased from Historical Picture Archive Person 1 "I believe the last photo - with the handball alley on the ‘left’ of the school building…is actually “St. Mary’s Brothers” school (that I attended), which was built adjoining/alongside ‘The Model’ on the ‘right’ of St. Mary’s." Person 2 "In my young days that's where we played all our Handball and Football.We played on the hard surface and there were many Cuts and Bruises along the way.We even had the odd celebrity who played there I,E. Ski McGee.No doubt that's where he honed his skills and learned from the Duignans,Walpoles,Hartes,Cunningham's ,MC Dermotte's Rooney's and Feehily's known as the Mall Brigade with a sprinkling of warriors from Bridge Street." Person 3 "Great to see a photo of where we spent many a happy day playing as kids. The ball alley had a missing brick where a ball would lodge but sometimes it might dislodge a ball already there. The photo is old, as the veranda (in the picture)was demolished in the 1950s to be replaced by a standard concrete one . The contractor was Josie Scanlon God bless him as he put plenty of lead in the roof which we removed in small pieces when we needed the money for the mattnee." Person 4 "Went there to I was the fire lighter And have to go at around 11 am to get Conan a nagin" Person 1 "Br. Flannan’s “St. Mary’s Ceili Band” stories on Monday mornings were a highlight. If I recall correctly Tommy Higgins, Ray Wickham, John Brey, Padraig McManus, Andy Healy…were members of the band who had some great gigs/fun playing in the “Hanger”, Salthill, Galway"
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21 November 2023

Ballynamult, Co. Waterford

This alley is indicated on 1841 ordnance survey but has been adapted into an enclosed structure by later ordnances surveys. The original alley is indicated as one-sides (lhs in top photo), but seems to have been anback-to-back for some period of time.
Photographed by Á. Ryan, October 2023.
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Half House, Co. Waterford

Alley at crossroads on opposite side of road to Half House pub. Location information provided by P.Melody, M. Quinlan and L. Kealy. Photographed by Á.Ryan, October 2023.
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4 September 2023

St. Columb's College, Derry City

A pair of back-to-back alleys, at St. Columb's College (now Lumen Christi College), Derry City. Image from Derry Journal facebook page Read More......

28 August 2023

Rockfield Park, Blackrock, Co. Dublin

Rockfield Park, Blackrock, Co. Dublin Alley in Rockfield Park, Blackrock, Co.Dublin. Photographed by S. Ryan in July 2023 (top two photographs),  E. Timmoney in July 2022 and by by T.J. Ryan in July 2009 (Bottom three photographs). The alley was refloored when pathways in park were upgraded. The mural 'River Flora' is by artist Decoy, and is inspired by running water and nature in the park.For more information see newspaper article.
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Belmullet, Co. Mayo

Belmullet, Co. Mayo
Top two photographs by E. Kennedy (renowned handball player), Aug 2023. Third photograph provided by R. Mangan, July 2013. Fourth photograph by Neil Mc Dermott 2008. This alley is located beside Páirc Beo and the children's playground, adjacent to An Lárionad Cathrach (the civic centre) and town car park. It is still in use. The mural 'Dúlra agus Dúchas' is by visual artist James Kirwan and depicts aspects of local heritage and biodiversity. See newspaper article. .
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Tooleague, Kilasser, Co. Mayo

Tooleague, Killasser, Swinford Co. Mayo
Photographed by G. Loughran, Feb 2014 and T. O'Malley (via E. Timoney) Aug 2023 (top).
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23 August 2023

Caraun, Co. Sligo

Photographed Aug 2023 by D. Burke
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21 August 2023

Saint Patrick's College [set of 2], Maynooth, County Kildare

There were 4 sets of handball alleys on the campus of St. Patrick’s College, with a total of 16 alleys.
The 1838 ordnance survey shows:
– 6 alleys in a back-to-back row 3 alleys long, to the west of the Hospital in the northern area of the campus
– 4 alleys in a back-to-back row 2 alleys long, to the west of the Junior College in the southern area of the campus.
The 1912 ordnance survey shows both of these sets of alleys and an additional two sets of alleys
- a pair of 2 alleys back to back on the green area directly in front (south) of the Junior College
- a set of 4 alleys back to back on an extension to the college grounds to the north
The pair in front of the Junior College is not shown on the 1940 ordnance survey.

This historical photograph (unknown date) likely shows the pair of back to back alleys on green area/lawn on front of the Junior College. Photograph included on facebook page Old Maynooth local history group. Permission to use photograph provide by C.Kavanagh via E. Timoney. August 2023.
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28 June 2023

Swinford Alley in 1905. Sketches by Jack B. Yeats

Two sketches of a handball alley in Swinford, Ireland, 1905. Yeats, Jack B. Source: Jack Butler Yeats Collection of Papers, Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature. The New York Public Library, Astor, Lennox, and Tilden Foundations. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022 In 1905, artist Jack B. Yeats made these two sketches of the handball alley in Swinford, most likely while travelling with the Anglo-Irish playwright John Millington Synge (1871-1909) on a commission from the Manchester Guardian newspaper. Synge was to write about projects undertaken under the Congested Districts policy. Yeats was to illustrate these. They “travelled from Galway through Connemara and Mayo. Twelve illustrated articles ... appeared in the paper between 10 June and 26 July 1905, at intervals of three to four days” (Saddlemyer, 2015, p. 27)*. Although the ball alley sketches are not among the 14 illustrations published with the articles, two of the articles refer to Swinford. The series was given the title ‘In the “Congested Districts”’ and can be viewed on the online archive of the Manchester Guardian via the newspapers.com database. The articles were subtitled as follows: From Galway to Gorumna (10.06.1905), Between the Bays of Carraroe (14.06.1905), Among the Relief Works (17.06.1905), The Ferryman of Dinish Island (21.06.1905), The Kelp Makers (24.06.1905), The Boat-Builders (28.06.1905), Homes of the Harvest Men (01.07.1905), The Smaller Peasant Properties (05.07.1905), Erris (08.07.1905), The Inner Lands of Mayo -The Village Shop (19.07.1905), The Small Town (22.07.1905), Possible Remedies (26.07.1905). Yeats made two known paintings of handball alleys. A watercolour The Handball Alley in (private ownership, date unknown) of the same Swinford alley and an oil painting The Ball Alley in 1927 (in collection of Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin). Sometime in the 1920s. A photograph of the same alley was depicted as a postcard by London company Woolstone Bros (one of these postcards is in collection of Mayo County Library). *Saddlemyer, A. (2015). More Letters by John Millington Synge. Irish University Review, 45(1), 25–30. Read More......

27 June 2023

Ballyvaldon Cross Roads (near), Blackwater, Co. Wexford

At crossroads 500m south of Ballyvaldon Cross Roads, near Blackwater, Co. Wexford. At old church and graveyard. The playwall of alley is built against gable of church. Old grave stones inside the church date to early 1800s. The graveyard, church and alley are well maintained. Photographs and information from E. Timoney, May 2023
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3 January 2023

Site of former alley on Wexford Street, Gorey

This alley on Wexford Street, Gorey, was demolished in 2005. The site of the alley was photographed by E. Timoney in December 2022. An article about the demoilition of the alley appeared in the Gorey Guardian newspaper (see below) End of an era as handball alley makes way for new car park https://www.independent.ie/regionals/goreyguardian/news/end-of-an-era-as-handball-alley-makes-way-for-new-car-park-27268494.html January 27 2005 12:11 AM Gorey's old handball alley on Wexford Street is no more, and last week the official signing over and sale of the freehold from Gorey Town Council to Wexford County Council took place. Gorey Town Council Chairman Malcolm Byrne donned the chain to perform the official function for Town Clerk Liz Stanley. Gorey's old handball alley on Wexford Street is no more, and last week the official signing over and sale of the freehold from Gorey Town Council to Wexford County Council took place. The 'ball alley' as it was fondly known for many years has quite a history, and will hold many memories for not just sports people, but probably for a lot of young courting couples as well.The site has been flattened for a carpark, something which will be welcomed by Gorey's frustrated motorists who are finding it increasingly difficult to find a free space in the town at peak periods. Gorey Handball Committee sold the site to the Council for ?140,000. The proceeds are to be presented to Gorey Community School this week towards the cost of a new handball complex at the school. It is hoped the alley will not only be of benefit to students, but also to the general public in the evenings. The presentation will take place in the Loch gCarman Arms on Thursday, January 27, at 7p.m.
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16 October 2022

Site of former alley, Inis Meáin, Aran Islands, Co. Galway

The location of one of an alley on Inis Meáin, no longer existing. Photographed by R. Ryan, August 2022, with site indicated by local person.
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