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Cockfighting in Killarney (1830’s)

Posted by gamecocksunlimited on July 13, 2013

Cock-Fighting by Ray Marshall

“Captain Harry Oliver, a retired Indian army officer, a great sportsman of his time (the 1830’s) kept a coop of game cocks for fighting. Local and inter-parish preliminaries were held all over Kerry, and these drew crowds of onlookers. Once, a battle royal took place , between representative fighters from Killarney and Castleisland. Killarney boasted that it had the champion game-cock of Kerry, and Killarneyites would stick a finger in your eye if you as much as hinted that there was a better bird to be found in all Munster.

Mr. Daniel Reidy, called Donal Duv, because of his dark complexion, had bred a bird, Dancing Master, that Islanders believed would make short work of Mulroon, the champion bird of Killarney.

The Dancing Master was a cross between a game hen and a cock pheasant, and “that was the raison,” Hughson Reidy, grand-nephew of Donal Duv, used to say that “the devil was in him, in his eyes and in his spurs.”

Well, the great day came at last. Hundreds of “sports” came from Killarney and Castleisland, in carriages, in sidecars, donkey-cars, and per shank’s pony [walking]. After a few preliminary bouts the battle of the day was staged.

The Killarney men never dreamt that they would meet such a tropical bird! The birds faced and eyed each other critically. Mulroon, thinking of his many victories, waded in on the Castleislander with great vim and dash, and many a glancing blow; but the Dancer stepped lightly and gracefully aside. The Killarney men rocked with laughter. “He’s yallow!” they shouted, “He’s a coward. He won’t stand up to it.”

But the Dancer was only biding his time, only watching his chance, as he politely bowed his compliments to Mulroon. He kept a steady, beady, malignant eye on a patch of feathers where Mulroon’s neck joined his head. That eye was deadly, like the skinned eye of a trapped eagle; it boded a bad time for the Killarney champion, who was futilely flapping his wings, striking the air, gurgling great hatreds at his opponent. Not a gug out of Donal’s pet while dancing a stately minuet and hopping and sparring round for a blow. then at last it came like forked lightening – swift and sudden death for Mulroon. With one fierce dive and blow the Dancing Master’s spur was through Mulroon’s brain! Castleislanders knew all the time that the end would come suddenly, for at every previous fight the Dancer had killed his man with a single blow.

Killarney was dumbfounded – horrified, and entirely shocked. There lay their champion as dead as a door nail on the green grass! It was incredible; the hero of a hundred fights killed with one blow from an unknown Castleisland cock! This was too much for the patience of the men from the Reeks. Then the humans, excited on either side by victory and defeat, commenced a big battle with the bare knuckles, following the death of the great Munster cock – o’ – the – walk.

We must draw a veil over the rest of this East Kerry shindy at the Pike; but we must add that it was a very disorderly mob of disgruntled Killarney men, some of them with black eyes, that sneaked into their home town that evening by by-ways and side-ways, and back-yards, with their pride utterly routed. But the Castleisland men came through the Main Street that evening, roaring themselves hoarse, with Donal Duv on their shoulders and the villainous head of the Dancing Master peeping out from under Donal’s jacket, while gorsoons and men cheered as if they had won a battle that freed all Ireland for ever.” (T.M. Donovan, A Popular History of East Kerry”, pp. 47-51)


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