There are 2,300 Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) clubs in Ireland. There are 265 in Cork alone. In Spliced, when Timmy Creed sings out all their names it is like an incantation, a powerful spell. For many years Creed’s local GAA—Bishopstown—held a spell over him. Sport was a way of being part of a tribe, a tribe that has its elites. At Creed’s school the hurlers are seen as men amongst boys. Warriors. Creed wants to be one of them. He will do anything to be one of them, even if it means going to war against himself.
Creed’s solo show, played out on a squash court which stands in for a hurling alley, offers a metaphor for the way boys become men, and how being a man comes with strict rules and codes in order to be one of the team, moving in packs, heads up and chests out.
“I wasn’t born a GAA man,” explains Creed early in the piece, “I became one.” To some degree, you might say that he was groomed not just to be a champion hurler but also an alpha male. But then he discovered that although he walked the same, looked the same, and drank the same that perhaps he wasn’t the same.
Creed, bearded and earnest, is a very likeable presence, physically moving about the court whacking his hurl and watching the ball with a watchful, terrier-like intensity. His show, which explores why we train men to behave in certain ways and treat elite sportsman like heroes, turning a blind eye and even encouraging their worst behaviours, has been touring GAAs throughout Ireland. That rather suggests that there is an overdue appetite for change, a questioning of what it really means to be a man.
For Creed, change came about when he discovered art and went to drama school—perhaps just another kind of cult, with its own rules, and one which swaps jock straps for G-strings. But as the piece moves through Creed’s personal journey of self-discovery and its three acts—thesis, anthisesis, and synthesisis—he brings the two worlds together. What happens when the hurling team uses yoga in its warm-ups? If men can learn to talk about love, might they think about themselves and women differently? Time will tell, but Creed’s gently probing show is a signpost along the way.