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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 22 May, 2018

The great story behind one of the most quintessentially GAA photos of all time

The shot that launched a thousand cow puns.

ON THE 11TH of April 2004 at the Newmarket on Fergus GAA Club in Clare, goalkeeper Rachel Lynch was playing for the county against Antrim in a National Camogie League game.

Photographer John Kelly was there for the Clare Champion newspaper to document the action.

But during the game he also spotted an unexpected fan watching on from behind the goal

freisin Source: Photograph By John Kelly Photogr

It’s since become an iconic GAA shot – thanks to the perfect timing of the cow’s head poking out having a gawk at the game.

It shot to fame 11 years after it was taken, when Twitter users spotted it in 2015 and it became a mainstay in the ‘gas GAA photo’ genre

For John it was just another shot, as he tells 

I would be known around here for a quirky style of photography so when I see something like this in front of me, my immediate reaction is to capture it. I remember taking it alright, but to me at the time it was just another picture, and back then, I wouldnt know until it was published in The Clare Champion on Thursday if it was going to get a reaction or not.
There obviously was no social media then so I gauged the pictures by the reaction of the public after the Champion came out on Thursdays. There was a great reaction to this at the time as it was on the front page, as far as I can remember.

freisin Source: Photograph By John Kelly Photogr

Its rise to internet fame was actually down to John himself – as he was the one who reposted it back in 2015 on Facebook:

I was dining in Newmarket with my wife Loretto one night in 2015 and when we came out of The Weavers Inn, something reminded me of that pic as the pitch is just up the road from there. When I went home, I went to my office an searched to see if I still had it ,and sure enough there it was, so I stuck it on the web and the reaction was mighty.

It’s inspired countless puns over the years

Part of the photo’s appeal might be the fact that it looks like the cow practically has her face pressed up against the net – like it can’t get enough of the action.

John explains how it came about:

There is a gate/door behind the goals to retrieve the balls that go over the net into the field behind.  I assume the cow, which was in the field grazing, just rambled up and stuck her head out to see what the hell was all the racket going on next door! The pic was taken with a long sports lens, from about centre field, which has the effect of compressing the picture’s elements together, so the distance between the wall and the house in the background is more than it looks in the pic.

The GAA used the photo to illustrate an April Fools prank a couple of years ago. And it was very apt, as their press release at the time shows:

We have found that leaving livestock or other animals graze on surfaces used for sporting purposes can help the growth of the pitch and ensure that the surface can help it better withstand frequent usage over the course of a year.

And we’ll undoubtedly see it pop up every so often in the future

Deservedly taking its place in the pantheon of brilliantly unique GAA photography – outstanding in its field.

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About the author:

David Elkin

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