Until the last decade, scholarly work on the history of sport and leisure in Ireland was most noted by its absence. Historians of modern Ireland almost entirely ignored the importance of sport as a historical phenomenon, preferring to concentrate on matters of church and state.
Over the past 40 years sport has gained credibility as a field of academic study. This is evident in the expansion of participant and spectator sport worldwide, supported by an ever-increasing range of sport related programmes offered at colleges and universities and ever-increasing research opportunities.
At this year's Wimbledon Tennis Championships, Zheng Jie became the first Chinese player to reach the semi-finals of a grand slam tournament. Five minutes after stepping off the court, she was asked yet again to pronounce her name for a global television audience - 'because we've heard it so many different ways this week', quipped the reporter.
In the year of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing it is perhaps timely for us to revisit the philosophy which inspired Pierre de Coubertin to develop the Olympic Movement, and its more familiar expression through the modern Olympic Games. Muscular Christianity, the theme of John J. MacAloon's edited volume (2007), is just that ethos.