Gifford notes that "The boys play the English game of field hockey instead of the recently revived Irish sport of hurling." This detail marks one more way in which Mr. Deasy's school upholds Unionist values.
The two sports are similar and both very ancient, but field hockey assumed its modern form in the nineteenth century in English public schools. The more rugged and dangerous sport of hurling has been a part of Irish life for thousands of years, sharing many features (field, goals, number of players, some terminology) with Gaelic football. The Gaelic Athletic Association sought to revive it as part of the broader Celtic Revival, and its efforts have proved successful over the course of the last century.
Nationalist political implications aside, hockey will do just as well as hurling, slightly later in the chapter, for conveying Joyce's view that field sports are "mimic warfare" preparing boys for battle.