Tipp G.A.A. Story 1935-1984 Book Launch Speech

Sarsfield's Social centre, Thurles on August 12, 1988


Chairman, Your Grace, distinguished speakers, guests, ladies and gentlemen. 

You can't judge a book by the cover, even one as attractively designed as this one is by Liam O'Donnchu, and most of you have seen no farther than the dust jacket. My wish is when you have browsed through it at your leisure or studied it in depth your praise will be confirmed.

There's a fine crowd of you present this evening and I want to thank you all for honouring the occasion by your presence. I should like to single out a few whom I'm particularly pleased to see among you 

One of the profiles in the book is of the legendary Bill Ryan of Laha by Martin Bourke. It is really great that a man of his age and achievements in football should be with us. He is our last surviving senior All-Ireland football player and he has three Munster senior football medals as well.. His profile is illustrated by two photographs which reveal the extent of the man's longevity. 

The first is of the Castleiney and Templetuohy United senior football team which won the county championship in 1914. Reclining in the front row is Bill Ryan. The second I took myself in Cashel last November. Bill is about to throw in the ball in the centenary senior football final between Commercials and Lough­more-Castleiney. When he arrived that day at Leahy Park I approached him about throwing in the ball. He was very loath. He didn't want to create any fuss. He'd prefer not too. But we persuaded him and he did. However, before he did he had to go into the Loughmore-Castleiney dressingroom to give a few words of encouragement to the lads.

Bill! Thank you for doing Cashel an honour on that day and for bringing honour and distinction to this occasion. 

The Henman of Clanrickarde

There's a second nonagenerarian who couldn't be with us at the last minute, Tom Duffy, from my native parish of Lorrha. He also has a link with 1914. In my Lorrha book there is a picture of the team that won the north championship in that year. Standing in the back row is the sturdy young Tom with a defiant look on his face. Today, with legs less sturdy but with spirit unbowed he's a link with one of the three Tipperary teams which defeated Galway in an All-Ireland. You better watch out, Cyril Farrell, and remember 1887, 1925 and 1958. 

Last Sunday week there was a reenactment of the first All-Ireland between Meelick and Thurles Sarsfields at Meelick. It was a 2l-a-side game using 1885 G.A.A. Rules. The ball was thrown in by Jim Power of Tynagh who captained the Galway team for a number of years in the mid-twenties. Tom Duffy was a guest of honour on the occasion and he renewed acquaintance with Jim Power after a lapse of over sixty years. The last time they had met was some year in the mid-twenties - neither of them could remember the exact one - when Tom won a county final with Tynagh. 

At that time there was some smuggling of players across the Shannon. Tom had been contacted by the great Ignatius Harney and took a taxi from Birr for the game. Before it began, they were pucking about and Tom was striking very impressively. Harney rushed in and said to him: 'Stop, Tom, they'll notice you.' 

There was an interesting sequel to this game. Tom, alias Joe Hynes, an egg buyer for the Clan­rickarde Estate, was picked to play for Galway. He was referred to in despatches as 'The Henman for Clanrickarde' and word was sent back to the selectors that 'the Henman is gone away'. And, he was gone because Jim Power drove him back to Rathcabbin after the match and they didn't meet again until last Sunday week. 

In referring to Bill and Tom I should like to misquote Shakespeare's Antony and Cleapatra: 

Age does not wither them not time dim their indomitable spirits. 

Neither does it dim the vision nor trim the step of another ancient here present, Jerry O'Keeffe, who is as old as this century. He strides like a colossus across the pages of Tipperary G.A.A. history. As Seamus Leahy mentions in his profile of Jerry: 'Few are alive today who can match his experience in G.A.A. affairs and there are few who can even recall some of the events of G.A.A. history in which he participated. ' 

There is one other I should like to mention on this historical occasion. This book is about recording the past for posterity. In 1970 an important decision was taken to produce a County G.A.A. Yearbook. Since then tremendous strides have been made in the recording of the past and in the preservation of records. The man responsible for that develop­ment was Seamus O'Riain, who was then chairman of the County Board. I am delighted to have him present this evening to see some of his ideas come to fruition in this publication. 

First History Since Fogarty

In mentioning the older and more distinguished is not to take from the achievements and distinctions of the younger. This book is about what has taken place. The younger among you and the present team are now making the history that will be written on some future occasion. 

This is the first county history to be produced in Tipperary since Canon Fogarty's book on the first fifty years appeared in 1960. Many of you are wondering what to expect. My intention in this book was to record as faithfully as possible the happenings of the Association within the county over half a century. These happenings include not only hurling and football but also many ancillary activities. They also include information on the administration of the games and other boardroom activities. In that these pages include as comprehensive a record as possible of every­thing relating to the Association within the county as well as the impact of Tipperary men and women outside the county. I believe I have assembled an impressive record. What is not included I failed to find. The selection I made was based on what I considered to be significant 

The second thing I aimed at was to make the material as interesting as possible. Most of you are aware that the reportage of games can by boring if you haven't got a specific interest in their outcome. I have tried to make this book interesting by bringing in as much of the human interest as possible without deviating from history. Ultimately you will be the judges of how I have succeeded.

Significance of Book

On an occasion such as this one is expected to say something profound. I have been searching for suitable profundities over the past few days and have failed to find any. For the past few years I have been writing extensively on G.A.A. matters and the more I become involved in the sub­ject the greater the need I see.for much more extensive work in the area of communication. I'll put it in a simple way. If my son, Ruadhan, wants to find out anything about Arsenal he has several reference books on the subject. There is no such reference section in the G.A.A. If I phone Croke Park about Munster championship results in 1934 they have no record of them. This book is an attempt to fill the void and to provide a suitable reference work for this county. There should be similar works for every county and every parish in the country. The oral tradition fulfilled the purpose in the past but it is no longer sufficient. 

The preservation of the past hasn't been given sufficient emphasis. There is no G.A.A. museum. Children who visit Croke Park on a school tour have nothing to see but a fine stadium. There is no place where they can see mementoes of' the past. There is no suitable place for the exhibition of the Sam Maguire Cup, which was presented for the last time in 1987. I understand there is a debate going on in G.A.A. circles about such a museum. If there is such an intention it is none too timely.

Meaning of the G.A.A. 

But the G.A.A. is much more than historical record and the exhibition of the past. For me it is many things. It is the exhilaration of playing the game - albeit but a memory now - and the excitement of watching others play. It's the mad race after the ball and the clash of bodies as well as ash. It's the roar of the goal that comes after some great endeavour. But it's also the preview of the game, the expectant talk, the speculat­ion, the projections that never work out. A Clare friend of mine, Mich­ael Hogan, once said to me that he loved a draw because it gave one another week's talk. 

There is also the lift a victory can bring to a parish or a county. We were on high doh after our victory in the Munster final last year. The excitement on the road to Dublin for the All-Ireland semi-final was palpable. I shall ever remember the full-throated singing of Slievenamon in McGrath's pub before the game. At the parish level the excitement can be as intense. Our victory over Clonoulty-Rossmore is the west this year gave Cashel its greatest lift in eight years. 

These are the excitements of high summer. I also enjoy the game in the dead of winter. A league game in Newross or Tulla can lift the depression of a winter Sunday. I shall never forget the day in Tulla in the mid seventies when we failed to score from play. Joe McDonnell, Martin Cummins and myself braved the elements and watched in the wind and the rain as we scored three miserable points from frees. But we forgot it all in Minogue's pub afterwards when we agreed that we had reached the nadir and that we had no lower to go. Little did we know. 

The Association inspires tremendous loyalty and an extraordinary amount of dedicated work. Every club has its dedicated servants. They stand out like beacons to others and they give their all for the love of the game and their love of the club. Without them we could not carry on. Sadly they are the unsung heroes of so many clubs. Every club has got its Pierce Bonnars and its Paddy Greaneys and we are extremely lucky to have two of them in Cashel. 

I have deviated a bit but they are things that need to be said. To return to the present I should like to thank a few people. My family, who have seen my back at the writing table on many occasions over the past two years. The chairman of the Communications Committee, Mick McCarthy and Secretary, Liam O'Donnchu, who gave me absolute support and encouragement. The Leinster Leader, especially Brendan Ellis and Michael Kane, who were always perfect gentlemen. Mick Frawley, who as chairman in 1984 encouraged the idea of updating Canon Fogarty, Mick Lowry, who gave every encouragement to the project and Noel Morris who continued that support when he came into office last January. I should like to thank my fellow members of the county board for supporting the project and Tipperary Co-Op for their generous sponsorship.

It is with a great feeling of relief I see this county history completed. The finished product has been worth the long hours of slog. I am delighted that Babs and his Bahes, by their victories to date, have made this year an exciting one for Tipperary hurling and provided an appropriate backdrop to the launching of this work. I am also happy to have some to the end of my speech and to give everyone an opportunity to enjoy the remainder of the evening.