The Gardiner Connection

Munster S.H. Semi-final Replay, Cork, June 12, 1999


'Lisdoonl Lisdoon/ Lisdoonvarna/' hoarses Christy Moore in his inimitable way, and it's a long road, eighty winding miles, to Borrisokane, but there's an important G.A.A. link between the two places, Seamus Gardiner (1894-1976), one time chairman of the Munster Council, and President of the G.A.A. from 1943-46.

The future president was born in the west Clare town on July 17,1894. (He had a distinguished cousin, George Gardiner, who became world light-heavyweight champion in 1903, knocking out the Austrian champion, Jack Root, in the 12th round at Fort Erie, Canada.) He trained as a national teacher in De La Salle College, Waterford and went to U.C.D. to do his degree. His footballing prowess had already been recognised and he was made captain of the college Sigerson Cup team, and represented U.C.D. as a delegate to the Dublin county board. He got further recognition when he got his place on the Clare senior football team and was picked on the Munster provincial team which participated in an inter-provincial series in 1924 to pick a national team for the Tailteann Games.

In the same year he settled in Borrisokane as a teacher in the local boys' national school. Earlier he had spent some time teaching at Loughrea, where he served as a steward with the Irish Coursing Club. Having settled in Borrisokane he became involved in the local G.A.A. club and soon came to represent it at north board meetings. His talents were soon recognised and he succeeded Frank McGrath as chairman of the board in 1933, a position he was to hold until the end of 1938. Two years later he was elected vice-chairman of the Munster Council. In 1941 he succeeded Frank McGrath as chairman, as he had done in North Tipperary in 1933. He entered the G.A.A. presidential race in 1943 and defeated Dan O'Rourke, Roscommon for the highest office in the Association. Later, in 1967, another teacher, Seamus O Riain, who had started his teaching career in the boys' national school, Borrisokane, was also to become president of the Association!
The two major difficulties Seamus Gardiner had to contend with in office were the row with the army, where foreign games had been put on an equal footing with Gaelic games, and the row with the presidency of Ireland which had erupted in 1938 when Douglas Hyde had been removed as patron of the Association because he had attended a soccer match. The restrictions on travel, owing to wartime conditions, was another difficulty for the G.A.A. president.

Having completed his term of office, Seamus Gardiner, returned to club and divisional activity. He held the position of board treasurer until 1972. His involvement with the club was constant and strong, especially with the G.A.A. park, which now bears his name. He had been involved as early as 1930 when part of the Higginbottom estate was handed over by the Land Commission to the club. He played a major part in the development of the field as a fitting venue for Gaelic games. This involvement was well recognised in 1978 when the pitch was dedicated the Seamus Gardiner Memorial Park. He died in 1976 and, in a graveside oration, Seamus O Riain, summed up the man and his achievements and influence: 'He was a father figure accepted by all of us as representing what /s good and true, a man of authority, standing for perennial values of honesty and integrity and commanding our respect. But it was an authority that was tempered by human warmth and understanding and kindness, especially to those who were weak and in need.'

A fitting tribute indeed and recognition of a life of dedication to the cause of the Association. His two sons continued in that tradition. Denis hurled for many years with Borrisokane and, after his playing days, continued to serve by looking after juveniles. Seamus, the younger, after winning a Harty Cup with St. Flannan's in 1954, played with his home club until he was ordained in 1961. Later he was to spend twenty-seven years in the college and was involved with the teams that won Harty Cups in 1976, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1987 and 1989. Among the many he trained during his years there were Anthony Daly, Jamesie O'Connor, Brian Quinn and Conor Clancy. On the administrative side he represented the colleges on the Munster Council and was later P.R.O., a position he still holds.

There's a nice balance somewhere there, the father leaving Clare and coming to Tipperary to serve the Association there and at a provincial and national level, and the son returning to Clare to serve the Association there and in Munster.