Jim Stapleton, Solohead (1930-2001)

County Tipperary Supplement, The Examiner, June 27, 2001


The death took place recently of one of the major figures in the G.A.A. in Solohead, Jim Stapleton. he ws a father figure in the club, was well thought of and was a kind of ambassador to the West division and to the wider Assiciation in the county and beyond.

He came from a distinguished family. His father, Sean Stapleton, who hailed from Oola and inherited an uncle's farm in Solohead, was a founder member of the West Board in 1930. He was also a referee of note. Another claim to fame is that he turned his adopted club to hurling. Taditionally a football stronghold Solohead adapted to hurling under his influence and won a number of South championships before the West Board was founded. 

Jim Stapleton was both a hurler and a footballer. His first success came in 1949 when he won a west junior hurling title with Solohead. Two more hurling titles followed during the fifties, in 1955 and 1959. In the latter year the county championship was also won. A big man, Jim played at full-back or cornerback in these successes. 

He also enjoyed football success. Junior football titles were won in 1954 and 1955. After winning in 1954 Solohead made an impassioned plea at the West convention that Solohead was a small club and couldn't possibly be promoted. Their pleadings were listened to and they were allowed to stay junior. When they won again in 1955 other clubs were none too pleased and they were forced to go senior. They joined Lattin in a combination team and enjoyed senior football divisional success in 1956 and 1957. 

Before his playing career was finished he had already taken up refereeing and refereed widely in West Tipperary and Limerick. He was an effective referee, commanding respect and exuding authority. He was likely to get any match that seemed likely to blow up and could effectively control it. In the course of time his remit ran to county games. He was also recognised at intercounty level, taking charge of National Hurling League games, and he refereed at least one senior championship game, between Limerick and Waterford. 

He was a county senior hurling selector during the great years of the late fifties and sixties. According to report there was no West selector until 1958. In that year the West convention made its choice and this fell to Tony Brennan, who wasn't in attendance at convention. Their second choice was Jim and when Tony declined the position, Jim got it and was selector during the glory years of 1958 to 1968. Tipperary played in eight AII-Irelands during these eleven years, winning five of them. Oh! that such decades would come again! 

Jim's involvement with the G.A.A. outside never curtailed his involvement with Solohead. He was very much involved in the purchase of the field in 1980. He was a trustee of the field. He was a man that people turned to for advice. A man of gentle disposition, he didn't make enemies. 

Married to Mary Kennedy of Tipperary Town, the couple had five children, four boys and a girl.

Jim worked for the Department of Agriculture, initially in Mullingar, later in Dovea and West Limerick, and latterly in Tipperary Town. A patriotic man, like his father, Jim was a long time member of the FCA, where he achieved a high rank. His death was sudden. He was driving his car two days beforehand. One of the last G.A.A. functions he attended was the launch of the West Board history at Dundrum on May 25. It was fitting that he was present because he contributed in no small way to that history.