South Tipperary G.A.A. 1907-2007 - A History of the South Board
The Nationalist, January 26th, 2008
The South Board of the G.A.A. celebrated its centenary during 2007. The Commemorative Committee organised numerous activities during the year recognising the achievements of the board in many areas as well a honouring a huge number of individuals who had contributed to the board's success since its foundation. Probably the most permanent achievement of the committee was the decision to have a history of the board written and to have chosen for the task, Micheal O'Meara, a man associated with the board over many decades, and currently its President. When many of the centenary events of 2007 have passed into memory, South Tipperary G.A.A. 1907-2007 will remain a permanent record and a masterful achievement.
The history is dedicated to the memory of all players, administrators, officials and supporters, who have contributed to one hundred years of Gaelic Games under the auspices of South Tipperary Board G.A.A. since its foundation on June 8, 2007. It stretches to almost eight hundred pages, divided into thirty-one chapters.
The first chapter covers the period before the setting-up of the board and has the catchy title 'From Hayes's Hotel to Ryan's Hotel' What was to be the South Division was well represented at Hayes's Hotel with Maurice Davin and Joseph P. Ryan from Carrick-on-Suir numbered among the founding seven. One of the most distinguished G.A.A. officials from this period was Dick Cummins, of Fethard, the first chairman of the Munster Council in 1901 who, together with his son of the same name, straddle the whole period from the foundation of the G.A.A. until the death of the latter in the South Centenary Year. Some longevity and some service!
There was one major controversy during this period, the row between the All-Ireland champions of 1900, Clonmel Shamrocks, and the Central Council over the non-payment of expenses to the club for the All-Ireland. The club got a court decree against G.A.A. secretary, Luke O'Toole for £7.0s.10d and had his personal property seized in lieu of that amount. Central Council gave the club the option of apologising for their action and paying half the legal costs or being suspended. The club chose the latter and were suspended for life, but the Central Council relented later and the suspension was lifted in 1905 to end a conflict of almost two years' duration.
The County Tipperary annual convention of 1907 decided to divide the county into three division and set up sub-committees in each division to run the championships. Each division would send one delegate to the county board and the officers of the latter were: chairman, Frank Moloney, Nenagh, secretary, Martin Brennan, Ballingarry and treasurer, Mikey Maher, Tubberadora. Brennan had been secretary of the county board since 1899 and a former member of the Munster and Central Councils. He was one of those who attended the foundation meeting of the South Board at Ryan's Hotel, College Street, Clonmel on June 8, 2007 and he was to be first secretary of the newly-formed board.
Ryan's Hotel (today McCarthy's) had a strong G.A.A. connection. Its proprietor, Martin Ryan, came from a well-known G.A.A. family. He was uncle of Sean Ryan, who became president of the Association in 1928, and was for many years legal adviser and confidant of many of its leading figures. Another nephew was Tommy Ryan, who was secretary of the South Board from 1918 to 1930. Martin Ryan himself was a native of Kilshane, who came to Clonmel at an early age, was a member of Clonmel Corporation from 1902-1914. He died in September 1930 and is buried at Bansha.
The historic date attracted an impressive aray of G.A.A officials, representative of the clubs within the new division, to the foundation meeting. The officers elected were chairman/president, James Meehan, a Labour Councillor on Clonmel Corporation, Robert Quane, one of the greats of gaelic football from Tipperary Town, and the above-mentioned Martin Brennan.
All of this matter is dealt with in chapter 2, which the author calls 'The Grangemockler Era'. Over the course of the next twenty chapters, each dealing with four-five year segments, he writes about the happenings in the division up to Centenary Year. As in all such accounts the earlier years, with their personalities, conflicts and, from this distance, quaint happenings, are far more interesting than the happenings of later chapters with their proliferation of competitions and games. Chapter three makes interesting reading with matters not going well for the board, poor attendance at meetings, many disputes and eventually suspension by the county board for irregularities in the running of its affairs.
The chapters divide the 100 years into interesting segments, sometime with evocative titles. 'Croke Park Heartbreak & Killarney Joy' neatly encapsules the 1935 football All-Ireland semi-final defeat and victory in the All-Ireland at Killarney hurling final in 1937. 'Of Swans and Walls' covers the great period in Swan history and the mighty Walls in the second half of the forties. 'Na Piarsaigh and Cahir Slashers' made their mark in the second half of the fifties. 'Of Babs and Theo' captures the glory that was Marlfields and Ardfinnan's in the early sixties. Chapter 14 deals with one of the greatest periods in South football and hurling when Commercials and Davins were kings in the division and beyond. We jump forward to the arrival of John Leahy and Mullinahone in the latter half of the eighties, and of Moyle Rovers in the beginning of the ninties. The only quibbles I have with the content of the chapters is the use of too many and too extensive quotations from newpapers and other publications, as well a failure to give enough specific dates for matches, particularly finals. The provision of dates is a great service to future researchers, who are able to find the relevant match report much more easily as a result.
Chapters 23 and 30 are directly related to the content of the first twenty-two chapters. The former of these covers 'Club Profiles' and this is a very valuable chapter giving vital information about the clubs in succinct form. Starting with Ardfinnan, founded in 1910, it progresses alphabetically to Skeheenarinha, founded in 1952. The Club Colours, Other Clubs in the Parish, Roll of Honour, Club Players Who Won All-Irelands, Club Members Elected to Divisional Office, Club Members Elected to County Office, Club Grounds, Other Special Achievements are given for each club. This chapter will prove a godsend to program makers of the future.
Chapter 30 has profiles of Players and Administrators and is the longest in the book. It is equally important, even more so, than the chapter on club profiles but, unfortunately, it leaves a lot to be desired because of the uneveness of the contributions. It is understandable that the author had to make do with what he received from contributors and, while some contributions were excellent, others contained not even the basic information. I believe that such profiles should contain some basic information such as the subject's years, if he is dead, his year of birth if he is still living, where he was born, the name of his club or clubs, his achievements, offices held, reasons for inclusion, etc.
While the opening twenty-two chapters give a detailed acount of the workings of the board and the organisation of games over the hundred years, and the latter two contain important additional information, the remaining seven chapters deal with other sporting activities not all of them under the aegis of the board. Handball, Athletics in South Tipperary, Camogie, Ladies Football Bord na nÓg and Scór are covered in this section. Ken Conway's chapter on handball includes the All-Ireland Roll of Honour of South Tipperary handballers. Seamus Leahy's account of athletics rightly gives prominence to the two world-famous families from the South, the Davins and the Kielys. Sean O'Donnell mentions the exploits of two St. Mary's players, Johanna Meaney and Nora O'Connell, both not too long dead, in the Tailteann Games at Croke Park in 1932, is his article on camogie. Ladies Football gets detailed treatment from Biddy Ryan while Ricky Sheehan gives comprehensive coverage to Bord na nÓg, which includes a good statistical section. Sean O'Donnell also covers Scór but unfortunately does not include the Scór na nÓg and Scór na bPaistí champions.
The final chapter is entitled 'A Miscellany' and covers anything that should be covered but hasn't already been covered. All the board officers down the years are included, but also club secretaries since 1962. All the referees that have performed for the board since the thirties are mentioned. Awards winners since 1970 are included. The finances of the board since 1929, when total gate receipts amounted to £271, to 2006, when they amounted to €102,960, are given. There's a tribute to the reporters and journalists in 'The Nationalist' who covered the games so well over the period. The significant role of sponsorship in recent years is highlighted. The improvement and devlopment of club grounds is recorded. The role of the Tipperary G.A.A. Draw in the finances of clubs is mentioned. There's a section on South Tipperary Schools and finally the results of all finals in the South hurling and football championships are included.
A massive tome containing an immense amount of information on gaelic games in the South Division! Micheal O'Meara has done a huge service to the board and to all those involved in the games in all the clubs in the division. As well as text the book has over four hundred pictures, most of them black and white, but with a special colour section devoted to recent players and personalities. As is usual in such books there is a scarcity of photographs in the early section which is more than made up for by their proliferation from 1970 onwards. Curiously the advent of digital photography has reduced the preservation of pictures. Admittedly pictures can be stored more easily but many are now destroyed after use in the local paper, whereas in the past the photograph was framed and hung or put into a drawer for safe keeping.
There are a few unexpected omissions from the photographs that appear in the book. While chapter 4 deals with the rise of Fethard there is no club picture. This may have been due to any being available. Also there is no picture of the Swans in 1947, who made the great breakthrough in winning the county senior hurling title. As well there is no picture of Marlfield or Ardfinnan in chapter 13, which is devoted to the exploits of the two clubs.
However, these are small matters in the context of a mighty work and do not take in any way from the huge achievement which is South Tipperary History 1907-2007. The book will live as a monument to the achievements of the South Division and to the dedication, commitment and ability of Micheal O'Meara in recording these achievements. It gives us a comprehensive picture of the contribution of the division to the story of the G.A.A. in County Tipperary and will join the histories of the North and West Divisions, and the soon-to-be-completed History of Mid Tipperary, in informing us in greater detail of the role of the Gaelic Athletic Association in the lives of the people of Tipperary.