Sean Barlow, Founder Member United Sports Panel - 1926-2010

United Sports Panel Presentation Dinner booklet, January 29, 2011


When a number of sports enthusiasts got together in 1959, little did they realise that they were starting something that has stood the test of time 50 years later. Led by Sean Barlow and the late Sean Lyons the United Sports Panel was formed. The founders felt the time was right to have an Awards Scheme in the county to honour amateur sports stars in their chosen sports annually. In fact, one should note that these were the first such awards in this country.

When the original members of the United Sports Panel first met they had, in fact, no name. They met in the Slievenamon Hotel, Parnell Street on Saturday, December 12, 1959. When they gathered together a week later to pick their Stars it was unanimously decided on the proposition of Sean Barlow, seconded by Eddie O'Neill, to adopt the name 'United Sports Panel.'

It was only fitting that Sean Barlow should be involved in this initiative because he was an avid sports fan, particularly of hurling, soccer and boxing, and he particularly followed the fortunes of the Tipperary senior hurling team and West Ham soccer club. 

This love of sport was reflected in the choice of gifts presented as offerings at his Requiem Mass. These included the Liam McCarthy Cup which, to Sean's delight, was back in the Premier County after a lapse of nine years, the All-Ireland hurling final match program, which symbolised his love of going to matches – he was at every All-Ireland hurling final from 1934-2001 – and bringing the family with him, and Brian Cody's autobiography, reflecting Sean's fondness and great admiration for Kilkenny, both as a place and a hurling county. Kilkenny and it's people were nearly as good as Tipperary in his eyes!

Sean's interest in sport wasn't confined to hurling only. His son, Stan, spoke of this in his funeral tribute to his father: 'My first memories are of being brought to see Waterford play soccer in Kilcohan Park in the early 70s. Waterford had a great team then, I think they won 7 League of Ireland titles in 9 years. We would all head off every second Sunday, no matter what the weather was like. I have great memories of standing in the same spot in the stand each time. That was the start of my love affair with sport.'

Sean Barlow believed that sport could unite people and maybe he got the idea from the contribution the G.A.A. made in binding up the wounds of division after the Civil War. His father and uncles were involved with Dan Breen and Sean Treacy and his parents named him after the latter and his sister was called Treacy, more commonly known as Trass. At any rate it is significant that it was Sean who came up with the name of the new awards body, 'United Sports Panel'.

Stan referred to this in his tribute. Mentioning his first All-Ireland in 1971, he added: 'Who would have travelled with us that day were his life-long friends, Tom Carroll and the late Sean Lyons. Politically Da, Sean and Tom were different colours, but what brought them together was their love of sport, it was a bond that was far greater and mattered more than any political differences they may have had.'

Sean Barlow was the third chairman of the United Sports Panel, 1966-69. During his term in the chair the committee expanded the sports honoured to include ladies athletics, golf and rugby. He remained active on the committe until 2001. He informed the members at the September meeting of the Panel that he was resigning immediately 'as he was reducing his commitments generally and felt that more youthful members were needed.' Efforts to have him change his mind failed.

Sean Barlow will be remembered not only as a founder member of the United Sports Panel, which has stood the test of time and continues to serve an important function in the county, but also as a member who contributed significantly to the strength of the body over a period of of over forty years. He was delighted to see the United Sports Panel celebrate its Golden Jubilee in 2009 and to be able to attend the Presentation Dinner to renew old acquaintances. We were delighted he could celebrate the occasion with us. 
The United Sports Panel would like to extend sincerest sympathies to his wife, Aileen, his sons, Stan, Alan and Ivan, his daughters, Roma and Erma, his brothers and sisters and extended family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.