The Late James Holohan, Kilsheelan-Kilcash

Allianz G.A.A. Hurling League, Tipperary v Cork, Semple Stadium, April 1, 2012


James Holohan, Ballyknockane, Kilsheelan, was buried recently in Gambonsfield Churchyard after 12 o'clock Mass, on a sunny day when death should have been far away.

Our paths crossed in three areas of G.A.A. activity. We were both stewards on match days at Semple Stadium and used to meet with others for the tea and sandwiches before the game. The occasion was always a time for previews and speculations and James was good at having all the latest information on the players available.

We were also members of the United Sports Panel in Clonmel. In fact we were invited on to the panel in the same year 2001 and I got to know James even more closely as this 11-man panel used to meet over a three-month period on eight occasions to work out the Annerville Awards in a variety of sports. While James was a G.A.A. man he was always curious about other sports and his contributions were respected. Invariably we had to postpone the chairman's dinner in January because James and Bridget always took their big trip early in the month. This took them to many exotic places and it revealed a great curiosity about the world and other cultures by one who was solidly based and thoroughly identified with the culture and community of Kilsheelan.

My longest association with James was on the G.A.A. Yearbook Committee, where he was a member since 1995. He took this membership very seriously and was completely conscientious in the obligations the membership entailed. But, he was more than that. He was always seeking to make it a better book and his mind teemed with ideas on how it could be improved. He came to me a few years ago with copies of yearbooks from other counties to see where we could get ideas to enhance our own publication.

James wasn't content to be just another member of the committee. As well as contributing ordinary articles on G.A.A, events such as the opening of pitches and clubrooms, interviews with players and officials and reports on club achievements, James also came up with three original contributions. One of these was the Tipperary Yearbook Awards in which James summarised the year through the awarding of honours or criticism. It showed his thorough knowledge of what was happening within the the county and beyond.

Another of his contributions was to name different kinds of teams. For instance he named a team of 'right hand unders', which began with Brendan Cummins – who else? - in goals. There was a team of players with names beginning with O and Mac, etc. All fascinating pieces and great for Christmas reading.

Probably the best thing he did was a series of tales about the Cill Beag Gaels, the imaginary, rural G.A.A. club that worked so hard for the honour of the little parish and which was occasionally successful. I think this series tells us more than anything what James stood for. The Gaels represent honest, generous effort on behalf of the club, which is a vital part of the parish structure. There is no ego involved just wholesome and honest effort for the welfare of the club and the betterment of the community.

James didn't set the world on fire but he contributed significantly to life in many different ways. He impressed those he met and they took notice of him. Probably his greatest contribution was the dedication and commitment he brought to anything he did, to any club he belonged to, to any organisation he was part of. He didn't join anything for the sake of joining.

On the same day he was buried the report of the Mahon Tribunal was released. It revealed that corruption affected every level of government from cabinet minister to local councillors during the two decades of political dominance by F.F. James Holohan's life of unselfish and unremunerated service to club, parish and the wider community stands out in stark contrast. His life was a shining light against the backdrop of such darkness.

The best tribute to him and a measure of the impact he made on life and on the people who knew him was the large crowd that called to sympathise with Bridget, and his brother and sisters on the day of the removal of his remains and the overflow crowd that filled the church of Gambonsfield at noon for the funeral Mass.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis