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Sean Barlow, Founder Member United Sports Panel - 1926-2010 United Sports Panel Presentation Dinner booklet, January 29, 2011

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.

A Team of All the Ryans Clonoulty-Rossmore Vintage Rally brochure, August 2010, pp. 31-34

A Team of All the Ryans

Clonoulty-Rossmore Vintage Rally brochure, August 2010, pp. 31-34


Mike and Jack Ryan (Rockwell's Famous Internationals) 

Mike and Jack Ryan (Rockwell's Famous Internationals) 

It was an unusual idea and it was used by Cashel Rugby Club to get their 1956/57 season off with a wave of publicity. A team of all the Ryans was to challenge a team of all the Rest, made of players of the non-Ryan variety from Cashel, Clanwilliam, Clonmel, Garryowen and Young Munster.

Since you could cut a Ryan in any ditch in Tipperary there was no problem in getting fifteen to fill the positions on the team. Although hurling was the predominant game in the county and many Ryans, such as Sweeper and his brothers, had become famous playing for Tipperary there were other Ryans who had excelled on the rugby field.

The most famous, Mick and Jack, came from the Racecourse, which was in the parish of Cashel

They were legends in their own lifetimes and the legend hasn't faded in the meantime. Mike was capped 17 times for Ireland between 1897 and 1904 and Jack 14 times over the same period. Mike was chosen in 1905 but refused to play because Jack wasn't picked. Mike didn't begin to play rugby until he was 24 years old and brother Jack was already playing. Both started off as backs but soon changed to the forwards. Both played on the Triple Crown team in 1899 when Ireland defeated England, Scotland and Wales for the first time. 

Press accounts of the Triple Crown matches gave prominence to the contribution of the Ryans. In every second line we find the same note. "Mike Ryan came through on a couple of occasions in grand style". "The Ryans put in a lot of work and were assisted by Ahern and McCoull". "Of the forwards Mike Ryan and Jack were far and away the best, the elder brother being always on the ball". "Mick Ryan's play was brilliant, especially in the second half, when he knocked the English backs about like nine pins. He was simply irresistible and the soft surface of the field bore a deep impression of many a Saxon's form that Mick laid low".

The Scottish Match

Against Scotland the well-publicised incident happened: Mike Ryan slung the biggest Scottish man, McEwan, into the spectators. "He was playing a great game. Now, from our twenty-five he meant to get through, I saw him coming, teeth bared, jaw set, determination written all over him. Five yards from me he hurled himself for me. I got one arm well round him, swung around with him and let go; he sailed out into the crowd. There was a great hush for a moment in which you would have heard a pin drop. It was looked on as a prodigious feat of strength, but it was his own size and speed that helped me. He resumed the game nothing the worse".

Only five players played in all three matches - Louis Magee, James Sealy, Billy Byron, and the two Ryans. "Jack and I returned home. At the Racecourse Cross we were held up by all Rockwell. To a man they had turned out to welcome us. They took the horse from between the shafts and insisted on pulling us all the way to the college we loved, though our hands ached from all the fierce handclasps we received."

Jakes McCarthy, an outstanding sportswriter of the time, once described a famous try by Mike Ryan with the memorable phrase "crossing the line, his frame festooned by Saxons". The Ryans dined in Rockwell twice a week and played rugby with the boys. They were known for their gentleness and never hurt a student. Mike was particularly popular and Jack was the orator. Jack is remembered starting a speech in his good Tipperary accent: "There are moments in life . .." and the crowd applauding so much that he had to begin three times. Mike played for Bective at the time because a player could play for two teams in different provinces. Bective was one of a small number of Catholic clubs.

Last Game

Mike played his last game of rugby 1912 for a wager. He hadn't played for years: "Mr. O'Flaherty, Science Professor in Rockwell, laid me a wager that if I played in Rockwell I would not score. I took him on. Rockwell boys on the touchline made almost as much noise as all the spectators at an international. I had put on a good deal of avoirdupois and did not feel quite up to international form. I am afraid that the winning of the wager did not seem a possibility. However I kept going. About five minutes from the end my chance came. One of our centres cut through nicely. I think he could have got over on his own, but he elected to send to me. I took the pass somehow and attained the line. It was the most memorable and, I think, the most applauded score of my life, but nothing would induce me to accept another wager".

From the time the Cashel Rugby Club was revived in 1952 there was a preponderence of Ryans on the team. These included six brothers, named Eddie, Gerry, Tony, Dick, John and Donie. It was no surprise then that someone came up with the idea of the Ryans versus the Rest. The idea was unique and investigations carried out in Ireland, England Scotland and Wales at the time, failed to find any team made up of fifteen players with the same surname. So, it was a great way of generating publicity for the club.

Ryans versus the Rest was played in the Cashel Club grounds at Spafield on September 9. The Ryan team was as follows. At full-back was Donal Ryan, Solicitor, Ladyswell Street, Cashel. The threequarters line included John Ryan, Fethard, Tony Ryan, Cashel, John Ryan, Cashel, and M. Ryan, Clanwilliam. The outhalf was Benny Ryan, Cashel and the scrumhalf was P. D. Ryan, Clanwilliam. The forward line included Paddy Ryan, Templemore, P. V. Ryan, Clanwilliam, and Jim Ryan Hanna, Clonoulty, Pat Ryan, Clanwilliam, Eddie Ryan, Cashel, Matty Ryan, Cashel, Denis Ryan, Cashel, John Ryan, Clanwilliam.

There were a further three Ryans on the sideline that day: Jack Ryan of Clonmel, Dick Ryan (C) of Cashel and Johnny Ryan, Cashel.

The Rest won by 12-11. Cashel had the first score, a penalty from 45 yards out, converted by a notable point scorer, Denis Ryan, who was also captain of the side. In the course of the game Denis had to retire from the pack to the three-quarter line with a knee injury. Shortly after the penalty, from a line-out near the Rest line, Paddy Ryan burst over for a great try, which Denis Ryan converted and, just on half-time the latter scored again from a penalty in front of the Rest posts, to give Cashel a half-time lead of 11-0.

If Cashel had the better of the exchanges in the first half, the Rest made up for it after the interval. Seven minutes after the resumption Timmy O'Dwyer landed a good penalty for the Rest. The play swung from 25 to 25 and, about midway through the half, O'Dwyer had another penalty for the Rest. The latter continued to harass the Ryan lines and a fine burst by Coffey from a loose maul sent O'Brien away to score near the corner about ten minutes from time. The conversion failed. There were now only two points between the sides and the Rest snatched victory near the closing stages when Kennedy, receiving from a set scrum on the 25, cut through a gap in the Ryans defence before sending O'Brien over to score again. At the final whistle the Ryans were trying desperately to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat but failed on the scoreline of 11-12.

The Rest: A. Ellard (Clan), M. Gilligan (Clan), J. O'Brien (Clan), D. Kennedy (Clan), J. O'Connor (Cashel), M. Thompson (Cashel), F. Dwyer (Cashel), S. Quinlan (Clan), F. Kent (Clonmel), B. Boles (Cashel), T. Dwyer (Clan), W. Burke (Templemore), D. B. Rodgers (Cashel), D. Spearman (Cashel), T. Coffey (Garryowen).

Referee: Tommy O'Connor (Cashel)

Revival of the Club

There was a report in the Nationalist in February 1952 of a general meeting of Cashel Rugby Football Club. It appears that the game was dead in the town for just ten years, the last report of activity having been defeat in the Mansergh Cup final on May 3, 1942.

The general meeting elected the following officers: president ˆ W. P. Ryan, vice-presidents ˆ Rev. Dean Wyse Jackson and James Phelan, treasurer ˆ Frank Rhatigan, secretary ˆ Benny Ryan, captain ˆ Tommy O'Connor, vice-captain ˆ Con Hewitt. The selection committee included Dan Devitt, Richie Ryan and Jim Hannigan.

The report on the meeting was as follows: 'After a lapse of several years, a rugby football club has been established in the town. Its immediate predecessor, dating back a score or more years, was able to hold its own with the very best in the county. Although the present season is well advanced and the remaining few weeks do not permit much time for training and practising, still the fact of renewing a link with the past should encourage the club members to emulate the very creditable record of those who originally intorduced the game to Cashel and set a fine example of sportmanship on and off the field.' 

The revived Cashel club's first outing was against Rockwell College on February 10 at Cashel. The result was 10-9 in favour of Cashel and more important than the result is the team that won. It was as follows: T. Ryan, B. Rogers, J. Ryan, T. McGovern, P. J. Davern, T. O'Connor, Con Hewitt, D. Dwyer, M. Davitt, L. Tuohy, D. Looby, P. Donoghue, B. Ryan, D. Ryan, D. Williams. Cashel's two tries were scored by Tommy O'Connor and Mick Devitt and both were converted by Denis Ryan. According to the match report he 'showed rare skill, especially on the second occasion, when he goaled from the sideline.'


Conditions Bordering on the Primitive

Denis Ryan, mentioned above, has vivid memories of the early days. 'None of us knew anything about rugby,' he claims but they took to it like ducks do to water.

Tommy O'Connor (Dal) was their trainer and their basic training was running out as far as Camas Bridge which Denis remembers as a great load of craic. Fr. Meaney, C.S.Sp. of Rockwell College used to give them some rugby coaching.

The ball at the time was a bladder enclosed in a case of laced leather, and it was very difficult to kick. Denis should know, being an outstanding kicker. His technique was a straight run-up to the ball, no coming at it from an angle. He scored 102 points in the 1954-55 season. The boots weren't very good either and he had to buy a new pair every year.

Players looked after their own jerseys to the extent of taking them home after the match and washing them, Washing after matches left a lot to be desired. No hot showers like the players of today enjoy. Instead they had a barrel of water put at their disposal to wash the dirt off them. They had no fancy towels either but usually dried themselves with their jerseys! Denis recalls having to break the ice on the barrel in Nenagh after one match.

Fields could be very bad during the season, areas of mud with water running through them. Cashel were extremely lucky to get the use of their Spafield venue from Jim Phelan. Their first clubhouse was a converted cowshed. Denis recalls spending time improving it. Involved in the electric side of things, he made an important contribution. Others helped out with cement, plastering, painting, etc.

Transport was anything but plentiful at the time. A number of players had cars and they helped with the transport. Joe O'Connor had his butcher's van and this was also drafted in to bring players to games. Denis recalls how it was used for poker games on longer journeys.

Plenty of Success

Cashel started out as a Seconds team and the won the Evans Cup their first year, beating Roscrea in the final at Roscrea in the 1952/53 season. They advanced to first level the following season and won the Garryowen Cup and were beaten in the final of the Junior Cup by Shannon. They retained the Garryowen Cup in 1955 and 1956, surely extraordinary success in such a short period of time. There were also a couple of Mansergh Cup victories.

Clonoulty Connection

One doesn't associate rugby very much with the parish of Clonoulty-Rossmore. An important connection with the Team of All the Ryans was the late Jim Ryan Hanna, for many years a stalwart of the hurling fields of West Tipperary, who completed his sporting life on the rugby pitch.In all he played for about eight years and was one of the few to wear a scrum cap. Other contemporaries from the parish who played rugby during this period were John Bourke of Clune, Eddie and Jimmy Fryday, and Tom Ryan.

There's another rugby connection with the parish from a somewhat earlier period. The Pikes were born in Srahavarrella, Clonoulty West in the beginning of the twentieth century, the sons of clergyman, William Pike, and his wife Harriett Florence. The older, Theodore Ouseley, was born in 1905 and was capped for Ireland 8 times. We know he played for Ireland against England at Twickenham on February 12th, 1927. He ended up a Governor of Somaliland from 1954-1959 and he died in Guilford in 1987.

The second son was Victor Joseph, who was born in 1907 and died in 1986. He played for Ireland but we're not sure how many caps he won. His position was hooker and he definitely played against England at Twickenham on February 14, 1931. He spent a long time as a chaplain in the British Armed Forces, rising eventually to become Chaplain General. He ended up as Anglican Bishop of Sherborne.




Johnny Murphy (Cashel and New York) Posted on Cashel King Cormac's Website, September, 2009

Johnny Murphy (Cashel and New York)

Posted on Cashel King Cormac's Website, September, 2009


Johnny Murphy has spent most of his life in New York but his love of Cashel and his continued interest in his family and friends there remains undimmed. He is a regular visitor to the town coming to his former home in Moore Lane in the shadow of the famous Rock two or three times a year.

Before his family moved to Moore Lane, they lived at 11 Cathal Brugha Street, where Johnny, the oldest of a family of six, three boys and three girls, was born to Michael Murphy and Elizabeth O'Brien on April 20, 1936. In fact, on the night that he was born his grandfather, O'Brien, was being waked in his home on the boreen under the Rock.

Johnny went to the National School on the Green, where his teachers were Frank Egan and Mr. O'Sullivan. The school went to third class and when he was finished there he moved down to the CBS on the Golden Road where Brothers Ryan, Ford and Nolan, 'a tough man', were in control. The latter was in charge of the hurling team and the game was promoted with missionary zeal in the school. Some years later, in 1963 in fact, Johnny recognised his hurling debt to the Brothers by presenting the Murphy Cup, a Challenge Cup for the Cashel King Cormac's juvenile league competition, to Brother Noonan.

First Job

Johnny spent one year in the secondary school before leaving in 1951 and going to work in Arthur Wards at the Back of the Pipes, where his uncle, Paddy O'Brien had a job. Wards was a drapery shop but also carried on a pawn business and issued fishing and gun licences. His hours were 9.30 am to 7 pm, with a half-day on Wednesdays and a longer day on Saturdays, when the shop stayed open until 11 pm!. His starting pay was 2/6, (approximately 16c) and he stayed until 1958, when he was taking home 5/- a week (32c)!

Of his early hurling career, Johnny has this to say: 'I started my hurling career with Cashel CBS at twelve years and won Rice Cup medals in 1948 and 1949. I played minor and senior hurling with Cashel King Cormacs in 1951. We trained a lot in these days and money was scarce. At least three times a week we were in the field training. There were no dressingrooms. We togged out by the ditch, rain or shine, or in the car that brought us to the game.'

Johnny soon came to the notice of the county selectors and was selected on the county minor team in 1952. They beat Waterford in the first round. The selectors weren't happy with the team and held a trial at Thurles the following Sunday. Johnny takes up the story: 'Cashel played Solohead at Tipperary Town earlier that day and beat them in overtime. Michael Davern and I were on the team and rushed back to Cashel to catch the South car going to Thurles. We missed it and Jim Devitt drove us over. We togged out came on the field and were put marking one another. We walked off in protest and were both dropped from the panel. Tipperary went on to win the All-Ireland with Tony Wall as captain.'

Still angry at the way he was treated Johnny failed to go for a trial in 1953, even though he was notified. When the team was picked he was selected at centre-forward. They beat Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Antrim and Dublin to win the All-Ireland. The team was a star-studded one with Ray Reidy, Liam Devaney, Billy Quinn, Liam Connolly and Sean McLoughlin included. He was on the team again in 1954 when they were beaten by Dublin in the All-Ireland. Jimmy Doyle was on goals, Ray Reidy was still there as was Liam Connolly, and the team included Mick Burns of Nenagh and Tommy Gouldsboro, who were to make their names at senior level later.

County Championship

There was some consolation for Johnny in the same year when Cashel won the 1953 county junior championship, in a replay against Gortnahoe at Thurles on October 3, 1954. Johnny was wing-forward and he and Michael Gayson were the stars of a strong Cashel attack, which ran up a spate of scores in the second-half, when Gortnahoe could manage only a point. Johnny takes up the story: 'It was the first county championship win for Cashel. What a thrill! My uncle, Paddy O'Brien in goal, may father, full-back, Dickie Ivers, Dinny Hickey and Billy Hickey and I, three nephews and a father-in-law ˆ it was a family affair. I believe we were the first father and son in Ireland to have won a championship together.'

Johnny progressed to senior ranks in the county. 'I played some National Hurling League games with Tipperary in 1956 and 1957. In 1958 I was picked for the championship and played right-half forward against Limerick at Cork. With ten minutes to go I was replaced by Liam Devaney and later dropped from the panel. Tipperary went on to win the All-Ireland, beating Galway in the final. Tony Wall was captain, as he had been on the minors in 1952. I lost another All-Ireland medal. I guess I was from the wrong division in the county.'

While still in Cashel he used to play senior football with Rockwell Rovers, together with John Knightly, as there was no senior team in the King Cormacs. He was on the New Inn team beaten by Galtee Rovers, 0-2 to 0-1, in the 1954 West final.


In that year he went to Dublin to play with Faughs, enticed to the club by Tommy Moore, their famous chairman for forty years, who had a pub in Cathedral Street, now the Goalpost, which was the club's headquarters. He played in the semi-final replay against Young Irelands and scored 1-3 in their victory. However, defeat was their lot in the final, played at Croke Park on May 23, when they were well-beaten, 4-11 to 0-8, by New Ireland, who raced away in the last quarter. The Irish Independent reporter calculated that fifteen hurleys were broken during the course of a hard-hitting game.

Johnny got a job at McBirney's on the Quays, after failing to get into Clery's, and continued working in the drapery trade. His new job was much better paid than at Wards. He got a weekly wage of £10 and, when commission for sales was added, it went up to £15 or £16 per week.

This was very good money at the time and Johnny threw it all up when he decided to emigrate to New York a year later.

New York

In May 1959 Johnny, who declared for Dublin that year and was on the panel, met Paddy Fleming, who was home from New York, and he told him that they were looking for a few players and would be be interested. Johnny was and soon after met the famous Mike Flannery at the Gresham Hotel in Dublin. Flannery made the arrangements, which included having an x-ray taken that one was free from TB, and Johnny headed for New York.

He flew from Rineanna with KLM. Eight carloads of family and friends travelled from Cashel to the airport to see him off. There weren't many going to the U.S. at the time and he recalls that the cars were like a funeral procession. The flight stopped at Gandar for refuelling and Flannery, his sponsor, was to hand to greet him on landing in New York. He was taken to the apartment of Oliver Spillane from Thurles, who lived in the Bronx and he stayed there for some time.

He landed on Sunday, June 28, too late to play in a match in which he was scheduled to make his debut, got his Social Security number the following day and started working in a warehouse on Tuesday. He stayed at that job until 1966, changed to bartending for sixteen years, did deliveries to building sites for a number of years before taking up his present position as a concierge/doorman in the famous San Remo Co-Operative apartment block on 74th and Central Park in 1988.

He played with the Tipperary Hurling Club from 1959-77, winning New York championships in 1962, 1974 and 1976. He started playing football with the Cork team and, when they disbanded, he played with Kilkenny and won a New York championship with them in 1961.

National League

It was obvious that a player of his ability would be picked on the New York team and he played with them from 1959-69. Being a member of the team involved a number of trips to Ireland to play in the National League final. Their best result came in 1963, when they drew with Waterford at Croke Park on a day that the referee added on about seven minutes, during which Waterford got the equaliser. New York lost the replay at Kilkenny the following Sunday. Johnny played against Tipperary at New York in 1964 and lost by only four points, an indication of the strength of their squad at the time. In 1965 the aggregate score for the two games between the sides in New York was 6-19 to 5-20, only a two point difference. In 1966 New York did badly against Kilkenny at Croke Park but in 1968 they were beaten by a point by Tipperary in the first leg at New York, but lost the aggregate by 6-27 to 4-22.

Johnny recalls playing on Jimmy Doyle in the two-leg 1964 National League final. He scored two points. Later they played on each other in an exhibition game at Chicago and Doyle got 1-2. 'Not bad,' Johnny adds: three hours of hurling on Jimmy Doyle and conceding only 1-4.'

Probably the highlight of Johnny's playing career with New York was a trip to Australia and New Zealand in 1968. They played four games in hurling and football in Auckland and Sydney and won all four.

Johnny comments: 'With hurling, I have met so many friends. The G.A.A. brought a lot of people together down through the years. I retrired in 1977 but I am still active in the Tipperary Hurling Club. I was their President in 1962 and I became the Tipperary N. & B. Association President in 2006-2007. I was President of the Crown City Golf Club for seventeen years ˆ I took up the game in the early seventies ˆ and at the present time I am in my second term as financial secretary of the Tipperary N. & B. Association of New York.'

In 1962 Johnny married Eileen Forde of Kinvara and the couple have two sons, Denis and Stephen, and six grandchildren. Johnny appears to have passed on the G.A.A. tradition to his offspring. Denis made a good fist of Gaelic football and came to Ireland twice with the New York minor football team, as captain on the second occasion.

Of course Johnny has never forgotten his roots and still gets the greatest enjoyment attending G.A.A. matches. He is always home for the All-Ireland hurling final and uses the occasion to keep in touch with Tipperary hurling as well as with any new talent showing itself in Cashel. Every visit is a kind of re-union as he likes to meet players old and new at sporting events. His memory stretches back a long way and he can vividly recall incidences and events from his playing days that have long faded from most memories.



Jackie Corcoran Posted on Cashel King Cormac's Website, August 2009

Jackie Corcoran

Posted on Cashel King Cormac's Website, August 2009


Jackie Corcoran was a member of the Cashel King Cormac's team that won the West senior hurling final in 1948. They beat Eire Óg and Golden-Kilfeacle in the earlier rounds and came up against Kickhams in the final at Golden on September 5. Kickhams got off to a flying start and netted two goals. They were ahead by four points at half-time and looked good, but Cashel fought back to win by 3-6 to 3-4. It was the greater fitness and stamina of the King Cormacs, coupled with their greater speed that weighed the scales in their favour.

It's not the West final that stands out strongest in Jackie's memories of that year but rather the loss to Lorrha in the county semi-final played at Thurles two weeks later. Cashel seemed to be coasting to victory into the second half when they were caught by a Lorrha rally that yielded two goals and a point within a three-minute period. They lost by the minimum of margins on a 2-4 to 2-3 scoreline 'on a day that anything that might go wrong did go wrong'. Jackie played full-back in the game, as he had done during the championship, and was grievously disappointed with the result.

Corcoran's Hotel

Jackie Corcoran was born on February 15, 1923, the middle of three siblings. Maureen, who married O'Driscoll, was older and Anne, who became the wife of John Osborne, was younger. His father, Sylvie, and mother Kitty, ran Corcoran's Hotel, where Morrissey's Super Valu is today and the hotel had been in the family for generations. It was an important commercial hotel with nine bedrooms and did a busy trade with travellers on the road between Cork and Dublin. It had a large yard at the back which had eight stables, an indication of its significance in an earlier age. Jackie's father was good friends with Michael Ryan Wall and Mikey Ryan, who ran the licensed premises, Mikey's, on the other side of Main Street. He was partial to a drink and died in 1932 when Jackie was only nine years old. His mother died on January 25, 1988.

Jackie went to the national school on the Green, where John F. Rodgers, Frank Egan, Davy Dee and Mr. O'Sullivan were teachers. Afterwards he went to secondary school in the Christian Brothers School, then located on the Dublin Road. He hadn't much interest in school, mitched as often as he could and took no examinations. At some stage his mother decided something had to be done and sent him to St. Kieran's in Kilkenny, where he spent an hour!

According to Jackie he had no desire to be there and no sooner had his mother left than he 'escaped' from the school. He found a bus heading for Urlingford, hid under the seat, and got a connection to Cashel. He was home in Cashel almost as soon as his mother!


There appears to have been little in the way of organised games at the time, either in the town or the school. According to Jackie the only boys at secondary school who played hurling were country fellows from Clonoulty and such places. Jackie didn't play but must have been pucking around because we read that he played minor with the Cashel team that won the divisional title in 1940. He must have impressed because he was picked on the county team the same year at right corner-back. The team were beaten by Cork in the first round at Thurles on a day that Jackie marked Sean Condon, who later had an impressive record with his native county, captaining the senior team in 1944 to the famous four-in-a-row. For some reason Jackie wasn't on the team the following year, in spite of being young enough.

At this stage of his life Jackie was helping around the hotel. His mother employed a girl, who worked in the bar but Mrs Coccoran ran the rest of the place and did the cooking as well. Usually Monday night was a busy one with commercial travellers on the first stage of their journey from Cork.

When he was seventeen or eighteen Jackie bought his first horse for £7 at Thurles. His grandfather used to have horses. The horse was called Idle Hour and its colours were white with lemon band and a brown cap. He won two races at Limerick Junction, ridden by Paddy Breen from the town and Johnny Rafferty from Tipperary. In all it ran four races but then got leg trouble and had to be put down. Later he had two more horses but they were no good.

Abbey Rangers

Jackie was one of the founder members of the Abbey Rangers in 1941, the club that was formed by dissatisfied memmbers of the Cashel King Cormacs, who disagreed with the way the club was run and the teams picked. Jackie joined the new club because there were a lot of cousins involved, the Coady's, the Morrisseys and the O'Neills. It might be added that many of the players who joined were technically illegal, as they were in the parish of Boherlahan.

At any rate they had their first outing in the West junior hurling championship against Clonoulty on April 6, 1941. The players had a photograph taken on the occasion and Jackie can be seen in the back row. He was cornerback and captain and, having beaten Clonoulty, they created headlines when they overcame Solohead in the semi-final before going down to Donaskeigh in the final. Jackie stayed with the Abbey Rangers until the end of 1944, when he transferred back to Cashel. In doing so he missed out on Abbey Rangers only success, in the number 1 junior hurling championship of 1945, when they defeated Glengar in the final. 

However, he won higher honours by declaring for Cashel when he was picked at right cornerback on the team that won the West senior hurling championship the same year. Having beaten Clonoulty-Rossmore and Donaskeigh in the earlier rounds, Cashel met Eire Óg in the final, which was played at Cashel on October 7. The lateness of the game was due to a dispute about the venue. Originally fixed for Dundrum, Cashel objected because the field was situated too close to the parish of Eire Óg. After numerous discussions the sides agreed to toss for venue and Cashel won. The King Cormac's proved themselves the superior outfit, with great performances from Michael Burke, Jim and Pat Devitt, who captained the team. They led by 4-5 to 1-3 at the interval and were in front by 4-5 to 1-3 at the final whistle. Cashel were beaten 5-7 to 3-3 by Roscrea in the county semi-final two weeks later when Roscrea's control of centrefield proved decisive.

There wasn't to be any further success until 1948. In 1946 Cashel defeated Golden-Kilfeacle in the first round, and this game saw Jackie in a new position, full-forward, but they were beaten by Kickhams in the semi-final. They also lost to Kickhams in the semi-final in 1947, before going on to win the 1948 final. Jackie continued to play for a few years after the 1948 final but without success.


At some stage Jackie changed from training horses to training greyhounds. One of his first and most successful was Miss Mushwash, who won a couple of races at Thurles and was eventaully killed by another dog on the track.

He trained for others as well and one of the most famous was Lafonda, which he trained for Matt Slator of Clonmel. It won a trial stake in Ballyraggett.

The dogs became an important part of his life. He went to the track four nights a week and he became a very fit man from walking them.
Jackie eventually gave up the dogs and retired. Coccoran's Hotel was sold soon after the death of Mrs. Corcoran and purchased by Garvey's Supervalu for the supermarket that stands there today. The building was demolished in July 1989 on a beautiful sunny day and spectators remember the cloud of dust that rose into the blue sky during the demolition. Garvey's opened their supermarket the following November.

Jackie, who continued to reside in the hotel until it was sold moved into a flat on the Green, where he remained until he took up residence in Acorn Lodge Nursing home at Ballysheehan in 2003. The move gave him a new lease of life.


John Grogan Posted on Cashel King Cormac's Website, June 3, 2009

John Grogan

Posted on Cashel King Cormac's Website, June 3, 2009


John Grogan was captain of the King Cormac's under-13 hurling and football teams that hit the headlines in 1969, winning west finals in both and going on to win the county football final but losing the hurling final to Ballina. The fact that John was captain of both teams is an indication of how highly he was regarded as a hurler and a footballer at the time. The previous year he was captain of the league winning teams in the C.B.S. As well as his playing skills his height gave him a major advantage over other players.

But victories are normally not gained by one person on the team. The other fourteen have an important part to play also and Cashel King Cormac's were fortunate at this time to have a great concentration of young talent, probably the greatest to date in the history of the club. The strength of this talent was seen two years later when this bunch of players won the 1971 under-15, west and county championships, both urban and rural, in hurling and football. Such success was unprecendented in the club. John was captain of both teams.

In the same year Cashel C.B.S. won the Rice Cup when they beat Roscrea C.B.S., by 8-5 to 4-1 in the final. John was also captain of this victorious side.

In 1972 the competition were changed from under-13, under-15 and under-17 to under-12, under-14 and under-16. Cashel had their success at under-16 level that year. They won the west and county in hurling, defeating Rahealty by 7-6 to 2-3 in the county final. They won the west but were beaten by Commercials in the county football final. John was also on the minor team that won the west final, the first of five finals in a row. He was on the county minor team that lost to Cork in the Munster semi-final. He was also on the that won the Fitzgerald Cup.

The following year was a very busy one for John. He was on the minor team that won the west but lost the county final to Thurles Sarsfields. He won the west minor football final. He won a Munster minor hurling medal with Tipperary but were beaten by Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. He was on the county minor hurling team that won the special four-county league, and on the county minor football team that won the special minor league. He was on the county minor football team beaten by Kerry in the Munster semi-final replay at Listowal, marking Ogie Moran on the day. He made his first appearance on the club senior hurling panel. He had great success at schools' level, wining Croke Cup, Fitzgerald Cup. Kinane Cup, Corn Phadraig and beaten by Farrenferris in the Harty Cup final.

There was another successful year in 1974. The first county minor double was won. Having won the west finals, Cashel won the county hurling final by beating Loughmore-Castleiney, 5-7 to 3-4, in the final, and the county football final by beating Roscrea 0-6 to 0-2 in the final. John was on the county minor hurling and football teams. The hurling team, of which he was captain, was beaten by Cork 2-11 to 2-7 in a Munster final replay at Dungarvan. The footballers were beaten by Cork in the Munster semi-final at Mitchelstown. Earlier he was captain of the county minor team that won the special football league, and of the hurling team that won the special hurling league. He also made his debut with the Cashel senior team

In 1975 he won a west senior hurling medal when Cashel defeated Sean Treacy's by 0-18 to 0-13 in the final. He also won a Crosco Cup medal. At county level he was full-forward on the under-21 team beaten by Kerry in the Munster semi-final.

In 1976 he won his second west senior hurling medal, when Cashel defeated Cappawhite 2-9 to 2-5 in the final. He also won his second Crosco Cup. He was on the Cashel team that won the west under-21 hurling title and lost the final by 3-4 to 1-5 in a replay to Kilruane-MacDonaghs at Holycross on January 9, 1977. John had his leg broken on the day. Other victories included west intermediate and county junior football medals. At county level he was full-forward on the county under-21 team, beaten by Clare in the Munster semi-final. He was also full-forward on the senior team beaten 4-10 to 2-15 in the Munster semi-final at Limerick. John scored 1-8 in the match and was nominated at full-forward for an All-Star. Cork went on the win three All-Irelands and it is arguable that had Tipperary won on the day, they would have gone on to a similar achievement. John represented Ireland in a shinty game with Scotland that year.

He had a quieter year in 1977. There was a west under-21 football title and defeat by Commercials in a county final replay. He played centrefield on the county under-21 side beaten by Cork in the Munster semi-final. He didn't make the senior side as he was out of the game in the first half of the year as a result of his leg injury.

There are no achievements for 1978 at the end of which he transferred to Dunhill, Co. Waterford.

In 1979 he won a county senior hurling medal with his new club. Between 1979 and 1982 he contested five county finals with Dunhill, four hurling and one football. He won just one hurling final and was unable to contest two hurling finals because of injury. Had he been playing the results might have been different.

In 1980 he was on the county senior hurling team defeated by Limerick in the National League semi-final. In 1981 he was back on the county senior championship side at corner-forward when beaten by Limerick in the semi-final replay by 3-17 to 2-12 at Limerick. He wasn't on the team in 1982 but was back at full-forward in 1983 when Tipperary were beaten by Waterford by 4-13 to 2-15 at Cork. He also featured on the team that won division 2 of the 1983/84 league, being the leading scorer. In the same same year he was back with Cashel and won a Crosco Cup medal.

In 1984 he played with Eire Óg, Nenagh which won the special North Tipperary Bliain an Chéid Corn an Cheid Sinsear.

In 1985 he won a junior football title with Eíre Óg and a senior hurling league medal..

In 1986 he transferred to Ballyhea in Co. Cork and played senior hurling. The club was beaten by Blackrock in the county senior hurling semi-final, after winning the O'Leary Cup. In 1987 he won a second O'Leary Cup medal.

In 1988 and 1989 he played for Clonmore in senior hurling and Templemore in senior football.

In 1990 he was back with Cashel King Cormacs and won a west senior hurling medal, before going down to Holycross-Ballycahill in the county final.. There was also a Crosco Cup win and a west senior football medal, the first time the club won the title.

The year 1991 was a spectacular year for John, when he was a member of the Cashel senior hurling team to win the west and first county senior hurling final. There was also victory in the Munster club championship before eventual defeat by Kiltormer in the second replay of the All-Ireland semi-final.

John's final year to play with Cashel was 1992 when they were beaten 2-15 to 1-11 by a rampant Clonoulty-Rossmore in the west final at Bansha. He was thus deprived of a fifth divisional senior title. His last game was against Loughmore-Castleiney when Cashel were defeated in the county quarter-final at Boherlahan. John played at full-forward and scored two points.

John had numerous successes at Inter-Firms level also. In 1976 and 1978 he won a Munster senior title with Commercials, an amalgamation of shops and offices in Waterford City, when they defeated Avonmore in the final. In 1986 he won Cork and Munster senior interfirms titles with Charleville, and a Cork senior title in 1987.

He played in the Inter-Banks competition with Bank of Ireland, winning hurling titles in hurling in 1976, 1978 and 1985, and in football in 1981, 1983 and 1989. He also played for the Bank of Ireland in Bank Representative matches against the defence Forces in 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992.

John played senior hurling for nineteen years, commencing with Cashel in 1974 and finishing with the same club in 1992. In between he played for Dunhill, Eire Óg, Nenagh, Ballyhea, and Clonmore, as well as the county senior team, indicating his love of hurling and his willingness to play it wherever his job took him.

Perhaps this very mobility, this moving around a lot, prevented him establishing a permanent place on the county team. He was at his prime when he moved to Waterford in 1979 and he was away for four years. But his hurling ability should not be judged by the length of time he spent on the Tipperary panel. The breaking of his leg in January 1977, following his nominating for an All-Star the previous year, was also a serious blow to his county prospects.

John was a most skillful player with wonderful striking ability and a powerful shot. He had a good eye, moved with grace on the field and had a good stature. He was a versatile player, capable of playing any of the six positions in the forward line and he played centrefield on the county under-21 team. He was dependable and cool, a very honest hurler, perhaps lacked a bit of devilment. He stood out on the field because of his height.

For one who had such a full life as a player, which stretched from 1968 to 1992, a total of twenty-five seasons playing at all levels of hurling and football, it was a surprise that he never involved himself as a selector or at the administrative level in the club. Perhaps he had enough of it after so many years. He did become involved in camogie for a number of years and was supportive of his daughters, who starred at Cashel and county level.

So, when one looks back over a great period in the history of Cashel King Cormacs, John stands tall, not only literally but also metaphorically, as one of the most skillful players to ever don the club jersey, and he also made a name for himself in many grades in hurling and football at the county level.


Jack Gleeson (1923-2009) Oration by Seamus J. King at his graveside in Moyaliffe Cemetery, Sunday, April 5, 2009.

Jack Gleeson (1923-2009)

Oration by Seamus J. King at his graveside in Moyaliffe Cemetery, Sunday, April 5, 2009.


It is a privilege for me to be asked to pay a tribute to Jack Gleeson on the occasion of his funeral. I don't claim to know him a long time, only became acquainted with him in 2007, and many of you have known him much longer over the years of his very long life. But, I got to know a lot of him over the few short years and he was an extraordinary man.

Perhaps it was the place where he was born made him special. Moyaliffe is a border area, between Clonoulty-Rossmore and Holycross-Ballycahill, between the West and Mid G.A.A. divisions in the county and between the North and South Ridings of Tipperary. His place of birth made him look beyond his immediate neighbourhood to a wider world and gave him a greater perspective on things.

His view of the world embraced his hurling heroes like John Doyle from the Mid and Tony Brennan from the West but took in Tony Reddin in the North and stretched beyond to a wider world that included the great Limerick team of the thirties and the Waterford team of the late fifties, as well as many more. His view of the world was broad, embracing and ecumenical.

Hurling was his great love and his great conversation. He brought to the subject a knowledge that came from having played it, first with Holycross and later with Clonoulty. It was ironic that it was his former team, Holycross, that deprived Clonoulty of a county final in 1951. Jack also featured on a Thurles Sugar Factory team, that included Mickey Byrne and Tommy Doyle, Larry and Connie Keane and Tommy Barrett, that won a Munster title in the same year.

His knowledge of hurling was also increased by his attendance at so many games and, I might add, his continued attendance up to the time of his death. He followed the fortunes of Tipperary and other inter-county sides long before the end of his playing days arrived. He cycled to Cork in 1942 and 1946 to see Tipperary defeated by Cork and Limerick respectively. He also cycled to Dublin in 1942 - it took him ten hours - to see Cork win one of their four-in-a-row. From these journeys he got to know a lot of players and teams. He first saw Phil Cahill play against Cork at Thurles in 1931 and regards him as one of Ireland's greatest hurlers. He reckoned the best game he ever saw was the 1947 All-Ireland final in which Kilkenny defeated Cork by 0-14 to 2-7: 'It was a show to the world!', he said. The best club game he saw was between Ahane and Sarsfields at Newport sometime in the early forties. He believed that John Doyle was the best player he saw in a long life.

All the memories of those years were firmly etched in a photographic memory. He never really forgot anything and the names of players and teams tripped lightly from his tongue. He knew a large number of top intercounty players, including the famous Christy Ring, and revelled in talking to them about games and incidences in their playing careers.

Almost as impressive was a giant scrapbook compiled by his brother, Matthew, and himself with information on G.A.A. personalities and teams going back to the late forties. It could be called the Book of Moyaliffe and will take on similar historical significance to the Annals of the Four Masters in the course of time, containing as it does so much information on hurlers and footballers from all the counties of Ireland for over half-a-century. Both Matthew and Jack deserve our thanks for the collection.

If I spend some time on Jack's knowledge and memories of hurling I do so because it was extraordinary. For someone who depends so much on the written word, on the book of facts, on the preserved records, Jack's ability to mentally recall so much and in such vivid detail made a lasting impression on me. The fact that his mind remained so fresh as he arrived at the end of his eighties made him unique.

But Jack Gleeson was much more than an extraordinary memory of hurling facts and lore. His mind remained open to the world and to new happenings and events. He didn't only dwell in the past and what happened when he was young. He was open to what was happening in the world about him and to the lives of the young who crossed his path, comfortable as he was with people of all ages..

He remained curious about the world in a way that older people seldom are. He could get enjoyment out of a conversation with the very young and appreciate their reactions to the world around them. He was also willing to focus in on a young player and recognise his merits and give him encouragement. He had a generous heart and wasn't one to run down or denigrate a person. He had a wide range of interests in sport and while I have concentrated on his love of hurling, his interest embraced other sports as well such as dogs and horses.

Most of his neighbours will remember Jack as a tidy farmer. His place was recognised as one of the tidiest around, with the hedges always trimmed, the graden always set and the timber always cut and stacked. It is fanciful to imagine Jack in heaven now looking after the place, sharpening the bill hook and clippers, and going out to look after not only his own hedge but the neighbour's as well, opening the drills and priding himself in having them as straight as an arrow, setting the seed and having the potatoes ready for digging before anybody else.

Most of you will remember Jack Gleeson as a witty man, whose stories lightened a conversation and whose good humour made him such enjoyable company. Most of his stories were funny but never hurtful. One day he was praising Tommy Butler on his goalkeeping skills and how they made him the best goalkeeper in the country. And Tommy replied: 'Yes, when I was good I could stop turnip seeds but when I was bad I wouldn't stop Hogan's bus in Liberty Square.'

He was a great man to introduce the quotation from the poem or the match account which was another reflection of his extraordinary memory. These quotes were introduced to give a contemporary flavour to the story he was relating and he quoted them with a vividness and freshness as if they were being given for the first time: 'And we collected Martin Kennedy at Currabaha Cross.'

Jack Gleeson never looked for any recognition in life. He was happy to talk about the things he loved, to share opinions on a wide variety of topics, to hold his own in conversation. In 2007 he was honoured when elected to Laochra Sean Gael. This honours people who have given a lifetime of service to the G.A.A. and in many cases were never honoured before. Jack's life of service was slightly different to the normal. Yes, he did play the game of hurling but for most of his life he has been a supporter of others who have done so, by going to see them play, by forming intelligent opinions of the ability of players and regaling others of these opinions over many years.

Today, as we lay him to rest in this graveyard with the lovely name of Moyaliffe, it is partly a sad occasion, as anyone's passing is, and in Jack's case, although he was eighty-eight years old, we all thought there was still a lot of life in him because he was so agile, mentally and physically. But it is also the celebration of a man and a life that was extraordinary. Jack may have appeared ordinary but he was extraordinary in his qualities, in the nature of his mind, in the brilliance of his memories, in his capacity to converse and to entertain, in the generosity of his heart and in his openess to the world. To all who knew him his passing is a great loss. To Molly, and to his nephews and nieces, as well as his wider family and relations, I want to extend my sincerest sympathies. Nothing that one can say about such a man can pay sufficient tribute to a very special person. I am so proud to have known him.



Becoming Irlandés: Hurling and Irish Identity in Argentina Sport in Society, Vol. 10, Number 3, May 2007, pp 425-438

Becoming Irlandés: Hurling and Irish Identity in Argentina

with Paul Darby, Sport in Society, Vol. 10, Number 3, May 2007, pp 425-438


It is unsurprising to note that Gaelic games have been and continue to be played in those locales around the world that have traditionally been recipients of large numbers of Irish immigrants. Indeed, some of the essays in this collection reveal this to be the case. However, it is perhaps more unusual to observe these sports being played in destinations around the globe that welcomed relatively small numbers of Irish migrants. This essay deals with one particular example of this by detailing the history of hurling in Argentina and more specifically, Buenos Aires. In doing so, the essay reveals that in much the same way as it did in Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia, involvement in Gaelic games allowed the Irish in Argentina to construct and give expression to an important aspect of their Irishness. As is shown, this was a crucial element in a broader strategy, initiated by the Catholic Church in Ireland, to encourage Irish immigrants to view and express themselves as being ethnically Irish (Irlandes) rather than merely part of the broader ingleses (English-speaking settler community).



There is an unusual hurling trophy in Lar na Pairce, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) museum at Thurles, Co. Tipperary. It is about 50 centimetres in height and is crowned by a winner's wreath. It is inscribed with the name Dr Miguez, an Argentine and friend of the Irish in Argentina, who was married to an Irish woman. The cup was donated to the Irish community in Argentina in the 1920s as the trophy for an All­Argentine hurling championship, which was played during the 1920s and 1930s. In the late 1930s it was won outright and brought home to Ireland by one of the players on the victorious team, William McGrath of Cahir, Co. Tipperary, who loaned it to the museum before he passed away in 1991. McGrath's return to Ireland not only saw this trophy leave Argentinean shores but was also symbolic of the close of a period spanning some four decades which had seen the game of hurling acquire a not inconsequential place in the cultural life of the Irish diaspora in Argentina.

This essay analyses the history of hurling in Argentina with a particular focus on Buenos Aires. Before detailing the development of the game there, this study provides an overview of lrish immigration to Argentina, a process that had its origins as far back as the early 1500s, reached its zenith in the late nineteenth century and virtually came to a halt, beyond a small trickle, by the 1930s. This context-setting discussion also accounts for the social, economic and cultural experiences of the Irish in Argentina and in particular highlights the ways in which concerns in Ireland in the mid­nineteenth century over assimilation into Anglo-Argentinean society and a resultant loss of identity amongst the Irish led to a strategy, orchestrated largely by the Catholic Church, to rebuild a strong sense of Catholic Irishness there. All of this provides the backdrop to an analysis of the history of hurling in the country, a history that began in earnest in the late 1880s. That said, the game was not organized on a formal basis until the establishment of the Buenos Aires Hurling Club at the turn of the century. The essay charts the development of hurling in the first three decades of the twentieth century and reveals how its success and popularity was dependent on the numbers available to play and promote the game. Beyond historical narrative, the account of hurling in Argentina presented here also addresses the ways in which the game allowed sections of the Irish migrant community to retain and express a distinctively Irish identity.


The Irish in Argentina

The first Irish to set foot on Argentine soil were the brothers John and Tomas Farrel, who arrived at the River Plate in 1536 as part of an expedition led by the explorer Pedro de Mendoza. [2] Up until the late eighteenth century those from the Irish educated elite arrived in Argentina to take up positions in the service of a colonial power not available to them at home because of their religion. This period also saw Irishmen assume positions as officers and rank and file soldiers to fight for the British Army in a number of campaigns in the River Plate region. The signing of the Anglo­Argentina Treaty of Friendship, Navigation and Commerce in 1824 did much to open up the possibility of lrish immigration to the country. [3] However, it was not until the great grassland area of the Buenos Aires Pampas began to be populated by settlers from Britain, Germany, France, Spain and other places in the nineteenth century that the Irish began to settle in the country in significant numbers. [4] There is no definitive record of the total number of Irish, who immigrated to Argentina. It is estimated that around 45,000 to 50,000 travelled there in the hundred years up to 1929. Of the number that arrived during the nineteenth century, it is estimated that about 20,000 of them settled in the country, while the others re-emigrated to North America, Australia, Ireland and other destinations. [5] Among the 20,000 settlers ten to fifteen thousand died without issue or broke their links with the local Irish community and assimilated into Argentine society. Thus, the nucleus of an ethnically distinct Irish-Argentine community was developed with only four or five thousand settlers. [6] Irish emigration to the country declined in the run up to the First World War but after the War there was an increase, particularly during and after the War of Independence (1919-21) and the Irish Civil War (1922-23). The global financial crisis of 1929 and subsequent depression as well as other world conflicts put an end to emigration and by the mid 1930s it had almost completely stalled. [7]

A study of the county of origin in Ireland of Irish settlers undertaken by McKenna which analysed two lists, Irish Passengers to Argentina 1822-1929 and Irish Settlers in Argentina reveals Westmeath as the most popular originating county accounting for 42.9 per cent of the total number of Irish migrants. Wexford was ranked second with 15.6 per cent while Longford came in as the third major exporter of Irish immigrants to Argentina with 15.3 per cent of the total. In general, early migrants were 'the younger, non-inheriting sons, and later daughters, of the larger tenant farmers and leaseholders. Usually, they were emigrating from farms, which were in excess of twenty acres, and some were from farms considerably larger: [8] For these individuals, nineteenth-century Argentina enjoyed a reputation similar to that of the United States and there was a strong belief that it offered a land of opportunities that were simply not available to them in their homeland. The real or perceived prospect of acquiring land in Argentina had a powerful appeal to children of tenant farmers in Ireland, who would never have other means to climb the social ladder. Many factors contributed to build a reputation of Argentina as a region where land acquisition was easier than other places, particularly letters and news from early emigrants, newspaper articles in English published in the British Isles and in Argentina, as well as travel handbooks. [9]

Upon arrival in Argentina, in the main via Liverpool, most Irish immigrants settled in either Buenos Aires or the region stretching down from the city to Southern Santa Fe. They were hired by British, Irish or Hispano-Creole estancieros (ranchers) to work in their holdings, and sometimes to mind their flocks of sheep. Sheep-farming and the impressive increase of international wool prices between 1830-80, together with convenient sharecropping agreements with landowners, allowed a substantial part of the Irish migrant population to establish themselves securely in the countryside, and progressively acquire large tracts of land from provincial governments in areas gained from Indian control or beyond the frontier. Those who did well economically in their new home took considerable pride in contrasting their e?cperiences with those of their often dispossessed compatriots at home, with some noting that while the English in Argentina got the view, the Irish got the good land! [10] While there were some success stories and some Irish did become wealthy landowners, these were the exceptions. Beyond those who were able to acquire land, the vast majority of Irish rural settlers were ranch hands and shepherds on halves or on thirds of the produce of the land, and never had access to landownership.

With their arrival in the country, Irish immigrants dispersed widely across the countryside and were rapidly assimilating into the local communities that they found themselves in. The early Irish settlers, certainly those who arrived before the mid-nineteenth century, viewed themselves and were viewed as part of the broader ingleses (English-speaking settlers) rather than as being specifically Irish. Indeed, encouraged by The Standard, the first English language daily newspaper in Argentina, there was a tendency to emphasize common 'Anglo-Celtic roots' rather than an ethnicity tied to their homeland. [11] This is not to say that the ingleses in Argentina in this period were an entirely homogenous group. There were differences between them, but these were rooted in class, trade, religion and place of residence rather than by country of origin or ethnicity. [12] This pattern of acculturation experienced by early Irish settlers in Argentina contrasted with the experiences of rural Irish immigrants in some of the more traditional emigre destinations in the United States or Britain. Here, these immigrants tended to live in relatively self-sufficient ethnic enclaves that allowed them to retain a strong sense ofIrish consciousness. In Argentina, this process was far less pronounced and a greater ratio of Irish immigrants assimilated into their host society and lost their ethnic distinctiveness.

All of this was the cause of some concern in Ireland, not least in the Catholic Church which sought to reverse this trend and encourage Irish Argentineans to maintain links, of both a spiritual and cultural nature, with the old country. Among those who were most vociferous in pushing this agenda was Archbishop Daniel Murray of Dublin.

He approached his friend, the Bishop of Ossory, to persuade the Dominican Prior of Black Abbey in Kilkenny, Fr. Anthony Fahy, to go to Argentina and 'take on the work of forming a community that reflected the values espoused by those interested in promoting Irish immigration'. [13] Archbishop Murray's rationale in choosing Fr. Fahy for this work was rooted in the fact that he had previously worked amongst the Irish in urban and rural Ohio in the United States and because he shared the Archbishop's views on the necessity of building a strong sense of ethnic consciousness in maintaining 'their "true" Catholic Irish identity'. [14] Thus, in 1844 Fr. Fahy was appointed as Chaplain of the Irish in Argentina and he began the work of persuading Irish Catholics of the need to recognize and express themselves as Irlandes as opposed to merely ingleses.

Upon taking up post Fr. Fahy linked up with a family friend from Ireland, Thomas Armstrong from County Offaly, who was a successful businessman. It was not long before they became the undisputed leaders of the Irish in Argentina. Together they developed the social and religious structure that allowed for the development of a separate and ethnically distinct Irish community but one that was able to continue to avail of the economic opportunities on offer in their host society. Fr. Fahy began his work by creating a separate church organization for his scattered congregation. He set up 12 Irish Catholic chaplaincies that tended to the spiritual needs of the Irish in Buenos Aires province. [15] He also made the Irish priests visibly different from Argentine priests by encouraging them to wear 'civilian' clothes instead of clerical garb, thus making these priests appear more accessible to the ordinary man and woman. The Irish were exhorted by these priests to stick together. For instance, in 1898 we read that unmarried Irish were encouraged 'to marry, marry early and marry from their own stock and creed'. [16]

Beyond concerning himself with the spiritual health of the Irish emigre, Fr. Fahy also invested considerable time and expense in facilitating their physical and educational well-being. For example, he established the 'Irish Immigrant Infirmary' in Buenos Aires, initially to help those who were newly arrived in the city and who had endured a tiresome voyage of between six weeks to three months. This institution was run by Sisters of Mercy from Dublin and subsequently catered for many of the Irish resident in the province of Buenos Aires and beyond. He was also central in the setting up of a charitable educational establishment, known as St Brigid's College under the direction of the Sisters of Mercy. He sent a large sum of money to All-Hallows seminary in Dublin for the education of six young men for his mission, and they duly arrived in Buenos Aires in 1860. The Fahy Institute was opened 20 years after Fahy's death to receive 33 orphans from the Irish Colony in Bahia Blanca, and later became a school with a boarding capacity for 200 students. This was set up in the camp about forty kilo metres from the city under the direction of the Palottine Fathers. Together with St Brigid's College, these schools provided an Irish Catholic education for the children of the Irish settlers and subsequently came to represent important agents in the spread of hurling in Argentina.

By the time Fr. Fahy died in 1871, the Irish community was well established. They had their own churches or they continued to hear the Irish Mass on a centrally located Irish estancia until they had the funds to build their own church. Church buildings also typically contained a library stocked with books in English. Local Irish newspapers such as the Wexford People and The Westmeath Examiner were also subscribed to by the libraries. As McKenna noted, 'Each little Irish church, therefore, became the local social centre for emigrants for a fifty or sixty kilometre radius, where they would meet to hear Mass, read the local papers from Ireland, play cards, pass around letters from home and from their brothers and sisters in the u.K., the U.S., Canada or Australia and discuss current happenings with their neighbours, and write letters in reply knowing the priest would ensure their postage.' [17] During his almost 30 years in the country Fr. Fahy was the primary advocate of the Irish and, beyond those activities outlined above, he 'acted as consul, postmaster, financial adviser, marriage counsellor, judge, interpreter and employment agent'. [18]

Through his initiatives in helping to preserve faith, establish benevolent institutions and create specifically Irish Catholic social and political networks, Fr. Fahy ensured that this community was able to mark itself out from Anglo­Argentine society as a strong and self sufficient gloup that cherished and celebrated its Irishness. This was deemed particularly important in Buenos Aires, a city with a strong Anglo establishment. By 1875 the settlers were prosperous and comfortable. The colony numbered about 26,000 and owned over 1,500,000 acres of land with the majority settled in the province of Buenos Aires around Mercedes, a town about 70 miles west of the city. This then was the broader social, political and cultural context into which the game of hurling was planted and, for a while, flourished and it is to the story of the game's origins and early development that this essay now turns.


William Bulfin and the Origins of Organized Hurling in Argentina

As noted earlier, the majority of the early Irish settlers in Argentina were from counties Westmeath, Wexford, Longford and Offaly, which were traditional centres for hurling in Ireland both prior to the Great Famine and during the game's revival in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. [19] Given the movement, initiated by Fr. Fahy, to promote distinctively Irish forms of cultural expression in Argentina in the second half of the nineteenth century, combined with the fact that many of those who took up residence there were from counties where the game had a relatively high profile, it is not especially surprising that hurling became popular amongst sections of the Irish­Argentine community. The earliest references to the game being played are during the years 1887 and 1888, from Mercedes and near the Monastery of San Pablo, Capitan Sarmiento. It is likely that the versions of the game played at this time were uncodified and largely recreational. Indeed, it was not until 1900 that the game became organized. The man credited with the organization of hurling in Argentina is William Bulfin. Born in Offaly in 1861, Bulfin immigrated to Argentina in 1884, the year the GAA in Ireland was founded, and he was to do for the sporting life of the Irish what Fr. Fahy did for their social and economic welfare. With hurling and considerable literary abilities in his arsenal, Bulfin, like Fr. Fahy, was to become key in raising the ethnic consciousness of the Argentine Irish and providing them with an arena in which to express it. Given his centrality in the early history of hurling, some further biographical detail is useful at this point.

Bulfin was 23 years of age when he arrived in Argentina. Like many other young Irishmen, he found work on various estancias, herding cattle. Beyond a propensity for physical labour, he was intellectually curious and an insatiable reader. After four years on the pampas he went to Buenos Aires and bought a partnership (with Michael Dineen), in The Southern Cross, the city's Irish newspaper, founded in 1875 by Rev. Patrick Joseph Dillon. Eight years later, in 1896, he became chief editor and sole owner, contributing articles on topics as diverse as hurling, politics, opera, the lives of the Irish sheep and cattle-herders on the pampas and the demise of the gaucho. Bulfin married an Irish girl, Anne O'Rourke, and they had one son, Eamon (1892-1968) who was an Irish republican and diplomatist, [20] and four daughters. A collection of his stories of Irish sheep and cattle-herders in the pampas, Tales of the Pampas, was published in 1900. [21] Through these stories, his work as editor of The Southern Cross and his promotion of a range of Irish cultural activities, not least of which was hurling, Bulfin became influential in the Irish community. He recognized his place amongst them and sought to encourage his countrymen and women to emphasize their lrishness as a way of marking themselves out as separate from broader Argentine society. As a staunch nationalist, he actively sought support for the republican cause at home, not only through his newspaper but also by promoting activities that would allow the diaspora to build the sort of cultural identity on which to develop a strong political one. [22] Bulfin's significance to the Irish in Argentina is addressed by Wilkinson who notes that he was 'a vigorous defender of the rights of Irish Catholic immigrants.  In 1906, four years before his death, he was made a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope Pius X for his work among the Irish community in Argentina.' [23]

When Bulfin arrived in Buenos Aires, the prevalent sports culture had a distinctively British flavour with cricket, rugby and association football all assuming a central role in English speaking Buenos Aires. [24] As these sports gained in popularity in English speaking circles in the last two decades of the nineteenth century they began to attract Irish merchants, professionals, landlords and their sons. [25] Indeed, in 1892 a group of Irish Argentines founded the first football club, Lobos Athletic Club, in the rural area of Buenos Aires. [26] Irish involvement in association football not only provided opportunities for physical exercise and male bonding but also an arena for regular contact with, and assimilation into, Anglo-Argentine society and as such ran counter to the broader drive on the part of leaders of the Irish in the country to retain their separateness and difference. Bulfin, given his status as a proponent of all things Irish, must have been perturbed at this state of affairs and he took it upon himself to take a leading role in promoting the game of hurling.

Beyond the playing of informal, unregulated and irregular games during the 1890s, the first 'official' hurling match between two formally constituted clubs was played on 15 July 1900 between Almagro and Palermo, two districts in the city of Buenos Aires. [27] The teams were made up of nine players each due to the limited number of hurley sticks available. It is likely that Bulfin was involved in some capacity in organizing this match because in the following month, he was instrumental in the formation of the Buenos Aires Hurling Club. [28] In Bulfin's eyes, this club was, practically and formally, an official branch of the GAA. Indeed, in helping to put together the club's constitution, Bulfin referred to the club as representing part of the Buenos Aires Gaelic Athletic Association. [29] Bulfin quickly followed up on this development by publishing a set of hurling rules in The Southern Cross on 17 August 1900. These rules contained a plan of a hurling field alongside a map of positions for 17 -aside teams.

Enthusiasm for the game spread rapidly and during practice matches at the grounds of the Argentine Catholic Association in Caballito, it was common to see teams being made up of 30 players on each side. Young men from Buenos Aires and the farming districts of the Province of Buenos Aires formed teams such as Barracas, Palermo and Porteno and they played on a regular basis. [30] In keeping with their broader mission to oversee the retention of Irish customs and values, the Catholic Church also got involved in promoting the game in this period with priests of the Pallotine and Passionist Orders taking an active role in establishing clubs and facilitating matches. For example, the Irish Chaplain of the Argentine Catholic Association, Fr. Edmund Flannery, was a strong promoter of the practice games played in Caballito and other priests set up the 'Fahy Boys' Hurling and Social Club, a club that was named after Fr. Fahy. The network of Irish-Argentine schools established under the direction and influence of Fahy, were also agents in the game's diffusion and their investment in the game provided the various adult club sides with a steady stream of talent. The role of Bulfin, the Church and the Catholic Irish schools in building a solid base for hurling in

Argentina is attested to and summarized in a letter to the Jubilee Congress of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in 1934, from the Rector of Fahy Farm Institute based in the Moreno Province of Buenos Aires. Having congratulated the Association on the good work begun 50 years previously in Thurles, he went on to comment,

The little seed has become a mighty tree, so mighty that its branches have extended to countries as far away as Africa and Argentina. Here, under The Southern Cross the game was started by the late lamented Liam Bulfin, and the Harte Brothers. It was taken up immediately by the Irish-Argentine schools, St. Patrick's, Mercedes and the Fahy Institute, and mainly by the former pupils of these schools has the game been kept going all these years. [31]


The Waxing and Waning of Hurling in Argentina c.1900-40

From these firm foundations, hurling retained its popularity amongst the Irish in Argentina right through until the beginning of the First World War. Matches took place on weekends on a regular basis and received good coverage in the press, not only in Irish-oriented newspapers but also in Argentina's leading daily, La Nacion. [32] Even the return to Ireland and untimely death of William Bulfin in 1910 did little to slow the progress of the game. [33] The onset of the First World War changed this state of affairs and ultimately caused a cessation in hurling activity throughout Buenos Aires and far beyond. The importation of hurley's in ships' holds, the standard method of getting them into the hands ofIrish Argentines in this period, had already proved difficult in the lead up to the War, not least because they dried out too much on the journey and were in many cases brittle and sometimes useless by the time they arrived. The onset of the War though effectively closed up this mode of transiting hurleys and, as a consequence, the required equipment became scarce. An attempt was made to use a native Argentinean mountain ash but it proved too heavy and lacking in pliability. [34]

With the conclusion of the Great War, the early 1920s saw a revival in the fortunes of hurling. Miguel E. Ballesty (1876-1950), son of parents born in Co. Westmeath, emerged in this period to become the leading proponent of the game. On 16 and 27 August 1920 he organized meetings with representatives of three clubs, St Patrick's College, Capilla Boys and Bearna Baoghail, and founded the Argentine Hurling Federation and inaugurated a championship, first played in October of the same year. The following year, on 21 October, a special game was organized at Mercedes, which had a large Irish population, in honour of Lawrence Ginnell, the second representative of the Irish Republic in South America and the United States. Another game in his honour was played at the same venue ten days later when a team of Irish-Argentines defeated one formed totally of Irish-born players. [35] These games did much to reignite interest in hurling but what was needed to put the sport on a firm footing was a fixed abode.

Acquiring a suitable home for the game was proving difficult in this period, particularly because a number of venues became too small given the increasing numbers of spectators who wanted to watch matches. In 1921, the Argentine Hurling Federation began renting a field from the Banco de la Nacion Argentina at Calle Carrasco in the suburb of Velez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires. This arrangement did not last long though because of the expansion of the city and the building of a road through it.

On 13 July 1924 a new venue was opened at Calle Santo Tome, Villa Devoto and this became the home of hurling for the next 22 years. The fine wooden club house, paint~d green, white and orange, which had been erected at Velez Sarsfield, was now transferred to the new venue and enlarged. This club house had a special place in the hearts of all the hurlers in Argentina because not only did it serve as changing rooms for the players, but it also played host to many Irish-Argentine gatherings. Thus, there was a great sense of loss amongst the Irish diaspora in Argentina when it was accidentally destroyed by fire on the night of 14 February 1955.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, hurling, under the tutelage of Ballesty, prospered. At the height of its popularity, the number of clubs in existance reached double figures. In this period teams such as Almirante Brown, Wanderers, Capilla Boys, Fahy Boys, St Patrick's (Mercedes), St Paul's College, Irish-Argentine Juniors, La Plata Gaels, Santos Lugares Gaels, Buenos Aires and Nacional Hurling Club competed in a regular and higWy competitive championship. Catholic priests continued their long association with the game, one that stretched back to 1900, by taking a leading role in forming clubs and promoting the game. For example, Fr. Santiago Ussher was an ardent supporter of hurling, as was the Passionist Brother Clement Roche who coached pupils of St Paul's. Fr. Stanislaus Gill, c.P., director of the same school in 1938, was an outstanding hurler in his youth and continued to involve himself in the game by passing on his knowledge to the pupils. The impact of Catholic priests on the game often went beyond setting up clubs and the provision of coaching with a number using their contacts and influence in Ireland to acquire crucial equipment for the playing of the game in Argentina. Instances of this trend abound. For example, in the 1930s Fr. Vincent O'Sullivan, S.C.A. was given 100 hurleys and six sliotars (hurling balls) by the Cork GAA County Board for the boys of the Fahy Institute while Thurles Sarsfields Club in County Tipperary sent hurleys to Fr. Tony Kelly, an ex-member of the club, who laboured for many years in Buenos Aires. Despite this relatively steady influx of new equipment and the enthusiasm of Catholic priests for the game, the mid-1930s saw the game begin to recede as a significant element of Irish Argentine popular culture. By the outbreak of the Second World War, hurling had almost totally disappeared from Argentine shores.


The Decline of Hurling in Argentina

The fate of hurling in Argentina, as elsewhere amongst the Irish diaspora, was closely linked with the decline in emigration from Ireland. The number of immigrants to Argentina had virtually ceased by First World War. It picked up a little momentum again in the early 1920s but it had all but dried up again by the end of that decade. By the 1940s there were few arrivals from Ireland with the exception of the occasional missionary. Although this led to a decline in new blood coming into the game, those who had played and promoted hurling in the aftermath of the First World War were able to keep it relatively strong through the 1920s and into the opening years of the 1930s. However, once these players began to reach an age where they were no longer physically capable of continuing to play, at least to a reasonable level of competition, the game was in trouble. The-existence of a small, slowly declining pool of players also saw the value of the game as a tool for community building and the creation of a shared sense of Irishness begin to decline. Indeed, according to Willie Ford, a writer with The Southern Cross, some members of the Irish-Argentine community came to the belief that hurling, instead of being a uniting factor, as it had been for a number of decades, was causing quite an amount of discord and division in the community. Because hurling was almost entirely confined to people of Irish origin, the drop in immigration left GAA afficianados with nowhere to go in terms of recruiting players. As a result, clubs were too few in number which led to them playing each other too often and this often resulted in tension, bitterness and division between those involved in the game. [36]

Beyond the decline in human resources, a number of broader socio-economic developments impacting on the Irish in Argentina in this period fed into hurling's decline. The depression of the 1930s did little to help and during this period the mindset of those sections of the Irish community that had formerly felt it important to retain their Irishness, began to change. Over time the Irish began to assimilate into the wider community and to abandon the trappings of their Irish ethnicity. There was considerable inter-marriage and second and third generation Irish gradually began to Hispanicize their names. All of this led to a slow erosion of family and cultural links with the homeland and in the 1930s this began to impact on the popularity of hurling which was soon to become a memory, played on only rare occasions, rather than a meaningful expression of the vibrant Irish culture that had existed in previous decades. [37] Although games were still being played sporadically by teams such as Fahy Boys ex-pupils and St Patrick's College, Mercedes in the late 1930s, hurling was in terminal decline. As the Pallo tine priest, Galway born Fr. Paddy Gormley observed, the outbreak of the Second World War and the resultant drying-up of the supply of hurleys sounded the final death knell on the existence of hurling as a significant part of Irish cultural life in Argentina. [38]

In the post-War period there were a number of half-hearted attempts to revive the game in Argentina. For example, Fr. Gormley attended the GAA Congress in Dublin in 1948 and made a plea for the Association to ship a large supply ofhurleys to the country. However nothing came of his efforts to garner support from the GAA in Ireland or rekindle interest among the Irish-Argentine community. [39] Even those in Argentina who were eager to sustain the game recognized that the future was bleak. Thus, in 1946 an assembly of the remaining hurling clubs in the broader Buenos Aires area changed their name from Argentine Federation of Hurling to Hurling Club and diversified into other sports which included, somewhat ironically, British sports such as rugby and cricket. Hockey also became hugely popular at the club and given the transferability of the skills involved, this game became a substitute for hurling with many former hurlers becoming successful hockey players. Indeed, half of the players in the Argentine hockey team that participated in the 1948 Olympic Games in London were from Hurling Club. Two years later the club acquired its own ground in Hurlingham, a venue which only sporadically hosted hurling matches. For example, during the 1960s and 1970s, the club would organize an annual hurlers day, usually in the month of November, which gathered together Irish, mainly Pallotine, priests and Christian Brothers and Irish­Argentine hockey players, to playa friendly game of hurling. On a few occasions during the 1960s, Padraig 6 Caoimh, General Secretary of the GAA, sent a few dozen hurleys to the Christian Brothers at Cardinal Newman College in Buenos Aires which proved invaluable in sustaining Hurlers' Day. While this event lasted it proved to be very popular and many of the old hurlers who attended were thrilled to see the old game played once more on Argentine soil. Since then, hurling has only been seen in the country on rare occasions, most notably during a three-week tour of the Aer Lingus Hurling Club in October 1980 which involved matches at Hurlingham and the Christian Brothers' Cardinal Newman College ground at Boulogne and most auspiciously during a visit by the GAA Hurling All-Stars in 2002.



In the years between 1900 and the beginning of the Second World War, hurling represented an important expression of Irishness in Argentina. The inception of the game was part of a broader strategy, initiated by Archbishop Murray and Fr. Fahy in the mid-nineteenth century, aimed at arresting the assimilation of the Irish into broader Anglo-Argentine society. For a period of around 30 to 40 years, hurling, as part of a broader diet of Irish cultural practices that were promoted amongst the emigre, was relatively successful in this process. Those occasions when the game was played allowed Catholic Irish immigrants, particularly young members of the landless proletariat, to mark out, in a highly visible way, their differences with their fellow ingleses and Argentine neighbours. The use of hurling in this process was not accidental. The game was quintessentially Irish and was laden with nationalistic significance in both a cultural and political sense. [40] Those Irish priests who did so much to get the game started in Argentina and subsequently endeavoured to keep it alive recognized this and chose this particular cultural practice specifically because it had been seen to be a valuable tool for mobilizing strong senses of Irish nationalism not only amongst the Irish at home but also in those who had chosen or were forced to seek out a new 'home'. It is also likely that the choice of hurling as a bulwark of Irishness in Argentina was also underpinned by a recognition, on the part of the Irish clergy, of the role of British sports forms such as association football, rugby and cricket in helping the Anglo-Protestant emigre to retain and celebrate their identity.

When the Silver Jubilee of the Buenos Aires Hurling Club was celebrated on 18 October 1925, Gerald Foley of Co. Offaly, Bulfin's successor as editor of The Southern Cross and supporter of the GAA in Argentina, paid tribute to all those who had worked so hard to keep hurling alive in Argentina. His words reveal much about the place of hurling in the country and the value of the game in the broader drive to reinforce lrishness there. But, they also lead us to a fuller appreciation of the reasons for the game's decline in Argentina. Foley comments that,

Many circumstances contributed to the survival of the caman in Argentina and one of them is that ... Hurling is saturated with the spirit of Irish nationalism - [rlanda Libre - and so long as it maintains this spirit vital and flaming, it will live. If it ever loses this spirit it will no longer be hurling, it will have no justification for its existence. [41]

In linking the future of hurling to Irish nationalism, Foley clearly felt confident that Irish nationalism would continue to be important, culturally and politically to the Irish community in Argentina and that this would help to ensure the continued strength of the game there. However, Foley was speaking at the beginning of a period where Irish nationalist sentiment was on the wane amongst the Irish diaspora elsewhere in the world. For many, the establishment of the Irish Free State had resolved the Irish question and thus, they felt less of a need to articulate political nationalism in voice and deed. [42] In the absence of a definitive study of Irish nationalism in Argentina, it is difficult to judge if this was also the case amongst the emigre there. Nonetheless, it is likely that this process was evident. This assumption is made on the basis that Argentina had seen proportionally higher levels of Irish assimilation in comparison to those other parts of the world that the Irish emigrated to. Thus, a full understanding of the factors contributing to the decline of hurling must not only account for the decline in Irish immigration to Argentina, the onset of the depression of the 1930s and the outbreak of the Second World War but should also include the distinct possibility of a decline in the significance of Irish nationalism amongst lrish­Argentines. Thus, while the relatively short-lived popularity of hurling in Argentina was linked to the importance placed on 'becoming Irlandel in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it appears that the game's decline was rooted in the fact that by the 1940s this very same process had lost its appeal for Irish-Argentines.



[1] This phrase is borrowed from Edmundo Murray's seminal work on the Irish in Argentina, Becoming 'Irlandes': Private Narratives of the Irish Emigration to Argentina, 1844-1912.
[2] Murray, 'Ireland and Latin America'.
[3] Ibid.
[4] McKenna, Irish Emigration to Ireland: A Different Model.
[5] Murray, 'Ireland and Latin America'.
[6] McKenna, 'Nineteenth Century Irish Emigration to, and Settlement in, Argentina'.
[7] Murray, 'Ireland and Latin America'.
[8] McKenna, 'Nineteenth Century Irish Emigration', 85.
[9] Ibid.
[10] McGinn, The South American Irish.
[11] Murray, 'Dispatches: How the Irish Became Ingleses:
[12] Ibid.
[13] McKenna, 'Nineteenth Century Irish Emigration'.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ussher, Father Fahy: A Biography of Anthony Dominic Fahy, a.p., Irish Missionary in Argentina,1805-1871.
[16] King, The Clash of the Ash in Foreign Fields: Hurling Abroad, 129.
[17] McKenna, 'Nineteenth Century Irish Emigration', 101.
[18] Fahy, 'Anthony Fahy of Loughrea Irish Missionary in Argentina', 9. [19] De Burca, The GAA: A History.
[20] See www.irlandeses.orgldilab_bulfine.htm. He received the death sentence for his part in the 1916 Rising, but it was commuted because he was born in Argentina. Deported to Buenos Aires, he was jailed for deserting military service there. Released in 1919, he coordinated fundraising and arms shipments from there until he returned to Ireland in 1922. His sister, Catalina, was married to Sean McBride.
[21] We are indebted to Susan Wilkinson for much of the information on Bulfin. She has written a detailed introduction to a new edition of Tales of the Pampas. See, Wilkinson, 'Introduction'.
[22] Murray, Becoming 'Irlandes:
[23] Wilkinson, 'Introduction', 2.
[24] Mason, Passion of the People: Football in South America.
[25] Murray, 'Paddy McCarthy, Irish Footballer and Boxer in Argentina'.
[26] Ibid.
[27] King, The Clash of the Ash.
[28] The first committee, which comprised practically all the players, was made up of the following:

President, J.P. Harte; Vice-President, W.H. Martin; Secretary, P.P. Byrne; Pro-Secretary, T. Ussher; Treasurer, A. Pagliere; Captain, G.C. Noon; Vice-Captain, M.A. Harte; members, W. Ussher, H. Ford, T. Flanagan, M.J. Duffy, P. Mackin, J. Shiel, S. Mullally, D. Noon, J. Malone, G. Moran, E. Noon, S. Moran, W. Bulfin. Ibid.

[29] Clause 3 of the Buenos Aires Hurling Club's Constitution and Rules stated: 

'That the Buenos Aires Gaelic Athletic Association shall be a strictly non-political and non-sectarian association.' 

[30] King, The Clash of the Ash.
[31] GAA Congress Minutes, 1934.
[32] King, The Clash of the Ash.
[33] One month after deciding to return home to Derrinlogh, Co. OffaIy with his family, Bulfin died of heart failure after contracting rheumatic fever. He was 47 years of age.
[34] King, The Clash of the Ash.
[35] Ibid.
[36] Interview with King. 

This is a scenario that has been played out in a number of US cities in recent years, particularly Chicago. This observation is made on the back of a period of sustained field work in a number of US cities, including Chicago, carried out by Darby as part of a British Academy funded project.

[37] King, The Clash of the Ash.
[38] Interview with King.
[39] Ibid.
[40] See Cronin, Sport and Nationalism in Ireland: Gaelic Games, Soccer and Irish Identity since 1884; Sugden and Bairner, Sport, Sectarianism and Society in a Divided Ireland.
[41] Cited in King, The Clash of the Ash, 132.
[42] This process was particularly marked amongst the Irish diaspora in the United States. See McCaffrey, The Irish Catholic Diaspora in America.



Cronin, M. Sport and Nationalism in Ireland: Gaelic Games, Soccer and Irish Identity Since 1984. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999.
De Burca, M. The GAA: A History. Second Edition. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan, 1999.
Fahy, M. Anthony Fahy of Loughrea Irish Missionary in Argentina. Buenos Aires: Irish Argentine Historical Society, 2005. GAA Congress Minutes. 1934.
King, S. J. The Clash of the Ash in Foreign Fields: Hurling Abroad. Cashel: Tipperary, 1998.
McCaffrey, 1. J. The Irish Catholic Diaspora in America. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997.
McGinn, B., The South American Irish, a paper presented to the Irish Genealogical Society, Dublin 1997.
McKenna, P. "Nineteenth Century Irish Emigration to, and Settlement in, Argentina." MA Geography Thesis Maynooth College, 1994.
-. Irish Emigration to Ireland: A Different Model. Cork: University College Cork, Irish Centre for Migration Studies, 2000.
Mason, T. Passion of the People: Football in South America. London: Verso, 1995.
Murray, E. The Irish Road to South America. Buenos Aires: Irish Argentine Historical Society, 2004. -. Becoming '[rlandes': Private Narratives of the Irish Emigration to Argentina, 1844-1912. Buenos Aires: Literature of Latin America, 2006. -. "Dispatches: How the Irish Became Ingleses:' British Council Bulletin, Issue 4, 17 March 2006.
-. "Paddy McCarthy, Irish Footballer and Boxer in Argentina:' In Ireland and the Americas: Culture, Politics and History, edited by J. Byrne, P. Coleman, and J. King. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2007.
"Ireland and Latin America." In Ireland and the Americas: Culture, Politics and History, edited by J. Byrne, P. Coleman, and J. King. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2007.
Sugden, J. and A. Bairner. Sport, Sectarianism and Society in a Divided Ireland. Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1993.
Ussher, J. M. Father Fahy: A Biography of Anthony Dominic Fahy, O.F., Irish Missionary in Argentina, 1805-1871. Buenos Aires: James Martin Ussher, 1951.
Wilkinson, S. "Introduction:' Tales of the Pampas. In W. Bulfin, Buenos Aires: Literature of Latin America, 1997.

Tommy Prendergast (1916-2005) Oration at his graveside in Dangan Cemetery, Feb 1 2005

Tommy Prendergast (1916-2005)

Oration at his graveside in Dangan Cemetery, Feb 1 2005


Members of the Prendergast family, friends and neighbours of Tommy, ladies and gentleman. We are gathered here today to say our farewells to Tommy Prendergast, who made his mark on life over 89 years.

Born not so far from here in the ancient townsland of Killeenasteena, in the historic year of 1916, he remained a countryman all his life, even if he lived in the City of the Kings for most of it The other place, with which he was long associated, was another townsland, Shanballyduff, one of the most historic old farmyards in County Tipperary. It is only fitting then that we should lay him to rest in this country graveyard.

As we gather this morning to pay our last respects, we think of the influences that may have formed him. They include his parents and ten siblings, his teachers, particularly Tom Keegan, in Templenoe National School. They must also include Tom Semple of Thurles Blues fame, who was born close by, and the famous Ryans of the Racecourse, who were colossal figures in the world of sport. Finally there was the towering figure of E. D. Ryan of Tubberadora fame, with whom Tommy worked in the drapery business for all of thirty-five years.

Tom Keegan recognised the brightness in Tommy and wanted him to go to secondary school, but times were poor in 1932 and work was more important However, Tommy got the chance of further education later, and took it. After starting his apprenticeship with E. D. Ryan in 1934, he enrolled in the first evening class in the new Technical School in Hogan Square, studying shorthand, typing, Irish, English and History. When he completed that course he went on to study carpentry, spending almost a decade in all advancing his education.

Tommy became an important influence in Cashel King Cormac's soon after the end of the Second World War. The club was in need of a secretary at the time and Tommy seemed the obvious choice. As the chairman of the time, Fr. English, put it: 'If we have no secretary, we can have no club.' Never a hurler of note, Tommy's love of gaelic games was fostered by reading the reports of games in the 'Nationalist', and that interest burgeoned after commencing work for E.D. Ryan.
There was another good reason why Tommy was the man for the job. The club was deep in debt and Tommy had the kind of business acumen that might get in out of trouble. In fact he inherited a debt of nearly £3,000. He set about reducing it through regular '25' drives and holding occasional dances, especially on St Patrick's Day and Easter Sunday in the old City Hall. His efforts succeeded and the debt was cleared.

Tommy was the man for the hard road. When one compares the financial resources of clubs in the early fifties with a half-century later, there is a world of difference. These were difficult days and to Tommy we must pay thanks for keeping the ship afloat in these tough times. One hears stories of him putting his hand in his pocket to pay for sliotars, when the club couldn't afford them. He brought the club through this difficult time and set it on the road to its later prosperity. On this occasion, on behalf of Cashel King Cor mac's. I want to thank him.

He was to remain as secretary or treasurer, and sometimes both, over a period of twenty years. Even though these years are regarded as a low point in the history of the club, when it went for seventeen years without winning a divisional senior title, there were high points. The greatest was in 1954 when the first county adult title was won, the 1953 county junior hurling championship. The other was the purchase and development of Leahy Park. With both of these Tommy was intimately connected. Not only was he secretary in 1953, he was also a selector on the team. The club were delighted to include him in the fiftieth anniversary celebrations for the team at Bru Boru last September.

When he ceased to be an officer of the club, Tommy retained a huge interest in the fortunes of Cashel King Cormac's, attending matches and supporting the club in any way he could.
His other great interest was local history and he was proud of the historic farm he inherited from relations in Shanballyduff. He took me around it on one occasion and recorded on tape the historic associations of the place. He liked tracing the history of people and places, and he had a large amount of lore about Cashel over a long period of time. While he never lived in Shanballyduff, I always felt it was a kind of spiritual home, with the farming that he loved and the historic ruins that he cherished.

Today we say goodbye to a man, who played a major role in the history of the King Cormacs Club. We were proud to walk beside the funeral cortege through the streets of Cashel last night and to see the club colours fluttering in the breeze as his coffin was borne to the church. Today we are gathered to pay our last respects to him in this ancient graveyard. To his wife, Mairead, his four sons and three daughters, we express our sincerest sympathy.

Ar dheis De go raibh an ainm dilis.



Michael 'Dasher' Murphy (1914-2004) Oration at his graveside in Saint Cormac's Cemetery, Cashel, October 13, 2004

Michael 'Dasher' Murphy (1914-2004)

Oration at his graveside in Saint Cormac's Cemetery, Cashel, October 13, 2004


Members of the Murphy family, relations, neighbours and friends of the Dasher, we are gathered here today to say farewell to a man, who made his mark on the life of the town and parish of Cashel

It's stated in the Bible that man's span is three score years and ten, but the Dasher went well beyond that, and reached the fine old age of four score years and ten, becoming during that time not only the father of a family, but a grandfather and great-grandfather as well.

So, while it's a time of sadness to experience his passing, particularly for Johnny, Michael, Lissie and Mary, and for his children and grandchildren, it is also a time for celebration, the celebration of a life that was lived to the full, and that left memories for family and friends to cherish in future years.

Mickey Murphy's life was for many years associated with Cashel King Cormac's, a club and a team to which he gave extraordinary service over twenty-five years. That career commenced in success with a West minor hurling medal in 1931, and concluded with a county junior hurling medal in 1954.

Interestingly the minor medal wasn't presented to him until November of last year, when he received it at a function in Bru Boru. The last medal he won, the greatest success experienced by the club until the county senior success in 1991, was recalled in a commemorative event at the same venue, as late as September 14. Unfortunately Mickey was unable to be there in person, as illness had confined him to his bed, but the club chairman, Ger Slattery, and secretary, Mattie Finnerty, called to his house and made the presentation. Those of us who were present that night recall a man, who was in outstanding form, mentally alert, and full of chat and memories.

Since then he went downhill as if he was happy that his achievements had been recognised, and that his place in the history of Gaelic games in this town and parishwas secure.

Between 1931 and 1954 Mickey graced the hurling fields of Tipperary, and further afield, with skill and energy, above all with dash. The sobriquet, 'the Dasher', he earned from the way he used to dash out from his position in the backs to clear the ball.

And, we can see him in our minds eye dashing out with the ball on numerous occasions, to win a divisional junior medal in 1933, and senior medals in 1934, 1936, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1945, 1948, during that wonderful period in the club's history.

During that period he played also in three county finals, none, alas, successful.

For a time during the thirties Mickey was also in the sights of the county selectors and played on a number of occasions in league and tournament games. He never commanded a permanent place, according to the late Jim Devitt, because he was unfortunate to be there at a time when there was a lot of talent competing for his position at wingback.

It was left to his son, Johnny, to achieve inter-county distinction, firstly with the Tipperary minors in 1952, 1953 and 1954, and later for many years with New York. Mickey was immensely proud of his son's achievements. Mickey also achieved fame across the water, when he emigrated to England for three years in the forties, winning an All-English championship with Lancashire.
Hurling meant a huge amount to the Dasher. He once said to me: 'Hurling was my whole life. When I came back from work I went to the field before I had my tea. On the Sunday morning of a match you'd be as proud as a peacock getting ready to go off and hurl. You'd cry if you weren't picked to play.'

Because of that love, Mickey gave a great part of his life to the game. The Cashel King Cormac's club recognised his contribution when they made him a Life President in the early nineties. We recognise him as one of our greatest players. His achievements have been overshadowed by the great successes of the club in the nineties, and the many fine players that wore the jersey proudly, but they will never be forgotten.

The fine turnout of the club members for the guard of honour last night, the presence of so many today, is testament to the esteem with which the Dasher was held. In any Team of the Century, in any Team of the Millennium, that this club will ever pick, Mickey Murphy will be an automatic choice. This town was by-­passed on Monday but the Dasher will never be by-passed in the memories of the Cashel King Cormac's Club.

As president of this fine club, I am privileged to have been asked, on behalf of the Cashel King Cormac's, to pay respects to this man of four score years and ten, who brought such honour to the club over a wide span of years. It is fitting that he is laid to rest within view of the famous Rock and of the town he loved so well, and beside the field where the game he loved continues to be played, and the clash of the ash can be heard.

Last year, on a Sunday in November, Mickey Murphy was made a member of Cumann na Sean Ghael. Just a month ago he was honoured on the fiftieth anniversary of his county final victory. Today, he becomes a member of Cumann na Sean-Iomainaithe ar Neamh and my wish is that he will continue to enjoy the game in the green fields of heaven.

Ar dheis De go raibh a ainm.


Entries on D. J. Carey, Joe Cooney, Eamon Cregan, Philly Grimes, Brian Lohan The Encyclopaedia of Ireland, Gill & Macmillan, 2003

Entries on D. J. Carey, Joe Cooney, Eamon Cregan, Philly Grimes, Brian Lohan

The Encyclopaedia of Ireland, Gill & Macmillan, 2003.


Carey, D. J. (1970-), hurler

Born in Gowran, Co. Kilkenny. He is a technically brilliant player, a classical performer with flair, perception, pace, and creativity, and an outstanding artist of the modem game. He revealed his hurling brilliance early in life, winning two all-Ireland colleges titles with St Kieran's College. At inter-county level he won all-Ireland minor hurling and under-21 hurling medals and four senior hurling, in 1992, 1993, 2000 and 2002. He also has two National Hurling League medals, one Oireachtas and two Railway Cup medals. A versatile forward, he can play in any position and is a prolific scorer from play or placed balls. He won nine All-Star Awards, 1991 to 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2002. He won the Texaco Hurler of the Year in 1993 and 2000. At club level he captained Young Irelands-Gowran to their first county senior title in 1996 and won a second with them in 2002. A master handballer, he achieved twenty-two major national successes in e game, as well as two world championships. He is also an accomplished golfer.  Seamus J. King, Gerry O'Neill (ed.), The Kilkenny GAA Bible. 

Cooney, Joe (1965-), hurler. 

Born in Co. Galway. He made his inter-county debut in 1983, winning an all-Ireland minor hurling medal with Galway. Since then his achievements have been impressive: under-21 in 1986 and senior medals in 1987 and 1988. He has four National League medals (1987, 1989, 1996,2000), and five Oireachtas medals. At centre-forward, his displays of skill, positional sense and sportsmanship have delighted followers of the game over twenty years. His honours include five All-Stars, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, Texaco Hurler of the Year, 1987, and selection at centreforward on the GAA. Supreme All-Star team, 1971-2000. With his club, Sarsfie1ds, he won under-16, under-21 and four county senior hurling titles, as well as two all-Ireland club titles in 1993 and 1994. Seamus J. King, A History of Hurling, 1996. 

Cregan, Eamon (1945-), hurler. 

Born in Limerick. His county career with Limerick spanned the period 1964-83. Noted for his skill level, ball control, and scoring ability, he had great mental strength and was an outstanding forward, winning two All-Star Awards in the full-forward line, 1971, 1972. He was also a distinguished centre-back. His achievements include one all-Ireland senior hurling medal (1973), four Munster senior hurling medals, one National League (1971), one Oireachtas, and one Harty Cup medal. With his club, Claughaun, he won three county senior hurling medals and eight county senior football medals. Since retiring he has become a noted manager, coaching Limerick, Clare, and Offaly. His father, Ned Cregan, featured on the Limerick team during the Mackey era. Seamus J. King Seamus J. King, A History of Hurling, 1996. 

Grimes, Philly (1929-1989), hurler. 

Born in Waterford. His county hurling career spanned the period 1947-65. A fine athlete and a hurler with all the skills, he moved 'like poetry in motion' around centrefield. Playing first as a county minor in 1947, he made his senior county debut in the 1948 Munster championship but was not available for the all-Ireland, as he had emigrated to the United States. After his return he won many honours with his club, Mount Sion, and county. He was the holder of Munster senior hurling titles of 1948, 1957 (when he was captain), 1959, and 1963. He won an all-Ireland in 1959, an Oireachtas title in 1962, a National League in 1963, and Railway Cup medals in 1958 and 1960. He won thirteen senior hurling and four senior football medals with Mount Sion. Seamus J. King Brendan Fullam, Giants of the Ash, 1991.

Lohan, Brian (1971-) hurler. 

Born at Shannon, Co. Clare. He made his inter-county debut in 1992 with Clare in the Munster under-21 championship, losing to Waterford in the final. He graduated to senior rank the following year and has been a permanent member of the team since then. A player of great skill, he is a majestic performer at fullback and has brought a new dimension to full-back play. His achievements include two senior hurling all- Irelands (1995 and 1997), three Munster senior hurling medals, and five Railway Cups with Munster. He has three All-Star Awards and won the Players' and Sports Writers' Player of the Year Award in 1995. At club level he won county senior hurling and Munster Club senior hurling medals in 1996. He won a Fitzgibbon Medal with University of Limerick in 1994. His father, Gus Lohan, who played with Galway and Clare, won a variety of county hurling titles over a period of four decades. Seamus J. King Ollie Byrnes, Memories of Clare Hurling.

Marcus Bourke - His G.A.A. Writing Tipperary Historical Journal 2002, pp 13-32

Marcus Bourke - His G.A.A. Writing

Tipperary Historical Journal 2002, pp 13-32


Although it is the greatest sporting organisation in the country the Gaelic Athletic Association has a very slim library of publications to its credit. For a body over one hundred years in existence the list of books is anything but impressive. If one goes back to the period prior to the centenary of the association in 1984 the number of histories produced at national, provincial, county or club level was very small indeed. Since then clubs and counties have done much to have their histories written down. In the province of Munster approximately one hundred and forty club histories were written between centenary year and 2001 This may appear impressive and indicate a good effort at catching up until it is realised that seven hundred and thirty clubs affiliated in the province in millennium year! The number of these that had recorded their histories before 1984 was infinitesimal.

At the county level the picture isn't much different. Cork. Limerick and Tipperary are well served with county histories. The Mercier Press published a snapshot history of Clare in 1996. The Kerry story over the past thirty years has been well covered but the earlier history of the G.A.A. in the county has been neglected. Pat O'Shea, in his 1998 publication on the history of the Kerry county championships, has gone some way to rectifying the situation. The picture in other provinces is not greatly different. Six of the Ulster counties have county histories. The picture is poorest in Leinster where the Dublin county history is in the process of being written.

At the provincial level Munster produced a comprehensive history in 1984. It was updated in 2000 and it remains the only province with such a detailed account of its activities. Leinster produced a slim account of its history in 1984. The Connacht history is being written by a committee at the moment and I am not aware of anything being done in Ulster.

At the national level there are four publications that aspire to be histories of the association. The first was written by Thomas F. O'Sullivan in 1916 and published in Dublin. O'Sullivan was a former trustee and vice-president of the association, a former president of the Munster Council and a past secretary of the Kerry county board. The book was called the 'Story of the G.A.A.' and sub-titled 'First History of the Association'. It contained two hundred and forty pages and included one hundred and twenty illustrations. It sold for one shilling. It was promoted as a detailed, well-arranged and copiously illustrated history of the Gaelic Athletic Association.

The book is very rare today and seldom turns up in second-hand catalogues. However, it is possible to access it in a different way. The book is made up of a series of articles that first appeared as such in the Evening Telegraph, Dublin in October 1914 and, after twelve months, was continued by the Sunday Freeman and the Weekly Freeman. In the preface to the book the writer states that 'the articles were written without fee or reward, and their reproduction now is not a sound commercial speculation.' The reason why he still went ahead with the publication was to give 'the public an opportunity of appreciating the patriotic work which has been done during the past three decades to promote and develop Irish pastimes on self-respecting Irish lines’.

O'Sullivan goes on to inform his readers of the considerable labour and research he put into the preparation of the articles. His information was procured from official and unofficial sources. Files of newspapers were carefully read. Hundreds of Gaels in all parts of the country were consulted 'in order to clear up obscure points, correct errors, or procure some necessary information which could not be obtained from the existing official records.' He was proud of the illustrations carried in the work and regretted being unable to procure the photographs of a number of prominent contemporary Gaels.

He concludes by stating that he spared no effort in achieving accuracy in his work, and also that he made every effort to be scrupulously fair in the treatment of all contentious subjects. Apart from a few suggestions at the conclusion of the book on how the association could be improved, he states that otherwise 'I have contented myself with presenting the facts in their proper perspective, leaving my readers to draw their own conclusions.'

Without a doubt the book is a labour of love. The spirit and feelings of the writer are given expression in the introductory chapter. The G.A.A. 'has helped not only to develop Irish bone and muscle, but to foster a spirit of earnest nationality in the hearts of the rising generation, and it has been the means of saving thousands of young Irishmen from becoming mere West Britons.' In spite of all the turbulence the association suffered, in spite of the waves of vicissitudes it had to endure, in spite of the conflicts between the advanced Nationalists and the Constitutional party which almost rent it asunder, it survived because 'the basic principle on which it was established was sound and patriotic, and at no stage of its career was it entirely bereft of the services of earnest men who appreciated the tremendous potentialities of the organisation as an athletic body and a great national asset.'

The book starts off with a sketch of the founder of the G.A.A. in chapter 1 and O'Sullivan is unstinting in his appreciation of the founder: 'Only a great man could found such an organisation, and unquestionably Michael Cusack was great - great in earnest, self-sacrificing patriotism, and in all those qualities of head and heart that stamp the leader out from multitudinous mediocrity and give him a place apart.' The early chapters deal with the foundation of the association and the difficulties of the early years. He quotes extensively from contemporary documents and is good at listing the delegates present at the early conventions. In chapter XVIII he gives a detailed account of the first All-Ireland football and hurling championships and after that he devotes mostly a chapter to each year. The format of the chapters follows the same lines. For instance in chapter XXV he opens with the state of the association in 1890: 'The Association showed traces of decline in 1890.' He gives some reasons for same and outlines some important happenings in the association' not only in Ireland but abroad as well. He gives an account of Central Council meetings and resolutions proposed, and mentions prominent men in the workings of the association. Most of the chapter is then devoted to the hurling and football championships. He takes the history of the association up to 1908 in chapter XLVI. The following chapter is devoted to 'Games and Nationality' by Douglas Hyde in which he pleads with the latter for a closer union between the G.A.A. and the language movement.

The final chapter is devoted to a number of suggestions to Gaels by O'Sullivan. He would like to see players use the Gaelic language on Gaelic fields: 'Until they do they are failing in their duty towards our ancient tongue.' According to him every Gaelic club should be an Irish class, or form an important section of the local branch of the Gaelic League. A second suggestion is that medals should be abolished and books given to winners of hurling and football matches and athletic contests instead. He gives a list of patriotic and historical books to fill the bill. 'Books, not medals, will make our Gaels more earnest, intelligent and patriotic Irishmen, and on that ground should be more suitable as presentations in connection with Gaelic victories.' He also calls for the development of camogie and handball. Prior to the annual congress there should be a ceili or some other form of Irish-Ireland entertainment held in the Mansion House. As well as publishing the letters of Drs. Croke and Fennelly in the Rule Book of the association, he should also like to see the letters of Parnell, Davitt and John O'Leary. 'Why not also have the photos of the first four patrons in the book?' he adds. According to O'Sullivan there should be a Publication Committee appointed, who would be entrusted with a certain sum of money for the purpose of defending the association from attack or misrepresentation, and would provide interesting reading for its members. He was very concerned with the small amount of literature relating to the association. He exhorted county committees seriously to consider the publication of county histories. As well 'in districts such as many of those in Donegal which at present is not affiliated to the Ulster Council, money should be spent to establish clubs, and if necessary an Irish-speaking organiser appointed for the purpose.'

Thomas F. O'Sullivan's history is a very important work. It is a comprehensive account of the first quarter century of the Gaelic Athletic Association. It is an invaluable source for information on the early decades. It has the great quality of accuracy. An important authority on the period gives it an accuracy rating of ninety-eight percent and believes the remaining two percent is concerned mainly with omissions. It gathers within its covers much information that is accessible only through a tedious trawl of contemporary newspapers and other publications. Without it we would be in an impossible position for the early years of the association. In so far as any publication can be, the book is a model of impartiality. If you didn't know that O'Sullivan was a staunch IRB man you would find it difficult to glean the fact from its pages. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Thomas F. O'Sullivan.

The next book to be mentioned is a more modest effort. It takes up the story two years after O'Sullivan left off. Entitled 'Twenty Years of the G.A.A. 1910-1930', it was compiled by Phil O'Neill, who wrote under the pen name 'Sliabh Ruadh'. It is subtitled 'A History and Book of Reference for Gaels' and is undated.

In a short introduction O'Neill tells us that the work is not intended as a detailed history of the association. Rather the pages 'are a summary of the chief events in the history of our National Athletic Association both in the field and in the council chambers for the years 1910-1930, as well as being a record of its growth numerically and financially during the period.' He hoped his book would prove an arbiter in disputes between fellow-Gaels about players and match scores. Also that it 'will be appreciated by the Gaels of the countryside, as well as by those in the city clubs and colleges, and I further hope that its perusal will be an incentive to our younger generation to add by their actions, perhaps, another bright chapter or two to the future annals of our great organisation.'

Although stretching to over three hundred and sixty pages the work contains one-third fewer words than O'Sullivan's. Written in larger print with a lot of headlines in bold print, it reads more like a newspaper account of events. And that, essentially, is what the book is, a compendium of newspaper accounts from the Kilkenny Journal. It lacks the continuity and flow of O'Sullivan. To open a page at random gives the flavour of the work. On page 60 there are three headings: Leinster Football Final is a short account of six lines. It is followed by A Great Munster Final, which account extends to over thirty lines and includes the lineouts as well as some match details. The final heading is a short piece of five lines under Cardinal Agliardi Medals. Essentially a cut and paste job of newspaper accounts, it is, nonetheless, an important source of information on the period. O'Neill has collected much material together which, otherwise, one would need to go to the newspapers for. As well the work is much better on local events than O'Sullivan's. We get information on Cork county conventions, matches in Waterford, Thurles Gaelic Grounds, Ring Irish College, to quote at random. In most cases dates are given which are important references to have when one is looking for greater detail.

The book devotes a chapter to each year and uses an introductory chapter to give infonnation on 1909 and so link up with where O'Sullivan left off. There are a number of photographs, predominantly of Kilkenny and Tipperary G.AA personalities, and a number of contemporary ballads. Not as authoritative or comprehensive as O'Sullivan's, O'Neill's book is, nonetheless, a handy reference work on the first decades of the twentieth century.

The third book to be mentioned is Our Native Games by P. J. Devlin. It is a small work of a little over one hundred pages, is undated and was published by M. H. Gill and Son, Ltd., apparently in the mid-thirties. According to the author it is not an attempt to write a history of the association or to produce a chronicle of its past activities. 'My purpose is simply to envisage the conditions in Ireland when the Association was established fifty years ago; to examine the motives of its founders; to explain the void it filled in the lives of the people, and to make clear the aims which have become the essence of its existence and the secret of its popularity.'

Much of the material in the book had appeared from time to time in the pages of The Catholic Bulletin. The content is really concerned with the philosophy behind the Gaelic Athletic Association and the effect it has had on the improvement in the national spirit. According to him the influence of the revival of our games cannot be better illustrated than by the interest it aroused in a part of Ireland where distinctive games and pastimes had long been suppressed. 'In that corner of Ulster where I then had my being, life was drear and aimless during leisure hours, especially for the young. The older generations, if so disposed, as most of them were, had card-playing and, despite law and humanity, cock-fighting, for distractions; and, strange to relate, it was from devotees of the latter 'sport', who had penetrated to central counties, that I first heard of wayside jumping and weight-casting and rural team games.' The writing is hortatory. Devlin saw the history of the country in terms of a conflict between native and alien ideals and interests. He believed that peaceful penetration had become more destructive of nationality than open aggression. Sinister influences enticed men from the ranks of national endeavour so that 'a barrier had to be raised to protect the leal from the indifferent and secure the organisation against part-time use by those who can only have had a half-hearted attachment to its basic aims.'

According to Devlin the G.AA has no room for gladiatorial shows or subsidised competitions. 'If victory and trophies become the predominant pursuit, the chivalry that it is part of its purpose to foster, and the popular benefits it exists to provide, must disappear.'

Many of his ideas would appear dated today. He is fascinated by the glamour and greatness of the game of hurling. It stirs a chord in native hearts that no other pastime can awaken. It is as distinctive as the National Emblem itself. He would like to see its history written down. Even though it has spread to distant parts of the world, he cannot see it becoming internationally organised. He gives two reasons for this conclusion: 'It must remain essentially national, and the adept hurler, like the ideal poet, is born not made. The true art of wielding the caman flourishes only where it has been traditional.' He would probably cast a cold eye on the many schemes currently in existence for the spread of the game in weaker counties.

Today the book is not much more than an interesting curiosity. It reflects the thinking in the mid-thirties when the country was in a stage of siege, physical and mental. There was the economic war with Britain as a result of the Land Annuities issue. There was the mental siege as Fianna Fail pursued an Irish-Ireland policy, a dream of self-sufficiency and sought to emphasise all things Irish to the detriment of all things English. This siege mentality also found expression in the censorship laws, which sought to protect the soul of Ireland from alien ideas and images that would tarnish it in any way. P. J. Devlin is fighting these battles in Our Native Games. He is brandishing our games as an instrument in the battle for the soul of Ireland. We find 'English domination' balanced against 'Irish sycophancy'. For him the leaning towards imported pastimes is due to the desire 'born of serfdom and all its venalities, to ape and pose as a superior caste.' 'The small soul cowers in the presence of a dominant personality.' And there's much more of the rousing stuff of the political and cultural battles of the thirties but very little of value to the student of the G.A.A. today.

In 1958 the G.A.A. set up a History Committee (An Coiste Staire) with a brief to write the history of the association. The first man chosen to write the history was P;draig Puirseal. A Mooncoin, Co. Kilkenny man, he turned to journalism with the Irish Independent after completing an M.A. in English literature at UC.D in 1937. He wrote the first of four novels in 1942 and seemed destined for a literary career. However, he forsook novel-writing for sports journalism and founded The Gaelic Sportsman in 1950. Three years later he joined the Irish Press and was still on the staff of that paper when he died, after a brief illness, in 1979.

After some time disagreements arose between An Coiste Stair and Puirseal about the type of history he intended to write. The committee were looking for a work, which would be as factual as could be ascertained from reliable sources and be mostly free from anecdotes and hearsay. The writer, with his background in imaginative literature, was inclined to a more colourful and readable account of the history of the association. There was a conflict of intention and this led to a parting of the ways.

I understand the Purcell family were disappointed with the termination of his brief. His death came rather prematurely in 1979 and his sister, Mary, the novelist, collected his writings and had them published under the title The G.A.A. in its Time in 1982. The book contained a Foreward by Sean 0’Siochain, who retired as Director General of the G.A.A. in 1979. In the course of it, 0’Siochain gives us an idea of the kind of history of the G.A.A. Puirseal might have written had he been retained to do so by An Coiste Stair. 'It is an unusual book in that it is the product of three aspects of the author's ability: the capacity to relate the Athletic and Games Movement, as it developed, to the historical background of the time; the journalistic training which makes a milestone of every final; and the impressionable mind - filled to overflowing with anecdotes, incidents and colourful heroes - of the man who, from boyhood, was steeped in the G.A.A. tradition.

The next choice of An Coiste Stair was Thomas P. O'Neill, Professor of English at University College, Dublin. He had completed the biography of Eamon de Valera with the Earl of Longford and was keen on the task. But, he was a very busy man and in spite of many meetings with the committee, no work was forthcoming. Eventually he was given an ultimatum to deliver or be replaced. He pleaded for time, as he was anxious to do it, but was, in the end, replaced.

The third man to be chosen was Marcus de Búrca from Dublin. His qualifications were impeccable. Educated at Belvedere College, he graduated in economics and law from U.C.D. and King's Inn. During the 1950s he was a journalist and a practising barrister, and from 1960 he was on the staff of the Attorney General's Office as a parliamentary draftsman. As the author of two historical biographies, The O'Rahilly and John O'Leary he had become interested in the early history of the G.A.A. He had a methodical and business-like approach to his work.

In the Preface to the book de Búrca tells us he didn't come to the book as a total stranger to the G.A.A.: 'Like many hundreds of thousands of Irish men and women in the past century, I grew up in a home where Gaelic games were enthusiastically supported. However, apart from a brief period as an obscure player in my late teens, I have never been actively involved in G.A.A. and am not blind to its weaknesses and faults.'

Also his antecedents were perfect. His father, Pádraig de Búrca was a distinguished presence at Central Council meetings, an ex-officio member by virtue of being legal advisor to the association. His grandfather, John J. Bourke from Tipperary Town, better known all over Munster as 'Bourke the Handicapper', was an official handicapper and judge at athletic meetings in the early days of the association. The title of the completed work, The G.A.A.: A History, is probably indicative of the nature of the work. It wasn't the official history of the association but rather a commissioned work in which the author was allowed freedom of opinion.

De Búrca informs us on this opinion in the Preface: 'At the highest level in the Association I was assured that, while its records would be freely available to me, what was being looked for was my story of the G.A.A. and particularly of its role in the national movement of the pre-1922 era. All that was expected of me until my manuscript was completed was that I report progress periodically to the Committee. I was promised complete freedom both to use the records of the Association and to express my opinion of it: this promise has been scrupulously kept. For everything in this History, whether of a factual nature or otherwise, I alone am responsible.'

Journalists, who were present at the launch of the book at the Gresham Hotel in Dublin, on November 10, 1980, honed in on the question of the nature of the history. Paddy Downey of the Irish Times was critical of the way G.A.A. officialdom distanced itself from the history. According to him 'Successive speakers, all of them officials, past and present, of the G.A.A., seemed to distance themselves from the work. This, they implied, was not the official history of the association: it was one man's view and interpretation, that of Marcus de Búrca.'

Downey contended that the launching of the History deserved a glittering occasion: 'the G.A.A. is almost one hundred years old and up until now there has been no definitive account, no history, of an organisation which controls not only the activities of hurling and Gaelic football but represents one of the greatest, probably the greatest, social movements that this country has known.'

The attitude of G.A.A. officials to the launch of a history may have been due to a slight nervousness at the exposure of the association to the first full-length account of its activities. According to Liam Kelly, in a review of the book, xxviii the G.A.A. 'has nothing to be ashamed of here. Mr. De Búrca has given a realistic and honest account of the G.A.A. to the best of his ability. It's well-written and well-researched and documented. Some of the G.A.A.' s mistakes and embarrassments are included. That may not suit some people who would wish to read a glowing eulogy without any hint of fault or mistake. But it's all the more realistic and truthful for that. '

Kelly continues: 'Hardly a ball is kicked or a sliotar struck and few of the greats of Gaelic games get a mention in Marcus de Búrca's 'The G.A.A.: A History'. The excitement of the big day, the experience of Croke Park, the excitement of the crowds that throng Munster finals, the glamour of the great personalities that people the games, are only hinted at in the pages. Mick Mackey and Christy Ring get one mention each. The other giants of hurling and their counterparts in football must be read about in other publications. Kelly goes on to suggest that the work might have been entitled 'The G.A.A.: A Political History.'

There is much truth in the statement. In the introduction de Búrca attempts to sketch the historical and social background against which the rise of the G.A.A. must be seen. He sees the foundation of the G.A.A. as the continuation of an historical process, which began in the mists of history and stretched up through millennia to that historical date in Thurles in November 1884, when Irishmen began locating their sporting identity within the new association. Hurling, and at a much later date, Gaelic football, were part of the national expression for Irish people through the centuries. Hurling had an important place in the social life of pre-Christian Ireland as evidenced by the Brehon Laws. The game was part of what being Irish was and remained so until the coming of the Normans.

De Búrca shows how attitudes began to change then. Attempts were made to persuade or force the Irish to shed their racial distinctiveness. The Statute of Kilkenny legislated against hurling in 1367. Some time later 'Archbishop Colton of Armagh threatened excommunication for Catholics who played the 'reprehensible' game of hurling, since it led to 'mortal sins, beatings and ... homicides.' In 1527 the Statute of Galway also banned the game.

None of these attempts to kill hurling succeeded. There were further prohibitions of the game in the seventeenth century as in the Sunday Observance Act of 1695. But, as de Búrca reveals, many contemporary accounts and references establish that hurling was played all through the eighteenth century in many places. However, with the Great Famine in the middle of the nineteenth century, the games of hurling and football, which, de Burca shows, developed and flourished during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, began to decline.

According to de Búrca The Famine was not the only obstacle native games had to contend with in the last century. All over the country hurling and football were either discreetly discouraged or openly prohibited by government officials such as policemen and magistrates, as well as by some of the Catholic clergy and many landlords. The reasons given for such action varied from fear of violence and insobriety to suspicion of games being used as cover for meetings of various nationalist bodies.'

In the chapter dealing with the foundation of the G.A.A., de Burca expresses unqualified support for Michael Cusack and his role in the foundation of the G.A.A. 'To Cusack must go all the credit for starting the G.A.A.: without him there would have been no G.A.A., certainly not in the 1880s. He it was who supplied the inspiration and the driving force that led to its foundation.' He expresses the opinion that all his life Cusack's first allegiance was to Gaelic culture, rather than to political ideals. He found amateur athletics in Ireland in the hands of anglicised influences and was determined to wrench them into Irish control. There were other problems also. The standards in Dublin athletics had fallen and abuses had crept in. Money prizes were being commonly given to amateurs. Betting was widely tolerated. Handicaps were being framed to favour popular athletes. Much of the adult male population, including manual workers policemen and soldiers, was debarred from competing simply because its members were not gentlemen amateurs. Traditional events involving weights and jumping were often omitted from programmes in favour of ordinary races, which urban athletes had a better chance of winning.

In correspondence and discussions he argued for the restoration to athletic programmes of weight and jumping events, the lifting of the class barrier preventing the man-in-the-street from taking part in sports and the achievement of unity in the management of Irish athletics. From Pat Nally, the Fenian from Balla, Co. Mayo, de Búrca writes, Cusack took up the idea of wresting athletics from landlord control and bringing them under the control of nationalists. As a result he organised a National Athletic Meeting in Dublin to which artisans were invited. In a series of articles in the Irish Sportsman in 1881, Cusack argued the need for a controlling body for athletics in the country but insisted on the inclusion of nationalists in any such body, if it was to be genuinely representative of all Irish athletes.

De Búrca reveals how suddenly in 1882 Cusack switched his efforts from athletics to hurling with the foundation of the Dublin Hurling Club. Perhaps the reason was the existence in the city since 1870 of the University Hurley Club, which evolved into the Irish Hurley Union in 1882. Hurley was a debased form of hurling, a far cry from the robust form of the game Cusack had known in East Clare thirty years previously, and quite close to hockey. In these challenging circumstances Cusack decided to take steps to re-establish the national game of hurling, lest hurley should be passed off as the genuine article. Cusack started Saturday afternoon hurling practice sessions in the Phoenix Park.

In the summer of 1883 Cusack decided in effect to combine his two campaigns for the re-organisation of athletics on a democratic basis and for the revival of hurling. To this end he attended many rural sports meetings, especially in Munster, where he argued the case for Home Rule in athletics and for the inclusion of hurling in any new scheme. Later in the year he replaced the Dublin Hurling Club with the Metropolitan Hurling Club and resumed practice in Phoenix Park. Experienced hurlers from hurling areas began to attend the practice sessions. The club became Cusack's biggest sporting achievement 'til then. Founded to 'test the pulse of the nation', it satisfied him that, given encouragement and direction, public support for his ideas did exist.

The rest is history. The foundation meeting of the Gaelic Athletic Association was held in Hayes's Hotel, Thurles on November 1, 1884. A few weeks previously, in a letter to both United Ireland and the Irishman, Cusack succinctly put the case for a body such as that formed in Thurles subsequently. No movement aiming at the social and political development of a nation was complete unless it also provided for the cultivation and preservation of the nation's games. 'Because the recent athletic revival (a reference to the revival of amateur athletics in Ireland in the mid-1860s in Dublin) was sponsored by people of anti-Irish outlook, the ordinary citizen-was largely excluded from sport. Yet, although the management of sport was in non-national hands, most of the best athletes were nationalists; they should now take control of their own affairs.'

The foundation of the G.A.A. could, therefore, be described as a revolutionary movement. There were two elements involved. On the one hand athletics were being wrested from landlord and Unionist control and handed over to the plain people of Ireland, who were coming into their own for the first time. On the other hand the ancient game of hurling, and the less ancient game of Gaelic football, were being restored to their rightful place in the cultural life of the plain people of Ireland. The whole development was part of Cusack's desire to restore Irish culture to its rightful place in the lives of Irish people. Cusack had also been a pioneer of the Irish language movement and a founder member of the Gaelic League.

De Burca is at pains to show from his writings that Cusack envisaged that in sporting activities the G.A.A. would cross political and sectarian boundaries, as the Gaelic Union had already done in its work for the Irish language. Cusack invited no politicians to the foundation meeting. He asserted often that his dual object in starting the G.A.A. was to open athletics to the ordinary citizen and to halt and reverse the decline in Irish games.

Cusack's non-partisan policy and his desire to cross political and religious divides in his new organisation, had only limited success. During 1885 the growing conflict between the G.A.A. and the Irish Amateur Athletic Association (IAAA) on which body should represent Irish athletics gathered momentum. It was very difficult for the G.A.A., becoming identified with the Home Rule movement and the nationalist cause. Later the conflict developed within nationalism for the soul of the G.A.A. itself, between the Home Rule movement and the physical force camp, led by the secret oath-bound Irish Republican Brotherhood. The latter got control of the association in 1887 after Maurice Davin resigned from the presidency. According to de Búrca 'To at least some leaders of the LR.B. the G.A.A. must have seemed an ideal means of gaining by stealth the power they could not hope to win through the ballot box. The author describes the whole sorry mess in the middle of 1887: 'By mid-summer the G.A.A. presented a picture of growing disunity, with the two leading counties of Dublin and Tipperary in open revolt against what was regarded as the dictatorial regime of the Hoctor-dominated central executive, and with athletes in several areas considering transferring their allegiance to the rival IAAA. '

But, as this history clearly demonstrates, the G.A.A. survived these vicissitudes and those, which visited it during the Parnell split. The G.A.A sided with Parnell and became the target of strong opposition by the bulk of the clergy. It was infiltrated at all times by the current political ideas, was sometimes rent by deep divisions but at all times it came through.

De Búrca shows how the association reflected majority opinion in the immediate aftermath of the 1916 Rising. Accused by the Under-Secretary at Dublin Castle, Sir Matthew Nathan, of being anti-British, the G.A.A. issued a statement to the press in reply. According to the author, the main impact of this statement on the reader 'and undeniably the one intended by the central council of 1916, is of the Association's obvious desire to dissociate itself from the events in Dublin in Easter Week.' De Búrca goes on to say that the statement should be seen as a reflection of the climate of nationalist opinion generally in the period just after the Rising, the long-term effects of which nobody could then be expected to see.

The writer shows how the G.A.A. quickly changed its attitude towards the Rising as if reflecting the change in attitude among the general population. The association came under the dominant influence of the Sinn Fein members. Croke Park was the venue for the third annual convention of the Volunteers. A large body of G.A.A. men carrying hurleys, occupied a prominent position in the huge public funeral of Thomas Ashe. The G.A.A. added its voice in opposition to the British Government's decision in April 1918 to extend military conscription to Ireland. In fact, at the annual congress that year, held in private in the Mansion House, after an acrimonious debate the central council was censured for some contacts they made with the Castle authorities in 1916. (One of these contacts was a G.A.A. deputation to General Maxwell in November 1916 requesting him to put back the trains so that the attendance at G.A.A. finals would not suffer.) The debate ref1ected the dominant influence in the G.A.A. of the Sinn Fein members.

The change in G.A.A. attitudes is reflected in the part played by the G.A.A. in the War of Independence. The members were to the fore in the armed struggle and the foundation of the flying columns in the countryside came from fit, athletic members of the organisation. When the Civil War came along, with its obvious disruption of G.A.A. activities, it failed to split or unduly damage the association. In fact there is a strong case for arguing that G.A.A. members, who found themselves on opposing sides, did much to heal the divisions in Irish society caused by the fratricidal war.

According to Liam Kelly, in his review of the book already mentioned, 'The key point in the G.A.A.' s survival in the years 1884-1924 was loyalty. It engendered such loyalty among its membership that no matter how bitter the political or at times armed conflict, allegiance to the association was of prime importance.'

As already stated, the political side of the history of the G.A.A. is extensively treated. Another strength of the book is the treatment of the many personalities who contributed to the development of the association and to the making of the games of hurling and football the most popular in Ireland. Cusack has already been mentioned. De Búrca shows how Dick Blake, on his election as secretary, campaigned for a nonpolitical G.A.A. He lost no time in reforming the association. Within a month of his election the central council announced a revision of the constitution and rules. 'The old rule permitting political discussions at the annual convention was replaced; in its place came an explicit declaration that the G.A.A. was non-political and nonsectarian, a prohibition on the raising of political issues at G.A.A. meetings at any level, a ban on the participation by clubs in any political. movement and a recommendation for the avoidance of party names for clubs.' The author shows how such radical changes produced enemies and Blake's term of office came to a sudden end in 1898.

Another stalwart of the association who is well treated is James Nowlan. He came into power in September 1901 and with him, as secretary, Luke O'Toole. The former was to be president for twenty years, and the latter was to remain secretary for thirty years. According to de Búrca, they 'found the Association at the lowest point of its fortunes, were .to be instrumental in reviving it and guiding it to its first period of real expansion'.

O'Toole's successor, Pádraig O’Caoimh, who was to hold the office for thirty-five years, has his contribution put in order and perspective, as have all the men who helped shape and build the G.A.A. The purchase of Croke Park gets detailed treatment, as does the abolition of the 'Ban' in 1971

The author has compressed an immense amount of historical research into a relatively short book. It is well-written and well researched and documented. It a scholarly work and a very readable account even though the author shies away from the emotional and popular approach. It has a great clarity and precision of expression. Because it concerned itself with the weighty matters in the history of the association, it is open to criticism for its omissions. Mention has already been made of the sparcity of space devoted to players and games. Apart from the development of Croke Park there is little treatment of the development of other stadia in the country. It is surprisingly short on statistics; not even a list of the presidents and secretaries is made The cultural side of the association is passed over with little treatment of its work for the Irish language and latterly the place of Scór.

'The G.A.A.; A History' is ultimately a statement that events and decisions off the playing fields have been more lasting in their effects and more important to the association than the games of football and hurling that took place on the field of play. The book broke new ground and presented the first comprehensive history of the association as an organisation surviving the vicissitudes of many political takeover bids and growing from strength to strength.

A paperback edition of The G.A.A.: A History appeared in 1981. A shorter version of the book in Irish was published in 1984. An updated edition of the work, entitled The Story of the G.A.A. to 1990, was published by Wolfhound Press in 1990 for Irish Life Assurance plc. This work included a new cover and photographs not included in the original edition. In 1999 a second edition of the original work appeared. Published by Gill and Macmillan, it included a new cover and two additional chapters, one covering Games 1980-1999, the second Administration 1980-1999. It also included a one page bibliography and a professional index by Helen Litton.


Gaelic Games in Leinster (Comhairle Laighean C.L.G., 1984), 96 pp. Paperback.

This work on the history of the Leinster Council from the time it was set up in 1900, was a collaborative effort. Marcus de Búrca was the editor and he had the active cooperation of a special five-member history committee, which was set up in 1981. The members of the committee were Aodh O’Broin, Wicklow, Martin O'Neill, Wexford, Paddy Flanagan, Westmeath, Tom Ryall, Kilkenny, John Clarke, Offaly

The book can be divided into two halves with the first half devoted to a broad sweep of the province's history, and the second half to a statistical and photographic account. In the second section are to be found pen pictures of council chairmen and secretaries and the lists of winners of the many hurling and football competitions run by the council.

The first half of the book is the work of de Búrca. ln the course of five chapters he describes the beginnings of the council, taking the story to 1916 in chapter 1. He shows how the G.AA was strong in Dublin long before the formation of the council. Although Munster was the power-house of the early association, with six of the founders coming from that province, de Búrca states that 'geography alone dictated an important role for Leinster in the first 15 years or so of the G.A.A. In area and in population it was by far the biggest of the four provinces.

The author shows that by late summer 1900 unmistakable signs of pressure for reform of the G.AA had appeared. Leinster took a major part through the concerted action of prominent members in Wexford, Dublin and Kilkenny. Easily the most energetic advocate of reform was Walter ('Watt' ) Hanrahan of Wexford. In early August the Kilkenny and Wexford boards both threatened to leave the G.AA unless the central council took steps at once to ensure that it was run in a businesslike way. One of the reform ideas to come from Wexford chairman, Nick Cosgrave, was the idea of setting up provincial councils or committees to run their own championships. The motion to establish councils was passed at the 1900 congress, which was held in Thurles on September 9.

A meeting of representatives of Leinster counties on October 13 formed the Leinster Council. The first meeting adjourned to November 4 when a meeting of the Council elected James Nowlan, Kilkenny as chairman and WaIter Hanrahan as secretary. Since the Munster Council was not validly constituted until June 30, 1901. Leinster's was the first of the G.AA' s provincial councils. Those of Connacht and Ulster came in 1902 and 1903.

The author points out that in 1901 Nowlan was unanimously elected president of the G,A,A in succession to Deering, and another Leinster man, Wicklow's Luke O'Toole replaced Dineen as secretary. 'These two changes,' according to de Búrca, , marked the beginning of a new G.AA, determined to repair its badly run-down administrative machine and to put its finances on a sound basis.'

For de Búrca the provincial councils were to play an important party in the expansion of the G.AA in the years before 1916. 'They were to strengthen the administrative machinery of the Association and, through the provincial competitions which they would run, would generate new sources of income which would provide new funds for provincial development. By providing some degree of decentralisation they would also balance the growing trend in the early years of the century towards a Dublin-based G.A.A. In short they would act as the engine which would draw the Association into the second quarter of the century, when one of its most important periods of growth would take place.

The growth of the G.A.A. in Leinster is vividly illustrated in an income and expenditure table on page 25. For the year 1902-03 income was £640 and expenditure £410 leaving a surplus of £230. With the exception of 1916-17 the council had a surplus every year until 1922-23. For instance in the previous year the surplus was £1891. In the year 1925-26 the income was £3290. De Búrca states that the council finances were sound enough 'to permit another loan of £300 in January 1925 to allow the Central Council in install 20 modem turnstiles at Croke Park.

Officials played an important role in the development of the G.A.A. in the province. Walter Hamahan was a powerful figure in the early years and held the position of secretary until 1917. He was followed by John F. Shouldice, who was ten years in the office. A very influential figure, Martin O'Neill, succeeded in 1927 and was to remain in office until 1970. Three years earlier Bob O'Keeffe was elected chairman and was to remain in the chair until 1935. O'Neill and O'Keeffe formed a good partnership, which was to be largely responsible for the successes of the following decade.

The author shows that Leinster came through the Second World War unscathed. By the end of the 1940, all the main indicators of progress by the Leinster Council had improved beyond recognition on those at the start of the decade. 'Income in 1949 had more than quadrupled compared to 1940 and expenditure had more than trebled. The council's annual surplus had increased ten-fold and the number of affiliated clubs had risen by more than a third.'

The final chapter, entitled '25 Prosperous Years' covers the period 1960-1984. According to de Búrca 'the provincial administration managed to forge steadily ahead at a time when the Association as a whole was encountering major obstacles to progress. Largely through the introduction of the intermediate inter-county championships, the number of championship games played annually rose to new record levels. In football the province produced two new major contenders for national honours, Longford and Offaly. In addition, with Wexford's hurling resurgence continuing well into the late 1960s, the challenge of Leinster hurling to Munster's hitherto dominant position of the national game was further strengthened. De Búrca spends some time revealing the council's response to the Report of the G.A.A. Commission in 1971, which recommended the overhaul of the Association's structure. The council, through its secretary Ciaran O'Neill, expressed dismay at the move to centralise what he felt should remain a decentralised body. As evidence of the council's belief in the decentralised nature of the G.A.A., a decision was taken in 1965 to hold the annual provincial convention in future at a different venue in each of the twelve counties. The council also re-acted negatively to another initiative of the central council in 1968, to appoint a regional officer in each province. The duties of such an officer would include the promotion of the interests of the association in the province and ensuring that G.A.A. policy was vigorously pursued at all levels there. The proposal met with sharp criticism when it came before the council and was unanimously rejected.

Within its short span the book is a thorough presentation of the important features of the history of the Leinster Council. The author is diligent in the pursuit of facts and figures and gives a good account of the finances of the council. There is a balanced and rational approach to the story.


De Búrca, Marcus: One Hundred Years of Faughs Hurling- Fag-a-Bealagh (Faughs Hurling Club, 1985).

This is the story of one of the oldest hurling clubs in the country. Fag-a-Bealagh club, more popularly known all over Ireland as Faughs, came into existence in November 1885 in the academy of Michael Cusack himself and at his instigation, to provide competition for his own club, the Metropolitans. Apparently the decision to set up the club was taken as early as the Spring of 1885, at a meeting held in the Phoenix Park. Traditionally, Faughs was regarded as the second club to be established in Dublin. It came in ahead of the Michael Davitts Football Club, also formed in the month of November. In his secretary's report to the adjourned first annual congress of the G.AA, held in Thurles in February 1886, Cusack lists Faughs as the second of seven Dublin clubs affiliated. The name Faugh-a-Ballagh is an anglicised version of the old Irish battle-cry, 'Fag-a-Bealach', which may be translated as 'Clear the Way'.

The story of the Faughs is told largely through selected and edited contemporary press reports. In the Foreword to the book de Búrca acknowledges the help of members of the centenary committee of the club in collecting the raw material on which the book is based.

The book is divided into eight chapters with the first seven dealing the progress of the club in the Dublin hurling and football championships. The final chapter is devoted to miscellaneous activities in the club, such as handball, Scór, etc. It also includes a list of club officers and club captains. There is a selection of over sixty photographs, mostly of Faughs teams, the earliest being of the successful senior team that won four Dublin championships between 1900 and 1904.

The club was traditionally a haven for Tipperary hurlers based in Dublin and one of the fascinating features of the book are pen pictures of the giants of the Faughs club, especially in the early days. These make the most interesting reading and illustrate the strong Tipperary connection. Pat Cullen (1867-1939) from Loughmore was a member of the Dublin county board from 1887 and its treasurer from 1902. He won senior hurling titles with the Faughs between 1902-1904 and chaired the club between 1895 and 1907. Another Tipperary man was Danny McCormack (1876-1938) from Borrisileigh, who was on the Faughs 'four-in-a-row' team from 1900-1904, played for Dublin between 1905 and 1912, and was captain in 1907.

Other Tipperary players of note mentioned include Jack Cleary (1876-1948) Kilruane, Paddy Hogan of Horse and Jockey, who played for Dublin for many years, including the Dublin team against Tipperary in the 1906 All-Ireland senior hurling final, Jack Quane of the famous family of Tipperary footballers was a member of the Faughs football team that won the Dublin senior football championship in 1889, later emigrated to the U.S. and for many years a delegate from New York to the Central Council of the G.AA. Tim Gleeson (1877-1949) from Lisboney, Nenagh, Jack Connolly, from Ballypatrick, Thurles, who died suddenly in 1928 while refereeing a game in Parnell Park, Andy Harty (1880-1926), who held more posts at different levels in the G.AA. from 1903 to 1924 than any other official, Bob Mockler (1886-1966) a native of Horse and Jockey, who captained the Dublin team that won the senior hurling All-Ireland in 1920, Ned Wade of Boherlahan, who won minor and junior All-Irelands with Tipperary in 1930, joined Faughs in 1932, and played inter-county hurling for Dublin and Tipperary for the following fourteen years. Was unlucky in that he played for Dublin in 1937, when Tipperary won the All-Ireland, and played with Tipperary in 1938, when Dublin were successful, Jim Prior (1923-1980) of Borrisfleigh, who played on the Dublin senior hurling team from 1944 to 1957, losing two All-Irelands, to Waterford in 1948, and as captain to Cork in 1952, Charlie Downes of Roscrea, who was on the Dublin selection that won the 1938 AlIIreland, Mickey Williams of Cloughjordan and the famous Seamus Bannon.

I have referred only to the Tipperary players with the club. Faughs also attracted stars from other counties, like Jim 'Builder' Walsh and Terry Leahy from Kilkenny, Mick Gill from Galway, Harry Gray of Laois, and more. They were a very successful club and lead the Dublin hurling roll of honour with thirty senior titles, the last in 1992. Marcus de Búrca puts their achievement in perspective: 'This wholesale eclipse of the older hurling clubs serves only to emphasise the achievement of Faughs in the past quarter-century or more. Alone of the clubs founded back in the early days of the G.A.A, they have remained in the top rank in Dublin hurling. The Rapparees and Davis have long since vanished; Kickhams have not been in senior hurling for over half-a-century; Commercials after 90 years have yet to win a senior hurling title.


Michael Cusack and the G.A.A.

It was only logical that Marcus de Búrca should write a biography of Michael Cusack. In The G.A.A.: A History he had expressed his high admiration of the man from Carron, Co. Clare, who was solely responsible for the events leading up to the foundation of the G.A.A. in Thurles in November 1884. Of his dismissal twenty months after the foundation, de Búrca had this to say: 'No comparable case exists in modem Irish history of a national movement dismissing its founder within such a short time.'

When de Burca wrote The G.A.A.: A History, no biography of Cusack existed. In 1982 L. P. 0 Caithnia published Mícheál Cíosóg, a life of Cusack in the Irish language. The emphasis in the work was on Cusack as an Irish language enthusiast. No translation followed to make the book available to a wider audience. So there was a need for a biography that would give greater emphasis to Cusack's role in the foundation of the G.A.A. and the many other aspects of an extremely complex personality.

Marcus de Búrca was approached by Liam O’Maolmhichíl to do such a biography and this publication, which appeared in 1989, was the result. Less than two hundred pages long, the book is divided into eight chapters with about ten photographs. It also includes an index, and a list of Clare G.A.A. clubs, who subscribed to the publication. The main part of the work, as the title would suggest, is devoted to Cusack's G.A.A. life. In the first two chapters we learn of his boyhood in County Clare, his education and his life as a teacher. Starting as a primary teacher, he later moved into secondary and spent three years teaching at St. Colman's College, Newry. Until he started his own academy in Dublin in 1877, he led a peripatetic teaching existence that took him to the four provinces. In 1876 he married Margaret J. Woods in a Catholic service at Dromore.

According to de Búrca 'The ten years starting with the opening of his own school were the most important in Cusack's life. It was then that he made the decisions and took the actions for which he deserves to be remembered in modem Irish history. To be specific, between October 1877 and November 1887 he made his mark on Irish education, played a decisive role in Irish athletics, revived the national game of hurling, took part in a seminal move to revive the Irish language, edited a new Irish weekly news, and founded what has been for over a hundred years the biggest and most successful of Irish sports bodies.

The first major questions de Búrca addresses are how and why Cusack founded the G.A.A. He identifies three important events, which happened in 1882 that helped to shape the impact Cusack was to make on the Ireland of his time. The first of these was to force the newly founded Dublin Athletic Union to 'permit peelers, soldiers, labourers, tradesmen and artisans (excluded under the gentleman amateur rule) to compete at athletic sports. The second event was the opening of the National Industrial Exhibition in Dublin in August 1882. This exhibition was unique. It was entirely nationalist-controlled, its organisers refusing all official support or patronage. It made a deep and lasting impact on Cusack and five years later, in his own paper, The Celtic Times, he put the encouragement of native industry first among the four aims of the paper. The third event was his increased involvement in the Gaelic Union for the preservation and cultivation of the Irish Language. He became the most active committee member of the Union, which frequently met in his Academy. At his suggestion it commenced to hold Irish classes in a room provided in his Academy and under arrangements drawn up by him. The similarity between the title of the Union and the earliest title of the G.A.A. is obvious.

It was only a logical progression to the revival of Gaelic games. De Burca traces the developments that led to the revival of hurling. On the second last day of 1882 a small group of men, including Cusack, met in the College of Surgeons 'for the purpose of taking steps to re-establish the national game of hurling. ,xlix Five days later the same group with some others met to establish the Dublin Hurling Club. The setting up of this club was in response to the existence in Dublin for some years before 1882 of a game called hurley, an emasculated form of the traditional game of hurling. 'A glance at the twelve simple playing-rules of the DHC strongly suggests that Cusack had a major input into their drafting. While in some respects containing features one associates with hockey, in others they anticipate the rules of the game controlled by the G.A.A. from November 1884.

The Dublin Hurling Club didn't last very long and Cusack's interest in it waned quickly. Conflict developed between the supporters of hurling and hurley, as each side tried to poach players from the other. By October 1883 the affairs of the Dublin Hurling Club appear to have been wound up. De Búrca gives two reasons for the collapse. From the start the DHC failed to attract more than a handful of players. The failure to supply hurleys and balls may have been a reason. Initially there was an invitation from the DHC to join 'in the national movement'. Spectators to the sessions in the Phoenix Park began to join in the training sessions. However, this fraternisation was abruptly ended by a decision of the committee on 22 February to confine future matches to 'members, intending members and members of recognised clubs.'

The author concludes his chapter on the Dublin Hurling Club by stating that for nearly all those involved in the club, this was a once-only effort to revive hurling. 'The sole known exception was, of course, Michael Cusack, who only a few short months later, after the failure of the DHC, made yet another effort - this time almost single-handed, but this time too with much greater success. This was the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Hayes's Hotel, Thurles in November 1884.

The second major question examined by de Búrca is why, after only twenty months following the foundation meeting, the G.A.A. removed Cusack from his post as secretary. In a short review such as this it is not possible to trace the tangled web of plot and intrigue that led to the secretary's dismissal. De Búrca shows that two powerful men played a key role, Edmund Dwyer Gray, the proprietor of the Freeman's Journal and Archbishop Croke himself. Cusack himself contributed to his own demise. The bitterness of the war of words between the G.A.A. and the I.A.A.A. during 1885 had left its mark on the principal antagonists, not least on Cusask himself. 'Obliged to face his opponents alone in Dublin because his executive was largely scattered throughout the provinces, he became more dictatorial in his style of management and resentful of criticism from any quarter. In particular, he could not tolerate what he felt was lack of support from his own colleagues, some of whom now began to question his capacity to pilot the G.A.A. into calmer seas, or the wisdom of allowing him to do so.’

Unfortunately for Cusack his attack on the Freeman's Journal brought him into conflict with Archbishop Croke. Matters came to a head when Cusack concluded a letter to Croke with the blunt statement: 'As you faced the Pope, so I will, with God's help, face you and Gray. Croke's reply warned the G.A.A. of his intention to discontinue his patronage if Cusack was to be allowed to play the dictator in its councils, to abuse all who disagreed with him and to keep the Irish athletic world in perpetual feud.

The author shows how the forces against Cusack began to gather for the kill. An editorial in the Freeman's Journal put the case for Cusack's removal. 'He was always treading on someone's toes, suggesting ignoble motives, and only happy when quarrelling. If the G.A.A. did not quickly find a new secretary Cusack would wreck it. This was followed very quickly by a repudiation of Cusack's letter to Croke from McKay, one of Cusack's co-secretaries. Letters and statements from many clubs demanded Cusack's retraction. Cusack's manner was described as aggressive, insolent, dictatorial and an obstacle to the spread of the association.

The road to his dismissal was now clearly marked and de Búrca gives a vivid account of the three meetings, beginning on April 6, which brought about this result. Cuasck was willing to retract and apologise but the matter which brought things to a head was a proposal that all future communications made on behalf of the association should carry the names of the president and of two of the secretaries. It was Cusack's irrational response to this obvious attempt to silence him that was to cost him his post as secretary three months later.

When the meeting to consider Cusack's future as secretary began in Hayes's Hotel on July 4, some sixty-five delegates representing almost forty clubs were present. Not surprisingly, twenty-four of the clubs and almost half of the delegates were from Tipperary. Detailed allegations of incompetency against Cusack were presented. He was negligent in dealing with correspondence, failed to acknowledge affiliation fees received from clubs and hadn't issued medals for the previous season. One of the most damning allegations was that Cusack had pocketed some of the association's money.

According to de Búrca 'Cusack's defence ran on predictable lines. Regarding the unanswered correspondence, he argued that he had a complete answer in the restrictions imposed on him by the April meeting. Then, going on the offensive, he explained the conflicting views of Clancy (a member of the executive, who suggested the misappropriation of money) and himself on the purchase of trophies in such a way as to imply clearly that Clancy was guilty of improper behaviour. Finally, in a dramatic gesture of defiance, he answered the veiled accusations of embezzlement by producing a bundle of unanswered letters and uncashed cheques and throwing them all on the table in front of him.

The debate lasted four hours, becoming disorderly at times and being also punctuated by at least two walk-outs by Cusack. In the end, the case against him for neglect of his duties was almost unanswerable and Cusack was asked to resign because he had not discharged his duties as secretary. The voting was forty-seven to thirteen, an inglorious exit for a mall who had set up the organisation only twenty months previously. While de Búrca admits the adequacy of the case against Cusack, he firmly believes the manner of his dismissal was indefensible.

One of the great strengths of this book is the access the writer had to the Celtic Times, which appeared for the first time on January 1, 1887 and lasted for fifty-four weeks. It was the only paper of which Michael Cusack was in sole control. Not a single issue of this paper, the first of many periodicals which have been devoted to Gaelic games, had been seen by the public for at least fifty years from 1934 to 1984. Marcus de Búrca had access to an incomplete file of the paper (all but nine issues) while researching this book.

The paper reveals a new side of Cusack for long unknown, or at least only vaguely suspected from his other writings. 'The hidden Cusack was a man not only with a broad liberal approach to the economic and cultural development of his country, but also with a lively interest in social and labour problems both at home and abroad. It enables one to give a portrait of the founder of the G.A.A. largely unseen before, not available elsewhere, and not at all as unbalanced as one might have expected in the circumstances giving rise to the launching of the paper. It provides a new account of what was the most eventful year in the history of the G.A.A., from the pen of probably the most articulate and most observant side-line spectator. Finally, but by no means of least interest, it shows the Association's dismissed chief officer fighting back - making what was to prove his last bid to regain power in the body he himself had set up.'

Marcus de Burca has done a great service to the public with this biography of Michael Cusack. He has brought balance to the perception of a man, which was hung up on all the disagreeable aspects of his character, and he presents his subject as a multi-faceted character who always had the G.A.A. and Ireland as his primary concerns. He does not fail to show how Cusack himself was his own worst enemy and how he contributed significantly to his own downfall. At the beginning of this review of the G.A.A. writings of Marcus de Burca I stated that the library of books relating to the association at national level was a very small shelf De Burca's contribution to that shelf is significant and important. He has done a major service to the G.A.A. but also to the public at large.

Gaelic Football Irish Sport 1950-2000, An Insight into Irish Sporting Success, ed. Ian Foster, Manticor , 2002, pp 51-70.

Gaelic Football 

Irish Sport 1950-2000, An Insight into Irish Sporting Success, ed. Ian Foster, Manticor , 2002, pp 51-70.


The Rules

The following rules were the first codification of the playing rules of the game. They laid the basis of the game that was to become the most popular in the country. The first recorded game under GAA rules was that between Callan and Kilkenny on February 15, 1885. At that time the rules were as follows:

  1. There shall not be less than fourteen or more than twenty-one players a side;
  2. There shall be two umpires and a referee. Where the umpires disagree the referee's decision shall be final;
  3. The ground shall be at least 120 yards long by 80 in breadth, and properly marked by boundary lines. Boundary lines must be at least five yards from fences;
  4. The goal posts shall stand at each end in the centre of the goal line. They shall be 15 feet apart, with a cross-bar 8 feet from the ground;
  5. The captains of each team shall toss for choice of sides before commencing play, and the players shall stand in two ranks opposite each other until the ball is thrown up, each man holding the hand of one of the other side; 
  6. Pushing or tripping from behind, holding from behind, or butting with the head, shall be deemed foul, and the players so offending shall be ordered to stand aside, and may not afterwards take part in the match, nor can his side substitute another man; 
  7. The time of actual play shall be one hour. Sides to be changed only at half-time; 
  8. The match shall be decided by the greater number of goals. If no goal is kicked the match shall be deemed a draw. A goal is when the ball is kicked through the goal posts under the cross-bar.
  9. When the ball is kicked over the side line it shall be thrown back by a player of the opposite side to him who kicked it over. If kicked over the goal line by a player whose goal line it is, it shall be thrown back in any direction by a player of the other side. If kicked over the goal line by a player of the other side the goal keeper whose line it crosses shall have a free kick. No player of the other side to approach nearer 25 yards of him 'till the ball is kicked;
  10. The umpires and referee shall have during the match full powers to disqualify any player, or order him to stand aside and discontinue play for any act which they may consider unfair, as set out in rule 6. No nails or iron tips on the boots (strips of leather fastened on the soles will prevent slipping). The dress for hurling and football to be knee-breeches and stockings and boots or shoes. It would be well if each player was provided with two jerseys, one white and the other some dark colour. The colours of his club could be worn on each. Then when a match was made, it could be decided the colours each side should wear.

Numerous changes in the rules were to occur over the years. In 1886 wrestling and hand grips between players were prohibited. Point posts, as still obtain in Australian football, were introduced. Points were to count only if no goals were scored but no number of points was to equal a goal. Balls going over the sideline were to be thrown in by umpires or the referee. Two years later the referee was recommended to use a whistle. Forfeit points, which were given if a player put the ball over his own end line, were replaced by a fifty yard free.

More important changes were made in 1892. The maximum number of players on a team was reduced from twenty-one to seventeen, and this number was to be reduced to fifteen in 1913. The county champions, who represented their county in the All-Ireland championship, were now given the right to select players from other clubs. Five points were declared to be the equivalent of one goal, and the number of points was reduced to three in 1895. The following year the cross-bar was lowered from ten and a half feet to eight feet. In 1910 the point side posts were abolished. Goal nets were introduced. Three years later the backs took up their positions before the ball was thrown in. Prior to then all the players remained in the centre of the field for the throw-in. From 1914 the AII Ireland final was played on the fourth Sunday of September.


Gaelic Football cannot claim the antiquity of hurling, but it is by far the most popular of Irish sports today. The first direct reference to the game is to be found in the Statutes of Galway in 1527, which forbade citizens to play football and under the Sunday Observance Act of 1865 the game was again forbidden. The laws failed to suppress the game. In Kerry, one of the strongholds of the game, there were two forms of the game: field caid, which was confined to one field with goals at each end, and cross-country caid, in which the object was to take the ball from one parish to another. However, by the late 19th century, as with hurling, the game was in danger of extinction because of reasons already mentioned and also because of the lack of proper organisation and proper rules. Rugby and soccer were better organised.

The foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association in 1884 improved matters. In January 1885, Michael Davin, the first President of the Association, instigated the adoption of a set of rules. These rules were the first codification of the playing of the game. Numerous changes in the rules were to occur over the years. Perhaps the most important being the introduction of point posts, goal nets and the reduction of players from 21 to 15.

Competition has always been an important feature in the sport. Initially there was the senior championship which was played between the respective county champions. The first All-Ireland championship was played in 1887, and in the 1920s the Sam Maguire Cup was presented to the winners of the All-Ireland senior football final. The Railway Shield for interprovincial competitions was introduced in 1906, the Croke Cup for the defeated provincial finalists in 1909 and the Sigerson Cup for the inter-university championship in 1911. The Junior AlI Ireland championship, for players who were not up to senior standard, was introduced in 1912. The National Football League began in 1925 and Laois became the first champions. The first Railway Cup competition, for provincial teams, began in 1925, with Leinster becoming the first champions. A minor All-Ireland championship, for under-18 players, was introduced in 1929 and Clare became the first champions. An under-21 championship began in 1964 with the first final won by Kerry. A club championship, for county senior football champions, began in 1971, with East Kerry becoming the first champions. Championships for secondary schools were introduced in 1915.

Games were badly disrupted between 1919 and 1923 because of the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War. In one game during the period, between Dublin and Tipperary on November 21, 1920, British soldiers entered Croke Park and began shooting into the crowd. Thirteen people were killed, including Tipperary player, Michael Hogan, whose name is commemorated in a stand named after him in the stadium. The shooting was in retaliation for the killing of a number of British Secret Service agents by the Irish Republican leadership in Dublin that morning.

The 1920s saw the introduction of a new skill peculiar to Gaelic football, the solo run or toe-to-hand. The year was 1921 and the player was Sean Lavan from County Mayo. In a game against Dublin at Croke Park having got possession of the ball he set off for goal at speed, playing the ball from toe to hand and then shooting a point. It was the first time the skill was seen and ever since it has been an important part of the repertory of skills of the Gaelic footballer. It is the only legitimate way to carry the ball in Gaelic football.

Kerry with 16 wins, followed closely by Dublin with 15 wins dominated the All-Ireland championships and finals in the pre 1950 period; Wexford, Tipperary, Kildare, Galway and Cork each had three or more wins in this period; the 1947 final was unique in that it was the only All-Ireland final to be played outside Ireland. The decision to play the final in the Polo Grounds, New York was taken to revive interest in the game in the USA where it had declined during the war years and to commemorate the centenary of the Great Famine which had been responsible for creating the large Irish population in the USA. The decision generated great interest in the championship and Cavan and Kerry emerged to contest the final in New York on September 14. An attendance of 35,000 saw Cavan win by 2-11 to 2-7.

Kerry was again the dominant side of the 1950s, but others were to challenge their position. One of the strongest footballing counties of today is Meath but they were late winning their first All-Ireland. The year was 1949 and they had to play Louth three times in the Leinster semi-final before coming through. These contests captured the imagination of the public and gave the victors a high profile. Westmeath were beaten in the Leinster final, Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final and there was huge excitement in the county when Cavan were conquered in the final. Meath lost two successive finals in 1951 and 1952 before winning again in 1954, beating hot favourites Kerry well in the final. The victorious side included eight of the 1949 team, among them such stalwarts as Paddy O'Brien at full-back, the two corner men, Mick O'Brien and Kevin McConnell, and Brian Smyth and Peter McDermott in the forward line. It was to be ten years before Meath came out of their province again, and thirteen before another All-Ireland was won.

Mayo had been a great team during the thirties but went through a barren stretch during the forties. Their fortunes began to improve late in the decade as a result of a new approach to training and team selection. They were narrowly beaten by Cavan in the 1948 All-Ireland, lost to Meath in the semi-final the following year and came through for two All-Ireland victories in 1950 and 1951. Louth were defeated in 1950 and Meath the following year. The team included players whose names became legends in households around the country, players such as Sean Flanagan, who captained the two winning teams, Henry Dixon at centreback, Eamonn Mongey, who was an outstanding midfielder, Padhraic Carney and Tom Langan. After that it was to be lean times for the county. Mayo didn't win in Connacht for some time after that. There was a single success in 1955, followed by defeat in an All-Ireland semi-final replay, and the county had to wait until the late sixties before their graph began to rise again.

According to Jack Mahon in A History of Gaelic Football, Eamonn Mongey tells a good story against himself Soon after retirement he gave a pair of football boots to be sold in a fund-raising sale. They were bought by a publican in Tobercurry. 'A few years ago, after heart surgery, my wife and I journeyed west for a holiday during my convalescence, and we decided to visit Killoran's and see the old boots again. On entering we ordered coffee and enquired of the man at the bar about the boots and who owned them. He told us they belonged to a fellow named Mongey, who won All-Irelands with Mayo about 50 years before. He then added: "You know, the same Mongey looked old when he was playing and often wore a cap to hide his baldness, and I do believe the so-and-so is still alive." Now what could I do but laugh.'

Kerry recorded three victories in 1953, 1955 and 1959. In the first of these years they defeated Armagh, who were making an attempt to bring the Sam Maguire across the border to Northern Ireland for the first time. In fact many would regard it as the best Armagh team of all times. In a game which will be long remembered for its excitement and football skills, for brilliant individual performances and for sportsmanship which has seldom been bettered over the years, Kerry won by 0-13 to 1-6. Armagh missed a penalty at a vital time of the game. In the 1955 final they beat Dublin. The latter had been in the football doldrums since 1942 but were a rising force in the game at this time. Many of the players were products of the great St Vincent's club, which was hugely successful at this time. In the history of the club there is reference to 1955: 'All-Ireland final day 1955 is remembered as one of the most colourful and emotion filled days in All-Ireland history. It was the day that for the first time Hill 16 (the Railway end terrace in Croke Park) became the undisputed property of Dublin supporters. To have stood on the Hill that day is to boast of a singular honour and to lay claim to have been part of one of Ireland's great sporting occasions.' A crowd of nearly 90,000 watched the game which the more seasoned and more wily Kerry side won by 0-12 to 1-6. Kerry's third victory in 1959 was against Galway, who were an emerging force in the late fifties. The score was level going into the final quarter of the game butKerry, inspired bySean Murphy, TomLong and MickO'Dwyer, subsequentIy one of the great coaches in the game, dominated the final stages to win decisively by 3-7 to 1-4.

Galway had an impressive run of success in the Connacht championship in the fifties, winning five finals between 1954 and 1959. During the same period they had one All-Ireland success, in 1956, when they defeated Cork. It was a success long cherished in the county and in particular, the displays of Sean Purcell, Jack Mangan and Frank Stockwell, who scored 2-5 from play. It was a great team that deserved more success.

Cork lost the 1957 All-Ireland, this time to Louth, the smallest county in the country. The winners were captained by Dermot O'Brien, who became famous as a musician. Louth had won two All-Irelands in 1910 and 1912 and this was to be their last victory to date. The victory was received with tremendous excitement in the county and 40,000 fans lined the streets of Drogheda to welcome home the team. Dublin achieved All-Ireland success in 1958, beating Derry in the final. The latter had won their first ever Ulster final that year and were inspired by two great players, Sean O'Connell and Jim McKeever. They beat Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final but lost to an able and experienced Dublin side, which was captained by Kevin Heffernan and had talented players like Ollie Freaney and Dessie Ferguson, among others. 

The '60s saw the emergence of Down for the first time as a football power. The first year the county came to the notice of the public was in 1958 when they reached the Ulster final, only to be beaten by Derry. The following year they won their first Ulster tide but were beaten by Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. In 1960 they went one better to claim All Ireland success, defeating Kerry in the final. Down's success was due to an extremely talented side, which included such players as Sean O'Neill, James McCartan, Kevin Mussen (capt.) and Joe Lennon, allied to a very professional management team. They were the first county to bring the Sam Maguire across the border into Northern Ireland and the success was greeted with incredible outpourings of joy and celebration. Down repeated the success in 1961, beating Offaly in the All-Ireland. This game attracted a massive crowd of 91,000 to Croke Park, the greatest attendance ever at an Irish sports fixture. Down had further successes in Ulster in 1963, 1965, 1966 and 1968. In the latter year they won their third All-Ireland, beating Kerry in the final. In doing so they established a unique record of never losing an All-Ireland final, a tradition they were to continue when they won in 1991 and 1994.

Galway were the other exciting team of the sixties, also winning three All-Irelands. They won out in Connacht six times during the decade but the high point were the years 1963 to 1966, when they played in four All-Irelands. In the first of these years they lost to Dublin. Galway led at half-time by two points but Dublin, inspired by Des Foley, Mickey Whelan, Paddy Downey and John Timmons, took over and won by 1-9 to 0-10. The experience was to serve Galway well the following year. Their opponents in the final were Kerry. Galway were on top at all times, led at half-time by four points and had five to spare at the final whistle. Kerry were defeated again in the 1965 final, this time by three points. Galway's opponents in the 1966 All-Ireland were Meath. They were well ahead at half-time, 1-6 to 0-1, and even though their margin of victory in the end was only six points, their superiority was much greater than the score would indicate.

In all 10 players took part in all three winning finals. Mattie McDonagh became the first Connacht man to win four All-Ireland senior football championship medals, as well as the only Connacht man to win ten Connacht senior football championship medals. Goalkeeper Johnny Geraghty did not concede a goal in any of the three victorious All-Ireland finals. From these dizzy heights of success Galway and Connacht went into decline and it was to be 32 years before an All-Ireland senior football title was won again by a team from across the River Shannon.

Kerry added two further All-Ireland tides during the sixties, in 1962 and 1969. In the former year they beat Roscommon in the final. The Connacht side made a brief resurgence in 1961 and 1962, losing the first year to Offaly in the All-Ireland semi-final and beating Cavan the second year. In 1969 Kerry defeated Offaly in the final after narrowly overcoming Mayo in the AlIIreland semi-final.

Mick O'Connell, who shone for Kerry in the '60s, was probably the greatest footballer of all time. He was a perfectionist in eveything he did, in his preparation and in his play. In his autobiography A Kerry Footballer he states: 'I practised several self-devised exercises to improve agility and pliability. One was to simulate the blockdown first on one side and then quickly across to the other side. This twisting and turning, when continued on for a while, was a great workout for the midriff section. Hurdling rows of wire fencing, approximately three feet high, which were dividing the field next to where I trained, was another exercise that I relied a lot on. Allowing myself only a very short run-up, I repeated this jump rapidly over and back several times. This served the purpose of strengthening the jumping muscles.'

Meath won the All-Ireland in 1967 after a lapse of 23 years. The county had been a force for some time but were unfortunate to have to contend with brilliant Galway during the period. They beat Cork in the 1967 final and the team included well-known stars like Jack Quinn, Pat Collier, Bertie Cunningham and Matt Kerrigan. It was Cork's third All-Ireland defeat since their last victory in 1945.

Attempts were made from early in the 20th century to establish an international dimension to Gaelic football. From the 1920s, teams from Ireland began to travel to the UK and the USA to play selections picked from among the Irish diaspora in these countries. In the early sixties the Central Council of the Gaelic Athletic Association agreed to issue an invitation to an Australian Rules football team to play a game in Ireland. There was a belief that the development of Australian football owed much to the influence of emigrant Irishmen. The two games are similar in their methods of catching, screening, running with the ball, punting and passing. In the Australian game the ball is oval, the game is played on a round pitch, the ball is lifted from the ground, the play is in quarters rather than halves, the tackle is different and the game uses point posts similar to those used by the GAA until 1913. In 1967 an Australian team from Victoria State, called the Galahs, organised by Harry Beitzel, came to Ireland and played the newly crowned All-Ireland champions, Meath. The sole concession granted to the Australians was being allowed to pick the ball off the ground; otherwise it was GAA rules all the way. The men from Australia took Meath apart with a display of high fielding and long kicking. Meath, stung by the defeat, set about organising a trip to Australia the following year. The trip was an outstanding success and Meath recovered their honour. Since then there have been other trips between the two countries. In 1984 a set of compromise rules was drawn up for games between the two countries. Since then these rules have been perfected and compromise rules games between the two countries have now become part of the GAA calendar. These games have given international dimension to Gaelic football.

The '70s were a really exciting decade because of the great rivalry between Dublin and Kerry. The latter began the decade in grand style, defeating Meath in the All-Ireland final. However, they had to play second fiddle to Offaly for a few years after that. Offaly were a new force in football. They never won out in Leinster until 1960, when they lost the All Ireland semi-final to Down in a replay. The following year they lost out to the same opposition in the All-Ireland final. The county was unlucky to have come up against a great Down team.  All these defeats were forgotten with the successes of 1971 and 1972. In the former year they defeated Galway in the All-Ireland final and repeated the success against Kerry in the replayed final of 1972. The successful teams included players who have entered the folk history of the county, legends like Paddy McCormack, Willie Bryan, Tony McTague, Murt Connor, to name a few.

Cork eventually came good in 1973 when they beat Galway in the All-Ireland final. The team included Jimmy Barry-Murphy, who was the minor sensation of 1972. He was as good at hurling as he was at football and other players on the victorious side, like Brian Murphy, Denis Coughlan and Ray Cummins, were equally adept in both codes. The captain of the side was goalkeeper, Billy Morgan, an inspiring figure for club and county.

The great Dublin-Kerry rivalry began in 1975. Dublin won glory in 1974, beating Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final and Galway in the final. They qualified for the All-Ireland again the following year but were well beaten by Kerry. When the sides met in the 1976 final, Dublin reversed the result. The following year Dublin defeated Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final and went on to defeat Armagh in the final. Kerry then took over to win four All-Irelands in a row, beating Dublin in 1978 and 1979, Roscommon in 1980 and Offaly in 1981.

One of the most talked-about incidents in Gaelic football was an incident that took place in the 1978 All-Ireland. Dublin dominated the game for the first 20 minutes and seemed destined for victory, when they went five points ahead. But against the run of play, Kerry came back to draw level. Then three minutes before half-time, the referee, Seamus Aldridge of Kildare, awarded a free to Kerry after the Dublin goalkeeper, Paddy Cullen, had cleared the ball. While Cullen argued with the referee about the free, his goal was left unguarded. Mikey Sheehy was handed the ball by a Dublin player and, instantly seeing an opportunity, took a quick free. At the last minute Cullen realised the danger. He made a desperate effort to back-track to the goals but the ball floated over his head into the net and he backed into the side of the netting. The goal was allowed; the incident was replayed again and again on the television screens and Paddy Cullen must have had waking nightmares for years afterwards. Dublin never recovered from the setback and were well beaten.

Kerry were going for a record fifth in a row in 1982 when they met Offaly in a repeat of the 1981 final. They appeared to be heading for victory and were two points up with about five minutes remaining. A long ball was floated in to the Offaly left corner-forward, Seamus Darby, who had come in as a substitute shortly before and was told by his manager, Eugene McGee, to stay near the goal. He beat his man to the ball, turned, and scored a goal to give his side a one point lead, which they held onto for the remaining minutes. It was a sensational victory for Offaly and a hugely disappointing result for Kerry, who seemed to be on the brink of creating history. That Kerry team, which was to win three more All-Irelands in the mid-eighties, is regarded as the greatest football team of all time. Wherever football is spoken the names of Mikey Sheehy, Pat Spillane, Ger Power, Jack O'Shea and others will be mentioned. The strength of the team was in its scoring power. No other team, either then or since, had such capacity for putting the ball between the posts. The longevity of the side was also impressive. Most of them came into the side in 1974 and lasted until 1987, four of them winning as many as eight All-Irelands each. Of great importance to the side was the influence of manager, Mick O'Dwyer, who came into the position in late 1974, after Kerry's defeat by Cork in that year's Munster final at Killarney.

Any account of the '80s has to take account of another manager, Kevin Heffernan, who came in as manager of Dublin in 1973 for a three-year period. His objective was to restore Dublin's senior football pride by gathering a group of players who would give total commitment to this objective. A group of players gathered together over a period of time and the new manager set about developing a team by improving individual skills, achieving maximum fitness and developing field tactics suitable to the team. The result was a very successful period for Dublin football and the winning of three All-Irelands. As a result of this period of rivalry between Kerry and Dublin, and between O'Dwyer and Heffernan, managers began to play a bigger part in Gaelic football. They were responsible for a growing professionalism in the approach to the preparation and training of teams. They were given almost absolute control over teams and became centres of media attention. Until 1970 the duration of an All-Ireland final was 60 minutes. In 1970 the first 80-minute final was introduced and this was to be the case until 1974. The 75-minute final was introduced in 1975 and has been the case since.

After the disappointment of 1982, Kerry suffered further defeat in 1983 when they were beaten with a last-minute goal by Cork in the Munster final. Kerry were seeking their ninth successive Munster tide. Cork lost to Dublin in a replayed All-Ireland semi-final and Dublin went on to defeat Galway in the final. But Kerry were far from finished. They came back to win the next three All-Ireland tides. In 1984, the centenary of the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association, they outclassed Dublin to win the final. In 1985 they beat the same opposition by a smaller margin, but still very convincingly. In 1986 their victims were Tyrone, who were seeking their first All-Ireland. Until early in the second half it appeared that Tyrone might be good enough but Kerry took over and won easily in the end. For five of the players, Paidi O'Shea, Ogie Moran, Pat Spillane, Mikey Sheehy and Ger Power, it was their eighth All-Ireland tide. O'Shea and Moran had been on the starting fifteen in every final. Spillane came on as a substitute in the 1981 final. Moran had the distinction of playing in the same position, centre forward, on all the winning teams. Nobody anticipated after the victory in 1986 that it would be eleven years before Kerry won another All-Ireland.

One of the greatest Kerry footballers of the glorious team of the '70s and '80s was Pat Spillane. In his autobiography Shooting from the Hip, he said: 'I am amused nowadays when I read about team managers banning their players from giving interviews or reading newspapers before a big game. Throughout my career I made a point of reading as many papers and listening to as many interviews on radio and television about the big games I was involved in. It helped that I am the most positive thinker imaginable. I wasn't the greatest footballer of all time. But, I believed I was much better than my opponent, even if I had no solid ground to back my argument. The day you go out thinking your opponent is better than you - you're in trouble. I never lacked confidence and I had the capacity to take positive meaning out of anything that was written about me. If a journalist wrote that I was the best footballer in Ireland I would be pleased, but also anxious to prove it was correct. On the other hand, if somebody suggested I was past it then I would go out and try to prove them wrong.'

The team that succeeded Kerry for All-Ireland honours was Meath. The county got a new manager in 1982, when Sean Boylan took over, and he has been with them over the intervening years. Meath won out in Leinster in 1986 but went down to Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final. The experience was to stand to them the following year. Meath hadn't been in an All-Ireland since 1970 and Cork were their opponents. After a bright start Cork were pegged back and Meath ran out easy winners with six points to spare. Cork were again their opponents in the1988 final. The game ended in a draw as a result of a late Meath point from a free. The replay was a tough encounter at the end of which Meath had a point to spare, 0-13 to 0-12. Cork got their own back in the following two years. In 1989 they defeated Mayo in the final, after accounting for Dublin who had beaten Meath in Leinster in the All-Ireland semi-final. Cork won their second tide in 1990, beating Meath in the final. The team included players, who became national figures. Such were Niall Cahalane, Stephen O'Brien, Larry Tompkins, Shay Fahy and Teddy McCarthy. The latter had the distinction in 1990 of winning a hurling as well as a football All-Ireland. 

The first half of the '90s will be remembered for what has been called the 'Northern Renaissance', a succession of four All-Ireland victories by teams from Ulster. Down started the pattern in 1991. Since the glory days of the' 60s, when three All-Irelands were won, the county had not much in the line of success. There were victories in Ulster in 1971, 1978 and 1981 but no advancement beyond the All-Ireland semi-final. At the beginning of 1991 the county's expectations weren't great. However, the team won through to the provincial final, which was won easily against Donegal. Down's opponents in the All-Ireland semi-final were old rivals, Kerry, who had never yet beaten the northerners in a senior football championship game. Down came through the encounter, easily in the end, and qualified to play Meath in the final. Down were ahead by eleven points with sixteen minutes to go but Meath made a dramatic fight back and got within two points by the final whistle. Down had kept their All-Ireland final record complete.

Donegal were the successful team in 1992 when they won the All-Ireland for the first time. Even though there was a long tradition of football in the county, the first Ulster title wasn't won until 1972. The county's resurgence continued after that with further provincial titles in 1974, 1983 and 1990. All these four successes had been followed by All-Ireland semi-final defeats. The 1992 campaign began with a draw in the first round but it gathered momentum along the way. Derry were defeated in the Ulster final. The next test was against Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final which Donegal won despite playing badly. So, it was into their first All-Ireland against the experience and tradition of Dublin. After a nervous start Donegal got into their stride and thoroughly deserved their four point victory.

Derry won their first ever All-Ireland the following year. Somewhat like Donegal, Derry were late winning their first Ulster title. That was in 1958 and further titles were won in 1970, 1975, 1976 and 1987. The county got to the All-Ireland in 1958 only to be beaten by Dublin, but lost the other four All-Ireland semi-finals. In the 1993 Ulster final they defeated Donegal, their conquerors of the previous year. Dublin were their opponents in the All-Ireland semi-final and, after a very close game, they won through by a point. In the final against Cork, Derry started badly and were 1-2 down after six minutes. They came well into the game after that and led by three points at half-time. Cork went ahead in the second half but Derry kept plugging away and had three points to spare at the final whistle. The victory was a very emotional one not only for the team but for all their loyal supporters down the years. Down came back to win again in 1994 and make it four out of four for northern counties. After the victory in 1991 Down fell to Derry in the 1992 and 1993 Ulster championships. They overcame the same opposition in 1994 and went on to beat Tyrone in the Ulster final. Down decisively beat Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final and preserved their 100% record in All-Ireland finals when they defeated Dublin by two points.

By seven o'clock on Tuesday morning after the 1991 All-Ireland final, Paddy O'Rourke, the victorious Down captain, had had enough, according to Jerome Quinn in Ulster Football and Hurling. 'Thirty-eight unforgettable but exhausting hours after winning Sam (the Sam Maguire Cup), it's time to take leave of the celebrations at his Burren club and take the Cup home.

Dozens of cars block the road, their owners still in party mood, so the Down captain improvises by taking the short cut he had taken as a young boy, over Burren hill. It was the most idyllic setting, dawn breaking over the beautiful Burren valley and rabbits scurrying for cover as the local hero climbed to the top of the hill. At the summit he paused for breath, turning and looking down at the club rooms he had just left. Some happy faces caught sight of him, others were called to the windows and, as they cheered, O'Rourke lifted the Cup and shook it vigorously above his head, as he had done at Croke Park. "It all came home to me at the moment, 20 years of hard work to achieve the ultimate goal of bringing Sam Maguire to my county and my people."

Two other teams from these years deserve mention. Clare made it out of Munster in 1992 for the first time since 1917 and Leitrim won out in Connacht in 1994 for the first time since 1927. Neither team progressed beyond the All-Ireland semi-final stage but their provincial successes bred hope in every other unsuccessful county and generated fresh enthusiasm.

In 1995 Tyrone came out of Ulster and hoped to emulate the achievement of the other successful Ulster counties and win their first senior football All-Ireland. Although the county made it to the All-Ireland final, having beaten Galway in the semi-final, they failed against Dublin. The latter came out of Leinster for the fourth successive year and, after failing to win on three of the occasions, were determined to succeed. Meath had played second fiddle to Dublin in Leinster since 1991 but eventually succeeded in 1996. They beat Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi-final and met Mayo in the final. The latter came to Croke Park with great expectations, having beaten Kerry in the semi-final and they did everything but win. They dominated for great stretches of the game but due to poor scoring ability and the undying spirit of Meath, they could only draw. The replay was a controversial affair in which the verdict was uncertain until the very end but it was Meath that had the point advantage at the final whistle to take their fifth All-Ireland title.

Mayo were back again in 1997 and qualified for the final when they defeated Offaly in the AlIIreland semi-final. Their opponents were Kerry, who defeated Cavan in the other semi-final. Mayo played poorly, didn't score until the 23rd minute and were led by five points at the interval. They did improve in the second half but were always struggling and Kerry had three points to spare in the end. It was their first All-Ireland title since 1986. Galway and Kildare brought great excitement to the 1998 championship. The Galwaymen hadn't won since 1966 and beat Roscommon in a replayed Connacht final. They beat Derry in the All-Ireland semifinal and came up against Kildare in the final. The latter defeated Kerry in the other semi-final and there was great expectation that they were going to win their first final since 1928. Since 1990, when the former Kerry manager, Mick O'Dwyer, had taken them over, there had been a resurgence in the county. They led Galway by a goal at half-time but an outstanding performance by the Connacht men in the second half put paid to Kildare's hopes and dreams.

Meath were back in the winners' enclosure in 1999. They beat Dublin in the Leinster final and accounted for Armagh in the All-Ireland semi-final. Mayo came out of Connacht again but were beaten by Cork in the second semi-final. Meath were favourites to take the tide and duly obliged, beating Cork by three points. It was their seventh All-Ireland crown and was won on the 50th anniversary of their first in 1949. It was also the 17th year for the fortunes of the county to be guided by Sean Boylan, who had been elected manager for the first time in 1982.

The Millennium All-Ireland was won by Kerry. Having won their 67th provincial tide when they beat Clare in the Munster final, Kerry took two games to defeat Armagh in the All-Ireland semi-final. Many believed the northerners left victory behind them in the drawn game. Their opponents in the final were Galway, who won their 40th provincial tide when they defeated Leitrim in the Connacht final, and who then beat Kildare in the All-Ireland semi-final. Galway opened very badly in the final and trailed by seven points after 25 minutes. But they made a great recovery and with 20 minutes to go were within a point of Kerry. At this point they looked like winning but in the remaining time could manage only a point to draw level and the game ended at fourteen points each. Kerry claimed their 32nd All-Ireland tide two weeks later when they won the replay by 0-17 to 1-10.

The game of Gaelic football has changed over the past 50 years. There have been a number of significant changes in the rules in Gaelic football in the period since 1950. For instance the number of substitutes is now set at five, no stoppages are allowed for injured players, goalkeepers must wear distinctive jerseys and are allowed to pick the ball from off the ground and may not be charged within a triangle 15 by five yards and there are rules in regard to dissent, free kicks, throw-ins and sideline kicks. Prior to the '70s the game was much more free-flowing with the traditional skills of catching and kicking and solo running very much to the fore. A change came about at that time with the evolution of the running game in which possession became more and more important. Short passing became a feature. The game became much tighter and this led to an increase in frees as pull and drag tactics were employed to halt the movement of the play. With this development there was the need for a top class place kicker to convert frees. Tony MacTague of Offaly was one of the first. The game became more professional and players more cynical, with the resulting development of negative tactics to counteract the strengths of the opposing team. The advent of managers, with a fierce desire to prove themselves and pressure to win, aggravated many of these developments.

Sponsorship and live television coverage have given the game a higher profile. Attendance at games has increased. Coverage of the sport in newspapers has expanded. Personality reporting and dramatic action shots have become commonplace. Another development has been the spread of women's Gaelic football, the fastest growing sport in the country at the present. The promotion of the game at underage level in the clubs and the schools, the creation of many competitions at secondary school and third level have contributed to the general popularity of the game.

But everything in the game in not as it should be. There is massive competition from other sports for the loyalty of young players, who pick and choose from a supermarket shelf of choices. The dropout rate at an early age, as students concentrate on examinations or prefer the easier option of vicarious experience from the television set, is alarming. The game itself is in difficulty. The hand pass is not clearly defined. The traditional skill of the toe pick-up of the ball has almost disappeared. There is no effective way of tackling the player in possession of the ball. Positional play has largely been eliminated by the running game. Refereeing is a serious problem because of the wide difference in the interpretation of rules.

Despite these problems, Gaelic Football remains one of Ireland's most popular and supported sport. In 1961, 90,000 spectators attended the All-Ireland senior Gaelic Football final and equally in comparison, in the 2001 final when Galway defeated Meath, the game was played before a capacity crowd. The pride in Ireland's traditional native sports, Hurling and Gaelic Football, will ensure their position as the country's premier sports. 

Hurling Irish Sport 1950-2000, An Insight into Irish Sporting Success, ed. Ian Foster, Manticore , 2002, pp 26-49


Irish Sport 1950-2000, An Insight into Irish Sporting Success, ed. Ian Foster, Manticore , 2002, pp 26-49


The Rules

Hurling is a field game played between two teams of fifteen players each. The players line out as follows: a goalkeeper, three full-backs, three half-backs, two centrefield players, three half-forwards and three full-forwards.

The two fundamental requirements for the game are a hurley or caman and a ball or sliothar. The Irish word for hurley - caman, recognises its nature by incorporating the Irish word for crooked - cam. And that is what a hurley literally is, a crooked stick, made from ash wood, about 13 centimetres wide at the striking point and 75 centimetres long. Ash has always been regarded as the ideal wood for the making of hurleys because the timber has a pliability that is necessary to withstand the impact of two hurleys coming in contact with one another. The sliothar or ball weighs about 120 grams and has a diameter of about 7.6 centimetres. It contains a core of cork, covered in layers of thread and cased in pigskin leather. The thread around the cork is very important as it prevents the cork breaking up. If this were to happen the ball's pressure would be reduced and its resilience suffer. The leather casing is held togther by wax stitching and coated in a water-resistent protection.

A game of hurling lasts for 70 minutes, divided into equal halves with an interval of 15 minutes. The length of the playing surface is 150 metres and the width 75 metres. each end of the field are two goal posts with a crossbar approximately 2.15 metres high. The aim of the game is to get the ball between the goalposts. When the ball goes under the crossbar it is a goal and when it goes over it is a point. One goal equals three points.

If a player puts the ball over his end line wide of the posts, a 65 metre free is awarded to the opposing team. When a player puts the ball over the sideline, a free strike from the sideline is granted to his opponent in which the sliothar has to be struck from the ground .

Frees are awarded for picking the ball off the ground with the hand, for carrying the ball too far in the hand, for pushing the opponent in the back, for holding an opponent and or rough and dangerous play. All frees are taken by rising the ball with the hurley and striking it without catching it in the hand. In normal play it is permitted to catch the ball in the hand from the air or raise it to the hand from the ground with the hurley. Each team is allowed five substitutes during the course of the game.

The referee has six officials to help him control the game. At each set of goalposts there are two umpires, one to decide on goals and a second on points. When a goal is scored, a green flag is waved and a white flag is waved in the event of a point. As well, there are two linesmen who decide which side has put the ball over the sideline and to award the free shot to the other side.

The game demands a degree of courage. To the uninitiated, it can appear dangerous but to properly trained players it is not. Anyone brought up with the game learns to defend himself instinctively and protect himself with the hurley. The most common injuries are skinned knuckles, or cuts and bruises to the head. It is a very fast game with the ball moving from end to end of the field at a great pace. It can be a very exciting game when the ball is moving fast and the players are well-trained in the skills of the game. A variation of hurling called Camogie, with slightly different rules, is played by women.


Gaelic Athletic Association

The relationship between the Gaelic Athletic Association and other sports has not always been good but since 1971, an amicable working relationship with most sporting bodies has been established. Trevor West, in his book The Bold Collegians, says, 'The GAA ban prohibiting members of the association from playing in, or watching, "foreign" games was formally revoked in 1971. Given the links, in 1884, of the Protestant athletic establishment with unionism and of the GAA with nationalism, some such dichotomy was probably inevitable; the tragedy is that the ban so long outlasted the conditions that gave rise to it'.

Michael Cusack founded the GAA in 1884 with the purpose of encouraging the Gaelic games; Cusack was an excellent club cricketer and rugby player and favoured all sports. It was the second generation of GAA administrators, in the 1890s, that developed 'the ban' mentality.



The first mention of hurling in Ireland is a literary reference dated 1272 BC By the 18th century hurling had grown in popularity and that century is sometimes called 'the golden age of hurling'. During this time it was patronised by landlords, who sponsored teams and organised games for wagers with neighbouring landlords. However, by the 19th century, hurling had begun to decline in popularity; the French revolution created an atmosphere of uncertainty -landlords withdrew their patronage, the Catholic Church frowned on Sunday games, the middle class disassociated themselves from many forms of popular culture and the Great Famine (1846-49) had its influence too.

By 1880 the game was in a perilous state. As one authority stated, hurling could 'now be said to be not only dead and buried but in several localities to be entirely forgotten and unknown .. .'but in 1884 Michael Cusack founded the Gaelic Athletic Association and it set out to restore Gaelic pastimes, athletics, hurling, football and handball. The GAA was successful in its ambition and today hurling is the third most common game in Ireland.

By 1950 hurling was well administered with a clear set of rules and organised with competitions for different age levels. The ambition of every player is to be a senior player, be picked for his county and win an All-Ireland final. This is achieved by playing for a county and winning the intercounty competition of his province, Ulster, Munster, Leinster or Connacht. The four champion counties from each province then play the All-Ireland semi-finals with the winners contesting the All-Ireland final. The final is played at Croke Park, Dublin on the second Sunday of September. In 1954,80,000 watched the All-Ireland final. In the early part of the last century attendances were small but in the 1920s 30,000, in the 1930s 50,000 and 1940s, 60,000 were common attendance figures. More recently numbers have declined below the 1954 crowd asimproved facilities were developed which reduced capacity, and health and safety requirements had to be met. At the present time Croke Park is being developed and, when it is completed, will have a capacity of 80,000.

The Gaelic Athletic Association was more than a sporting organisation; it also had a cultural dimension as it became involved in the revival of the Irish language, Irish dancing and other aspects of Irish culture. There was a political dimension in that it identified with the separatist wing of the Nationalist Ireland movement. Michael Cusack, although a keen supporter and player of the Anglicised games, saw them as a threat to the development of the national game, but Archbishop Croke of Cashel, who was the patron of the association influenced for a moderate view. However in 1904, written into the GAA rule book was the following: ‘Any member of the Association who plays or encourages in any way rugby, football, hockey or any imported game which is calculated to injuriously affect our National Pastimes, is suspended from the Association'. The rule was to remain on the books until 1971.

A related rule was Rule 21, which prohibited members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (later, the Royal Ulster Constabulary) and British defence forces from participating in Gaelic games. It also forbade GAA members from attending social functions hosted by the RUC or British forces. This rule was revoked at a special congress of the GAA at the end of 2001.

By 1950 Tipperary (14 wins), Cork (16 wins) and Kilkenny (13 wins) had established themselves as the strongest hurling teams. London, in 1901, caused a major surprise when they won the final, and Dublin won the All-Ireland final six times before 1938. Geographically, the game established itself in the south-east and in an irregular swathe westward across Ireland, and in isolated pockets such as North Kerry, the Glens of Antrim and the Ards Peninsula in County Down.

The winning team in the All-Ireland senior hurling championship receives the MacCarthy Cup. It was presented to the GAA in 1922 by William, later more commonly known as Liam MacCarthy. He was the first treasurer of the London County Board of the GAA, which was formed in 1896, and later president. He was also involved in the Gaelic League. A man of great character, proud of his Irish roots, he is regarded among his compatriots as the ‘Father of the London GAA’. He died in 1928 and is buried in Dulwich cemetery, London. The cup was first presented to Bob McConkey, captain of the victorious Limerick team in 1922.

Michael Collins, Paddy Dunphy and Harry Boland at a hurling final in Croke Park circa 1920.   Later Collins and Boland were to take opposite sides in the Civil War.

Michael Collins, Paddy Dunphy and Harry Boland at a hurling final in Croke Park circa 1920. Later Collins and Boland were to take opposite sides in the Civil War.

During the first half of the century the game produced many fine players, who became heroes to their clubs and their counties and were feared by opponents. One of the greatest was Cork player, Christy Ring (1920-1979), who played in ten All-Ireland finals, winning eight of them. He captained three of the winning teams. He was the outstanding forward in the game, playing at senior county level from 1939-1962. Another outstanding player was Mick Mackey, Limerick (1912-1982). His best position was centre half-forward and his achievements with his club, Ahane, and Limerick are legendary. His senior playing career stretched from 1930-1947.

By the middle of the 20th century the Gaelic Athletic Association had established itself very firmly in the mind of the Irish people. It was one of the integral parts of Irish society and culture, together with the political party of De Valera, Fianna Fail, and the Catholic Church. At a time of economic misery and large-scale emigration, the GAA provided an opportunity for people to express themselves and celebrate sporting achievements. Hurling was a major outlet.

Cork, (12 wins), Kilkenny (13 wins), Tipperary (10 wins) in the period 1950 to 2000 have continued to dominate the All-Ireland finals but Waterford, Limerick, Galway, Offaly and Clare have also achieved success.

The early '50s were dominated by Tipperary-Cork rivalry. Tipperary won the All-Irelands in 1949, 1950 and 1951 after many breathtaking encounters with their old rivals. Cork duly came along in the following three years and captured the three titles after equally enthralling contests with the men from Tipperary. These. encounters took place within the framework of the Munster championship but such was the dominance of Munster hurling at the time, that in all the six years, the Munster champions went on to claim All-Ireland honours.

1950 All-Ireland Final. Tipperary beat Kilkenny 1-9 to 1-8 before 68,599 spectators. Jimmy Langton [Kilkenny, No 12) threatens the Tipperary goal.

1950 All-Ireland Final. Tipperary beat Kilkenny 1-9 to 1-8 before 68,599 spectators. Jimmy Langton [Kilkenny, No 12) threatens the Tipperary goal.

A halt was put to this dominance in the middle of the century by the men of Wexford. This county was originally a football stronghold and its hurling prospects at the beginning of the decade were anything but promising. There was gradual improvement and they reached the AlI Ireland final against Cork in 1954. A record number of people for a hurling final, 84,856 saw Cork victorious in an epic game. The winners were captained by the inimitable Christy Ring but the Wexford side had their collosi in the three Rackard brothers, Nicky, who played full-forward, Billy, who played centre-back and Bobbie, who played cornerback. Wexford came back in the following two years to win All-Irelands and they won a third in 1960.

Brendan Fullam in his book Giants of the Ash describes one of Bobbie Rackard's greatest games. The moment of greatness came for Bobbie Rackard in the 1954 All-Ireland final against Cork. With about 20 minutes remaining, Nick O'Donnell, the great Wexford full-back, broke his collar-bone and had to leave the field. Wexford reshuffled their team and took Bobbie Rackard to full-back. He proceeded to give a power-packed and impeccable display of defensive hurling that will forever have a special place in hurling history and will be talked about whenever great feats of individual brilliance are recalled.

1955 All-Ireland Final. Dr Kinane the Archbishop of Cashel and Patron of the GAA throws in the ball to start the final between Wexford and Galway. This had been the practice since 1884 but ceased in the 1970s; from then on, the only players present for the throw-in are those at centrefield.

1955 All-Ireland Final. Dr Kinane the Archbishop of Cashel and Patron of the GAA throws in the ball to start the final between Wexford and Galway. This had been the practice since 1884 but ceased in the 1970s; from then on, the only players present for the throw-in are those at centrefield.

The Wexford teams were immensely popular with the public and this was shown in the huge numbers who came to see them play. In the 1955 final against Galway, 72,854 spectators turned up, the eighth largest attendance at an All-Ireland. In the National League final against Tipperary in May 1956, the attendance of 45,902 constitutes a record. The record for a hurling All-Ireland was set in 1954 and the second largest crowd attended the 1956 final, when 83,091 saw Wexford defeat Cork. The fourth and fifth biggest crowds were present in 1960, when Wexford beat Tipperary, and in 1962, when Tipperary reversed the result.

Wexford had something special to offer. Physically they were big men but allied to their size was a high level of skill. They were noted sportsmen, renowned for performances that sometimes approached chivalry. Many of them revealed qualities of leadership that set them apart from the rank and file of humanity: there was a romance, an energy and an excitement about them that made them larger than life; they appeared to step out of the pages of the heroic past of myths and legends. Many hurlers have ballads and tributes written of them. One of the finest to be written was on the death of Nicky Rackard, the chorus of which said:

We watched you on September's fields
And lightning was the drive
You were the one Cuchulainn's son
In nineteen-fifiy-five.

One of the contributing factors for the increased popularity of hurling was the radio. Radio Eireann, the national broadcasting station, may not have been a very exciting media experience during the fifties, but its one claim to fame was the coverage of Gaelic games. In this it was fortunate in having one of the most popular broadcasters of all time, Michael O'Hehir. Beginning in 1938 he soon established himself as an outstanding broadcaster. He had distinctive voice, a great knowledge of the game and was an intimate acquaintance of the players and the little-known villages and townslands they came from. On Sunday afternoons his voice was to be heard in kitchens and living rooms, in pubs and shops, in public parks and on beaches bringing his exciting account of a Munster or Leinster final or All-Ireland day to people far and near. His voice was also carried to Irish emigrants abroad through radio link-ups. He gave remote places a national platform and made unknown players household names. When television arrived he transferred successfully to it but he will always be remembered as the radio broadcaster who could paint a picture of the game and make it live as vividly as if one were present.

Towards the end of the '50s another team came on the scene to challenge for hurling honours. Waterford made their first breakthrough to All-Ireland glory in 1948, when a star-studded team defeated Dublin in the All-Ireland. The success was greeted by a welcoming-home crowd of 25,000 people and six bands. Waterford didn't capitalise on the victory and failed to qualify for an All-Ireland again until 1957, when they were beaten by Kilkenny, who were returning to glory after ten years in the wilderness.

Waterford got their revenge in 1959 when they came through Munster and qualified for the All Ireland against Kilkenny. The game attracted a crowd of over 73,000 and was rated one of the greatest finals ever; a tense and thrilling contest played at a furious pace. For a long time it appeared to be going Waterford's way, and they led by five points at the interval, but Kilkenny came back to snatch a draw. The replay attracted nearly 78,000. Waterford had learned most from the drawn game and, after another superb encounter, victory went their way by 3-12 to 1-10. There were some marvellous displays for Waterford from their captain, Frankie Walsh, and their centre-forward, Tom Cheasty. A big, strong player and a most unorthodox striker of the ball, his forte was cutting through the centre, making straight for the goal and palming the ball over the bar.

30th June 1957. The Munster semi-final between Cork and Tipperary at Limerick which Cork won by 5-2 to1-11. In the second half Christy Ring went off with a broken wrist. Mick Mackey. who was doing umpire for referee Mick Hayes of Clare, says something to Christy Ring as he leaves the field.

30th June 1957. The Munster semi-final between Cork and Tipperary at Limerick which Cork won by 5-2 to1-11. In the second half Christy Ring went off with a broken wrist. Mick Mackey. who was doing umpire for referee Mick Hayes of Clare, says something to Christy Ring as he leaves the field.

The sides met for a third time in seven years in the 1963 All-Ireland. Waterford shocked Tipperary in the Munster final and Kilkenny defeated Wexford in Leinster. The game was a record-breaker in that the combined scores created new figures for a 60-minute final, Kilkenny 4-17, Waterford 6-8. The Kilkenny victory was due to some outstanding displays, from Eddie Keher, who scored fourteen points in the game, and Seamus Cleere, who played a captain's part.

The '50s will also be remembered for the Railway Cup competition, the interprovincial competition, which began in 1926. It reached the height of its popularity during this decade and the final, which was always played at Croke Park on St Patrick's Day, used to attract over 40,000 people. The competition gave countrywide exposure to great players from less successful hurling counties who otherwise had little chance of national exposure. Players like Jimmy Smyth of Clare and Jobber McGrath of Westmeath come quickly to mind. At the same time it gave better-known players the opportunity to show off their brilliance. The competition was dominated by Christy Ring for over two decades during which he won an incredible eighteen finals with Munster! For a host of reasons the Railway Cup began to decline in popularity in the late seventies and, even though it is still played, it is but a shadow of its former self

The 1960s were dominated by Tipperary. Of the ten All-Irelands between 1960-1969, the county played in seven, winning four and losing three. The team was regarded as the greatest that ever wore the blue and gold. It began to show its potential when winning the 1958 AlI Ireland, beating Galway after accounting for Kilkenny in the semi-final. Its progress was halted when unexpectedly beaten by Wexford in the 1960 All-Ireland. The defeat was attributed to fatigue after an extremely strenuous encounter with Cork in that year's Munster final.

Success came in 1961 when Dublin were defeated in the final. What was expected to be a relatively easy encounter turned out to be an extremely difficult battle. Dublin nearly surprised everyone by snatching victory and might have done so but for the sending off of Lar Foley in the second half and the saving of a certain goal by Tipperary goalkeeper Donal O'Brien. The defeat was a misfortune from which Dublin never recovered. They were badly beaten in the following year's Leinster championship and have never since reached an All-Ireland final.

In contrast Tipperary went on to more victories. They defeated Wexford by 3-10 to 2-11 in a thrilling encounter in the 1962 All-Ireland, which saw outstanding displays from Donal O'Brien, John Doyle, Tony Wall, Tom Ryan and 'Mackey' McKenna for Tipperary, as well Tom Neville, Pat Nolan, Phil Wilson and Ned Wheeler of Wexford. Tipperary set their sights on a third in a row in 1963 but they were halted in their tracks by Waterford in the Munster championship. However, they came back the following year to take the Munster championship, defeating Cork by 3-13 to 1-5 and the All-Ireland by defeating Kilkenny by 5-13 to 2-8. They were to repeat the success in 1965, crushing Cork by 4-11 to 0-5 in the Munster final, and defeating Wexford by 2-16 to 0-10 in the All-Ireland.

The Tipperary team of 1964-65 is generally regarded as one of the greatest hurling forces that ever took the field. Traditionally Tipperary teams had shone in their back players but this team also had a fluent attack. Every one of the forwards was a match-winner in his own right. With Jimmy Doyle and 'Babs' Keating on the wings, Donie Nealon and Sean McLoughlin in the corners, and Larry Kiely and Mackey McKenna providing the backbone, Tipperary had a forward line that was unrivalled in its brilliance. At the other end of the field, John O'Donoghue between the posts received magnificent cover from John Doyle, Michael Maher and Kieran Carey. John Doyle won his eighth All-Ireland in 1965, bringing him equal to Christy Ring with the record of having won the greatest number of All-Irelands on the field of play. Further out Mick Burns, Tony Wall, Michael Murphy in 1964 and Len Gaynor in 1965, were outstanding and the team was completed by Theo English and Mick Roche in the centre of the field. Even the best of teams reach a peak. This seems to have happened to Tipperary in 1965. A chink appeared in their mantle of invincibility in 1966 when they lost the National League 'home' final to Kilkenny. This was more than a mere defeat. It was a huge psychological victory for the Kilkenny men, their first defeat of Tipperary in major competition since 1922!

After the league defeat, Tipperary made a few changes for the championship. It was expected they would be forewarned but they didn't learn anything in either physical or mental readiness. Their opponents, Limerick, showed themselves a team of fire and dash and Tipperary just couldn't cope with their super-fitness and were well-beaten, 4-12 to 2-9. Unfortunately Limerick were unable to capitalise on their significant victory and were beaten by Cork in the Munster semi-final. Cork went on to beat Waterford in the final. Kilkenny were Cork's opponents in the All-Ireland final and were widely tipped to win but they were out-hurled and out-manoeuvered on the day and were beaten by 3-9 to 1-10. Cork were greatly helped by a quartet of splendid players from the under-21 side, three McCarthys, Gerald, Charlie and Justin, and Seanie Barry. It was twelve years since Cork had won an All-Ireland and there were unprecedented scenes of joy when the final whistle sounded.

If Tipperary were poor in 1966 they had a brilliant Munster campaign in 1967. They pushed Waterford, who had put Cork out of the championship in the first found, aside in the semi-final and Clare in the final. Tipperary's opponents in the All-Ireland were Kilkenny. On a blustery day Tipperary had the breeze in their favour in the first half and led by double scores at half-time. But, they were totally eclipsed by Kilkenny after the interval and lost by 3-8 to 2-7.

It was a disappointing result for John Doyle who was going for his ninth All-Ireland. It was his last year to play for Tipperary. For 19 seasons between 1949 and 1967 he had played senior hurling for his county. During these years he had never failed to turn out in a championship game and he never retired injured during a game. Starting at left cornerback, his career got a new lease of life in 1958 when he lined out at left-wing back, and he finished his hurling days at right cornerback. He played in ten All-Irelands and won eight of them. He also holds the record for National League victories, 11 in all. His ability and his longevity at the top were recognised when he received a decisive vote for the left cornerback position in the 1984 Team of the Century and the 2000 An Post Millennium Team.

John Doyle, winner of eight All-Ireland senior hurling championship medals in a career, stretching from 1949 to 1967 is acclaimed by Tipperary supporters.

John Doyle, winner of eight All-Ireland senior hurling championship medals in a career, stretching from 1949 to 1967 is acclaimed by Tipperary supporters.

A namesake of his, Jimmy, was one of the most brilliant forwards of the period. Playing thirteen All-Irelands between 1954 and 1971, he won nine of them. Four of them were in minor finals of which he won three, in 1955, 1956 and 1957. At the senior level he played in nine finals, winning six. He captained the minor team to victory in 1957, and the senior team in 1962 and 1965. He was also picked on the teams of the century and the millennium.

In his article on Jimmy Doyle in Hurling Giants, Brendan Fullam had this to say: 'Among the great thrills of his early days was to hear a man shout "Congratulations" to him as he walked back to school with his bag on his back. "What for?" said Jimmy and the reply was "You have been selected on the Munster Railway Cup team." He travelled to Belfast accompanied by Christy Ring. Coming off the train Ring donned a cap and pulled it down over his eyes. Jimmy was a bit baffled and asked Ring why he was wearing the cap in that manner. ''Ah'', said Christy, "I don't want to be recognised." There were occasions when Ring liked privacy and as time passed Jimmy was to learn and understand for himself the significance of Ring's feelings. Even to this day there are times when Jimmy wishes he could operate incognito.'

As well as John Doyle, Kieran Carey, Tony Wall and Theo English had disappeared from the hurling scene when Tipperary faced into the 1968 championship. They had an easy victory over Cork in the Munster final and came up against Wexford in the All-Ireland. Wexford trailed by 1-11 to 1-3 at the interval but staged a great rally in the second half. Inspired by newcomers Tony Doran, Tom Neville and John Quigley, plus a great half-back line of Vinny Staples, Dan Quigley and Willie Murphy, they transformed the interval deficit into a final victory score of 5-8 to 3-12. It was a sad day for Tipperary captain, Michael Roche, who was captaining his team to a second All-Ireland defeat. Tipperary's greatest period of hurling dominance came to an end with this defeat. There was to be one brief flash of brilliance in 1971 before the county settled down to a long spell in the hurling wilderness. After the riches of the '50s and '60s, the famine of the '70s and '80s was difficult for the county's supporters to bear, and when it came to an end in 1989 there were unprecedented scenes of joy and euphoria throughout the county.

Cork and Kilkenny reigned supreme in the 1970s. The best way to view the period 1969-79 is via the statistics. 22 teams contested the eleven All-Irelands during the period. Kilkenny appeared in eight finals, five times as winners. Cork had six appearances, four of them victorious. Wexford made three unsuccessful appearances and Galway made two. Limerick had one success and one failure, and Tipperary made one successful appearance. So, between them, Kilkenny and Cork won nine of the eleven All-Irelands. Another feature of their supremacy is the way they dominated their respective provincial championships. Kilkenny won the Leinster championship eight times during the period, including five in a row from 1971-75. Cork also won eight Munster championships at the same time and their successes included a five in a row from 1975 to 1979.

Cork defeated Tipperary in three major competitions during 1969, a year that probably marks the turning point in Munster hurling from Tipperary dominance of the 1960s to Cork supremacy of the 1970s. Cork defeated Tipperary in the Munster final, their first championship success over this opposition in 12 years. In the All-Ireland against Kilkenny, although the game was even enough in the first half, Cork appeared to have the edge. After the interval Kilkenny put in a storming performance and ended up easy winners by 2-15 to 2-9.

In 1970 the playing time for provincial finals and All-Ireland semi-finals and finals was increased to 80 from 60 minutes for all senior championship games. It was to remain so until 1975, when the 75 minute final was introduced and this has been the duration of finals in these competitions since.

Another development was the re-introduction of All-Ireland semi-finals. They were played until 1958 after which Galway made their debut in the Munster championship. Up to then Galway, as representatives of Connaght, used to meet the Leinster or Munster champions in rotation, in the All-Ireland semi-final. From 1970 onwards, Galway played in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Cork came out of Munster after an exciting game with Tipperary in the 1970 Munster championship. In Leinster, Wexford surprised Kilkenny, who were without Eddie Keher for most of the game. They defeated Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final and played Cork in the final. It was a poor game of bad temper and rough play at the end of which Cork had a 14 point margin of victory on a scoreline of 6-21 to 5-10.

Cork v Tipperary in a Munster championship game, circa 1970

Cork v Tipperary in a Munster championship game, circa 1970

Limerick were the form team going into the 1971 Munster championship, having beaten Tipperary in the National League final. In the Munster semi-final they recorded their first championship win in 31 years over Cork. In the Munster final they came up against Tipperary at Killarney and lost by a point in a thriller. In Leinster, Kilkenny were back in the winning frame again and defeated Wexford in the final. Tipperary accounted for Galway in the AlI-Ireland semi-final. The final was the first to be televised in colour and it attracted the smallest attendance for a final since 1958. In an epic tussle Tipperary came out on top winning by 5-17 to 5-14.

The All-Star scheme was introduced in 1971. Under this scheme the top 15 players of the year were chosen by a committee of sports journalists and GAA officials and were given a trip to the USA. The intention behind the trip was to encourage and promote the organisation and playing of hurling among Irish exiles across America. A sponsor was required and the Irish tobacco company, P. J. Carroll and Co., came on board. They remained as sponsors until 1979, when Bank of Ireland took over. Powerscreen International took over in 1994 and they were succeeded by Eircell in 1997. There have been a number of changes in the scheme over the years and foreign trips have become rarer. The award of an All-Star remains the ambition of most hurlers.

Kilkenny were rank outsiders against Cork in the 1972 All-Ireland. Cork, who defeated Tipperary in the Munster semi-final replay, had the easiest of victories against Clare in the final. Kilkenny defeated Wexford in a replayed Leinster final and accounted for Galway in the All-Ireland semifinal. It was expected that the 80 minute All-Ireland would suit the younger Cork side but it was the older and more experienced Kilkenny players who were the sprightliest at the finish. Cork led by eight points with 22 minutes remaining but Kilkenny scored 2-9, without reply from Cork, and transformed the eight point deficit into a seven point lead with a score of 3-24 to 5-11.

Limerick's turn eventually arrived in 1973. They had been threatening since 1971 and they made it through Munster with victories over Clare and Tipperary. Their opponents were Kilkenny,who defeated Wexford in the Leinster final. It was the first time since 1940 that Kilkenny and Limerick met in an All-Ireland final. Kilkenny were handicapped by injuries and Limerick won their first All-Ireland in 33 years.

Limerick came through Munster again in 1974, beating Clare in the final. The Leinster final between Kilkenny and Wexford was one of the most fantastic matches ever seen at Croke Park, with Kilkenny victorious by 6-13 to 2-24. They beat Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final and came up against Limerick in the final. In a repeat of the previous year, Kilkenny were never under pressure and won convincingly by 3-19 to 1-13. Eddie Keher scored 1-11 for the winners and Pat Henderson gave an inspired performance at centre-back.

Eddie Keher was one of the all-time great hurling forwards. His senior career spanned the period from 1959-1977 during which time he played in 11 finals, winning six. He also won nine Railway Cup medals and three National Leagues. After the All-Star system was introduced in 1971, he won five awards. He probably scored more than any other forward in the game, including 2 goals and 11 points in the 1971 All-Ireland final, which makes him the second highest scorer on record. His name fits comfortably in the company of Christy Ring, Mick Mackey, Nicky Rackard and Jimmy Doyle. In an interview with Brendan Fullam in Giants of the Ash Eddie Keher said: 'I enjoy everything about the game, watching, playing, training, practising. Whereas All-Irelands are the glamorous occasions, some of my greatest memories are from club championship or tournament games. I suppose "firsts" are inclined to be memories, and my first school, county medal in 1952 (under 14) is high on the list. My first appearance with Kilkenny in 1959, my first win, 1963, captain of a winning team in 1959; my first and only county championship with Rower Inistioge in 1968 - all have their own significance. 1972 against Cork was probably the best 80 minutes of hurling I have had the pleasure of playing in.'

The big surprise in the 1975 championship was the defeat of Cork, who accounted for Limerick in the Munster final, by Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. It was Galway's first time to qualify for the All-Ireland since 1958. Their success against Cork was anticipated by their victory over Tipperary in the National League final, their first victory in this competition in 24 years. They were expected to do well against Kilkenny, who defeated Wexford in the Leinster final, but their performance on the day was a complete disappointment and they lost to Kilkenny by 2-22 to 2-10.

Cork won three titles in a row in 1976, 1977 and 1978. They beat Limerick in the 1976 Munster final and came up against Wexford, who trounced Kilkenny in the Leinster final and beat Galway in a replayed All-Ireland semi-final. In an even contest Cork came out victorious in the end, by 2-21 to 4-11, as a result of some well-taken points by Jimmy Barry Murphy. The same two teams qualified for the 1977 All-Ireland. Cork came through Munster with victories over Waterford and Clare. During the latter game there was an armed robbery of £24,000 of the day's takings from under the stand at Thurles. Cork defeated Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. Wexford successfully defended their Leinster title, defeating Kilkenny in the final. This was Eddie Keher's last championship game for Kilkenny. Cork gave a great display in the final with Denis Coughlan and Gerald McCarthy particularly outstanding and won by 1-17 to 3-8 for Wexford, who never really played up to expectations.

In 1978 Cork made it three in a row when they beat Kilkenny by four points in the All-Ireland final. Cork again defeated Clare in the Munster final while Kilkenny overcame Wexford by a goal in a thrilling Leinster final. The Leinster men defeated Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.The final was expected to be a classic but it didn't fulfil its promise and Cork were in front by 1-15 to 2-8 at the final whistle. Cork won their fifth Munster final in a row in 1979 at Thurles when they beat a disappointing Limerick who were without Pat Hartigan their star player. They looked good for a fourth All-Ireland in a row but their plans came unstuck against Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. Kilkenny were Galway's opponents in the All-Ireland, having defeated Wexford in another exciting Leinster final. The Connacht men had considerable expectations but they failed to deliver on the day and were beaten by 2-12 to 1-8. It was Kilkenny's 21st title.

One of the outstanding developments of the 1970s was the introduction of a senior club championship. The club, based on the parish and with strong family loyalties, has always been the backbone of the Gaelic Athletic Association. In the very early years of the Association, the club represented the county in the All-Ireland championship. In the course of time it was allowed to include players from the rest of the county and the team gradually evolved into a representative county side. In 1970 it was decided to start a new championship for the club teams which won their respective county titles. The club championship was born and it has gone from strength to strength. It is played late in the year with the final taking place on St Patrick's Day and it gives an excitement and purpose to the clubs involved at a time of year when the other championships have been completed. It generates as much interest and enthusiasm as the Railway Cup competition used to do in its heyday. Its strength lies in the way it has levelled the playing pitch somewhat, giving clubs from weaker counties a chance of achieving greatness.

The last two decades of the 20th century saw the arrival of three new teams as contenders for All-Ireland honours. Galway, who had a lone All-Ireland senior championship to their credit, dating back to 1923, became a force in hurling and captured three titles. Offaly, whose previous achievement was confined to two junior titles in 1923 and 1929, broke through the psychological and traditional barriers to win senior championships for the first time. Clare had a lone AlI-Ireland dating back to 1914 and they overcame decades of sickening defeats when they won two All-Irelands in the nineties and established themselves as meaningful members of the hurling establishment. Galway's victory in the 1980 All-Ireland was received with tremendous enthusiasm, not only in Galway but much further afield. The estimated 30,000 supporters who greeted the team in Eyre Square were probably more enthusiastic and emotional than any crowd that came out anywhere in Ireland to welcome home an All-Ireland side. The wait had been so long and the disappointments so many that the crowd wallowed in the joy and pride of it all.

During the previous decade there were signs that Galway hurling was turning a corner. There were still upsets and disappointments, as in the 1975 and 1979 All-Irelands, but they were important straws in the wind. Galway were now managed by Cyril Farrell, one of the new brand of managers who were making names for themselves on more and more county teams. In the All-Ireland semi-final, Galway played Offaly, who had won their first ever Leinster senior title with a victory over Kilkenny, and won by two points. In the Munster final, Galway came up against Limerick, who upset the odds when beating Cork who were going for their sixth successive Munster title,. The pairing of Galway and Limerick in the All-Ireland was unique. Limerick were favourites on the basis of their league performance and their defeat of Cork in the Munster championship. They also had one of the best forward lines in the game with Eamon Cregan, Joe McKenna and Ollie O'Connor on the inside line. On the day Limerick failed to produce their best form and Galway did to win by 2-15 to 3-9. Backboning the Galway team in the historic victory of 1980, were the Connolly brothers, John, Michael and Joe, with Padraic as a sub. In fact seven brothers were on the Castlegar team that won the All-Ireland club championship in 1980. In a piece he wrote for Brendan Fullam, in Giants of the Ash, John described how the family bonded: 'It was also a tradition of ours,even after us getting married with our own homes, we would all meet in our old home place the morning of a match, known to everybody in Galway as Mamo's, which was an old name for Grandmother. We would chat about the game, and without realising it, we built up a kind of spirit that stood to us on the field. Then as we left Mamo's she would shake the bottle of holy water on us, saying: "Mind yourselves and don't be fighting, and don't come back here if ye lose". Of course we had many a fight and we lost plenty of times, but we were always welcomed home.' .

It was to be Offaly's turn in 1981. They defeated Wexford in the Leinster final. Limerick came out of Munster but lost the All-Ireland semi-final to Galway after a replay. They were dogged by misfortune and injury and despite their defeat, won many friends for the tremendous courage and tenacity shown in the face of misfortune. Galway were undoubtedly favourites for the AlI Ireland and looked even more so at half-time with a comfortable lead. But Offaly refused to buckle, gradually reduced the lead and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a great goal by Johnny O'Flaherty about five minutes from time.

Kilkenny were back in the frame in 1982 and 1983. They defeated Offaly in the Leinster final as a result of a controversial goal and Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. Their opponents in the final were Cork, who had come through Munster with ease, defeating Waterford in the final. Kilkenny were devastating, defeating Cork by 3-18 to 1-13, with the man of the match award going to Christy Heffernan, who scored 2-3 for the winners. Kilkenny created a record for the county in 1983, when they won the league and the championship for the second year in a row. They beat Offaly in an exciting Leinster final and came up against Cork in the AlI Ireland for the second year in a row. Cork scored an easy victory over Waterford in the Munster final and had a comprehensive victory over Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. The final was a disappointment, marred by a strong wind, and, although there were only two points between the sides in the end, Kilkenny were never really in danger. For Kilkenny goalkeeper, Noel Skehan, the victory brought a record ninth All-Ireland senior medal. Although the number is greater than that won by Christy Ring and John Doyle, it does not carry the same distinction as three of them - 1963, 1967 and 1969 - were won as a sub to Ollie Walsh. The remaining six were won on the field of play in 1972 (as captain), 1974,1975, 1979, 1982, 1983.

The year 1984 was the centenary year of the founding of the Gaelic Athletic Association at Thurles and it was decided to play the All-Ireland final in the town. Offaly and Cork qualified for the final. Offaly won in Leinster as a result of beating Wexford in the final. Cork won out in Munster following a dramatic victory over Tipperary in the final. For the first time since 1954 there were two All-Ireland semi-finals, with Antrim representing Ulster, where hurling is very much a minority sport. Offaly defeated Galway and Cork defeated Antrim in the semi-finals. The final was a major disappointment as Offaly played way below form and were beaten by 3-16 to 1-12 by Cork.

Offaly were very disappointed with their performance but came back to win the 1985 All Ireland. They had an easy victory over Laois in the Leinster final. Cork came through in Munster, beating Tipperary in the final, but were shocked by Galway in the All-Ireland semifinal. Galway were favourites as a result but in a closely contested final, they were beaten by Offaly on a scoreline of 2-11 to 1-12.

Offaly failed to get out of Leinster in 1986 as they were defeated by Kilkenny in the Leinster final. Cork came out of Munster after victory over Clare in the final. Kilkenny were well-beaten by Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final and Cork were nearly shocked by Antrim. Galway were favourites for the final but the tactics which proved successful against Kilkenny, backfired against Cork, and they were beaten by 4-13 to 2-15.

It was a case of third time lucky for Galway in 1987. In Leinster, Kilkenny were victorious after a brilliant contest with affaly. Tipperary won out in Munster for the first time since 1971 after an epic tussle with Cork, which went to a replay and extra time. Galway defeated Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final, which attracted the biggest crowd, over 49,000, since the semi-final in 1958. Kilkenny defeated Antrim after a struggle. The All-Ireland was a tough game played in a tense atmosphere and Galway were victorious by 1-12 to 0-9 for Kilkenny. Galway made it two in a row in 1988, beating Tipperary in the All-Ireland. Tipperary defeated Cork in the Munster final and Offaly defeated Wexford in Leinster. Galway defeated Offaly and Tipperary defeated Antrim in the All-Ireland semi-finals. The final was a much publicised affair as each team was managed by high profile managers, Galway by Cyril Farrell and Tipperary by Babs Keating. In the end victory went to Galway by 1-15 to 0-14.

The advent of team managers was one of the developments of the '80s. There had always been managers, or at least spokesmen for bands of selectors, but the '80s saw the rise of a new phenomenon, the arrival of the manager with a higher profile than any of the players. In many cases a former outstanding player, who was given almost complete control over the preparation of his team. He became the sole spokesperson for the players. He made all the decisions on the field and was given a distinctive bib, which identified him as he paced the sidelines during a game. In many cases he was well paid, was attributed God-like genius in the event of his team's victory and resigned when they were defeated. He was the centre of the media's attention and his every utterance quoted. His arrival signalled a growing professionalism in the preparation of teams.

Tipperary made it back to the winner's enclosure in 1989 against such unlikely opponents as Antrim. The latter beat Offaly, who carne out of Leinster, sensationally in the All-Ireland semi-final. In the other semi-final, Tipperary, who won in Munster for the third year in a row, beat Galway in a tense game. Antrim were really no match for Tipperary in the final, which saw the winner's star forward, Nicky English, establish a scoring record for an All-Ireland hurling final of 2 goals and 12 points.

Cork deprived Tipperary of four in a row in Munster in 1990. Offaly won out in Leinster but were beaten by Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. Cork won the other semi-final against Antrim. Galway were favourites for the final but in a thrilling contest Cork came out on top to win by 5-15 to 2-21.

Tipperary came back to take the 1991 All-Ireland. They came out of Munster after a couple of epic games with Cork. Kilkenny won out in Leinster and qualified for the All-Ireland with victory over Antrim in the All-Ireland semi-final. Tipperary defeated Galway in the other semi final and went on to defeat Kilkenny in the final.

An action shot from the 1991 All Ireland semi-final between Tipperary and Galway

An action shot from the 1991 All Ireland semi-final between Tipperary and Galway

Kilkenny won in 1992 and 1993 defeating Cork and Galway respectively. In 1994, Offaly came back in dramatic fashion to snatch victory from defeat. Their opponents were Limerick, who scored a comprehensive victory over Clare in the Munster final. Offaly were five points down wlith as many minutes to go but, in a dramatic turn of events, they scored 11 points during the period to win by six points from a hapless Limerick side.

Clare came through in dramatic fashion in 1995. They had given warning the previous year when they beat Tipperary, reversing an 18 point drubbing by the same side in 1993. They beat Cork in the Munster semi-final and Limerick in the final at Thurles. The scenes of joy after this victory were unbelievable. Motivated and driven by a committed manager, Ger Loughnane, the team went all the way, beating Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final and Offaly in the final. Thus the cup returned to Munster and Leinster's recent apparent dominance was halted. Clare brought a new dimension to the game. They reached new heights of physical fitness, psyched themselves up with convictions of certainty and were led by a Messiah-like figure in Loughnane who inspired them with a blinding purpose. Above all the team included some of the most exciting players to appear on the scene for a long time and they served up a brand of direct, skilful and aggressive hurling, which swept opponents off their feet.

1995 The Clare senior hurling team that made the breakthrough to win their first All-Ireland since 1914.  Back row: Brian Lohan, Michael O'Halloran, Frank Lohan, Conor Clancy, David Fitzgerald, Sean McMahon, Ger O'Loughlin.  Front row: Liam Doyle, PJ. O'Connell, Ollie Baker, Anthony Daly, James O'Connor, Fergal Hegarty, Fergus Tuohy, Stephen McNamara.

1995 The Clare senior hurling team that made the breakthrough to win their first All-Ireland since 1914.

Back row: Brian Lohan, Michael O'Halloran, Frank Lohan, Conor Clancy, David Fitzgerald, Sean McMahon, Ger O'Loughlin.

Front row: Liam Doyle, PJ. O'Connell, Ollie Baker, Anthony Daly, James O'Connor, Fergal Hegarty, Fergus Tuohy, Stephen McNamara.

Ger Loughnane was Millennium Manager of the Century at the end of 2000. It was a major award and an indication of his gigantic stature in the history of managers. An outstanding player in his own right, he was a member of the Munster Railway Cup team for seven years in a row from 1975 onwards. His playing years spanned 16 years at senior county level. The Clare team of the period was an exceptional team that probably never got the reward it deserved - an AlI Ireland title. Two National League titles were won in 1977 and 1978. The failure to win an All Ireland must have rankled with Loughnane and must have been the dominating motivation when he took over as manager of Clare in 1994. The team had not won an All-Ireland in 80 years. Brendan Fullam in Legends of the Ash describes his success: 'His exuberance and infectious tenthusiasm spilled over onto the players. His approach, befitting his teaching profession, was hortative. He urged and encouraged; he praised and drove. He was a generator of confidence, a moulder of spirit. A man of unshakeable faith in the potential of his panel and players, he imbued in them a deep pride in the jersey they wore, in the county they represented, in the game they played. He bred the winning mentality.'

If Clare were responsible for the excitement of 1995 it was Wexford that brought out the colour and excitement of 1996. Inspired by their impressive manager Liam Griffin, they swept through Leinster, defeated Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final and Offaly in the final. As with Clare this Wexford victory gave hurling a new lease of life, brought out the supporters in their thousands, blanketed the stadia with masses of colour and made it great to be alive. Clare were back again in 1997, beating Tipperary in the Munster final and the same opposition in the All-Ireland final. This came about as the result of a change in the running of the All-Ireland series. Under the new scheme the beaten finalists in Leinster and Munster entered the All-Ireland series, meeting the winners in Ulster and Connacht at the quarter-final stage. This system had an unexpected result in 1998 when Offaly, beaten in the Leinster final, went on to beat their Leinster conquerors, Kilkenny, in the All-Ireland final. This year saw the re-emergence of Waterford as a force in Munster hurling. It was hoped the county could deliver on its promise as the arrival of new teams or the re-emergence of old ones give a great fillip to the game and increases its support.

Cork were back in winning mode in the 1999 All-Ireland, beating Kilkenny in the final. In the year 2000, after losing two years in a row, Kilkenny came back to take the All-Ireland title in no uncertain terms with a comprehensive victory over Offaly in the final. The latter team had sensationally defeated Cork in the semi-final. One of the stars of the Kilkenny team was DJ Carey, one of the most exciting players in the game at the end of the second Millennium. An outstanding forward he illustrates all the skills of hurling with a brilliant turn of speed.

At the beginning of the third Millennium the game of hurling is in a reasonably strong position. The support for the game at intercounty level is stronger than ever. The televising of all the major games over the summer months has given it increased exposure and attracted more followers. The training of teams has become more and more important and counties are spending enormous sums of money preparing teams for the championship. The demands on players and the sacrifices they must make are very strenuous. More and more players are looking for rewards for their labours and this is where the question of professionalism arises. At the moment it would seem that players are not interested in hurling as a professional game but would like to get more generous expenses for their commitment. Whether this will lead to professionalism or semi-professionalism down the line remains to be seen.

















Profiles of West Tipperary Football Team of the Millennium West Tipperary G.A.A. Convention Handbook, December 8, 2001

Profiles of West Tipperary Football Team of the Millennium

West Tipperary G.A.A. Convention Handbook, December 8, 2001


Click here to view booklet 




Goalkeeper, John O'Donoghue, Arravale Rovers

Although more associated with hurling, John O'Donoghue has a distinguished football career, which began as a minor in 1960 and continued at senior level as late as 1975. He played junior football in 1962 and progressed to senior ranks about the mid-sixties.  Initially he played outfield, usually at wing-forward, but took over as goalkeeper in 1970, when his career on the senior hurling team came to an end.

During this long career he had some success.  Probably the highlight was the winning of Division 2 of the league in 1971, when it was run as a separate competition.  He was also on the team which defeated Dublin in the Bloody Sunday Commemorative game in 1957.  He was picked twice for the Railway Cup, winning a medal in 1972. He gave long and distinguished service to Arravale Rovers.


Right corner back, Brian Lacey, Round Towers

Brian played as much hurling as football at underage. Coming from Arravale Rovers, an equal opportunity club, he was at home in both codes. His early success was in football and two county finals at under-14 and under-18 level. In the Abbey School he won an All-Ireland Colleges B hurling medal and played minor hurling,  not football, for the county. When he .went on to UL he concentrated on hurling and played Fitzgibbon.  He played under-21 football with the county for one year.

He played with the Tipperary senior team for three years, 1995, 1996 and 1997, losing to Kerry on all three occasions. His work brought him to Dublin and, as his residence was in Kildare, he transferred to that county. His rise was meteoric. In his first year, 1998, Kildare made the breakthrough in Leinster for the first time since 1956, only to lose to Galway in the All-Ireland. Brian impressed sufficiently well to win an All­ Star in the number 2 jersey . Since then another Leinster title was won and he hopes that the elusive All-Ireland will be won this year.


Full-back, Mick Byrnes, Lattin-Cullen

Mick Byrnes' football career stretches from the beginnings of the sixties to the start of the eighties. 1963 was an incredible year. There was a county minor football title with St. Patrick's, a combo of Lattin-Cullen and Solohead, plus West titles in minor hurling, under-21  football and hurling, and junior hurling.  The following year he graduated to senior ranks and a great period of success followed. West titles were won in 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, and another near the end of his career, in 1983. During that period one county final was contested, unsuccessfully, against Commercials in 1967.

Mick's county achievements are also impressive. He captained the county minor football team in 1964, played under-21 in 1965 and 1966, and was a regular on the senior team from 1967 to 1971. He was Footballer of the Year in the county in 1969. Two years later he emigrated to the U.S. and remained there until 1977.  While in New York he won two football championships with Sligo, while playing junior hurling with Tipperary.  When he returned to Lattin he continued to play with the club until he retired in 1983. He is currently chairman of the club.


Left fullback, Mick McCormack, Aherlow

Mick was a dual player and when he was growing up in the Glen there was little or no hurling. However, he did win an under-14 hurling title, which was a novel thing for Aherlow at the time. At the Abbey School there was hurling success, with a Harty medal  in  1959.   Later  at U.C.C.  he  had an opportunity in indulge both passions, winning two Fitzgibbon Cups and two Sigerson Cups. And he had another double, winning Cork county championships in hurling and football in 1963 and 1964. At home in Aherlow during the summer it was mostly football and he played minor, under-21 and senior football for the county. His senior career stretched from 1964 to 1971 and brought him victory in Division 2 of the league in 1971, During these years he played his club football with St. Finbarr's and, after he married, with Ballincollig.


Right wingback, Patsy Dawson, Emly

Patsy Dawson 's career began with the Emly-Lattin minor football victory in the west in 1956. He progressed from there to the- county junior team in 1957 and was on the senior side in 1958. From then until 1970 he continued to play for the county, giving many fine displays. One of the highlights was the defeat of Dublin in the Bloody Sunday commemorative game in 1967 in which Patsy damaged the reputation of no less a footballer than Des Foley.

Parallel with his football career Patsy also played hurling, initially at junior level, but later at intermediate .. He won two All-Irelands in the latter grade in 1963 and 1966. He was also successful in hurling and football with his club.  His favourite position was centre-back.  His fielding and kicking of the ball was first class.  He had great reach, with a fine high catch, and great stamina. He would have held his own in the strongest football counties.


Centre-back, Larry Maher, Galtee Rovers

Larry's long and distinguished career began with the Cahir Slashers with whom he won a south minor football title in 1943 and a minor hurling title in 1944. He played a pivotal role in Galtee Rovers junior football title in 1947 and his first senior west title the following year: He was the heart and soul of the great Galtee Rovers team that won six successive west titles between 1949 and 1954, captaining the team in the first of these years. County titles were won in 1949 and 1950.

A big, powerful, strong man, his presence at centre back gave inspiration to his colleagues and provided a bul wark to all opponents' efforts. He was recognised by the county, playing senior in the late forties and early fifties_ The nearest he got to national honours was in 1952 when Tipperary were defeated by Dublin in the league semi-final. He was also selected for Munster in Railway Cup. His normal position was centre back but he ended up at full. He continued to play and inspire the teams of Banta and Kilmoyler during leaner periods, a tribute in itself to his durability, and finally finished his career with west titles in 1962 and 1963.


Left wing-back, Ailbe Ryan, Emly

'The best footballer that ever came out of Emly with the heart of a lion,' was the way one man described him. He came to prominence in the late forties during some exciting matches with Galtee Rovers. In these games Ailbe ranged from the halfback line to the half forward line and had outstanding games. His talent was recognised by the county selectors and he played on the county junior football team. He was also a good hurler and played on the county junior hurling team. In 1951 he was a member of the senior football team and played in the league.  He became a regular on the team. The Munster selectors recognised his ability in 1952 and 1953 when he played on the Railway Cup team. Inthe latter years he marked Jim McKeever at Croke Park when Ulster defeated Munster in the final.

During the fifties he played for Emly in hurling and football. He had great power and strength together with great skill and stamina. He has been described as having the characteristics of 'an iron man and a rubber ball.' He was usually the outstanding man on the field, with his favourite position at wingback.


Centre field, Edmond 'Taylor' Condon

Ned backboned the Lattin-Cullen success of the fifties and sixties. His early promise was shown when he played centre field for Tipperary minor footballers in 1951. In fact he was an outstanding centre-field player. His claim to fame was his high fielding skill. He had a great pair of hands and could reach high to fetch a ball out of the air. He never let the ball drop and his tactic was to boot it back again from where it came. He had good height and was built strong.

He won seven west senior football titles in all, two of them with Solohead. He also had an inter-county career, playing junior and senior football with Tipperary at different times. He retired in the mid sixties


Centre field, Vincent O'Donnell, Galtee Rovers

On April 5, 1970 in Emly Vincent played under-21 and junior football for Tipperary and later in the evening turned out in minor hurling for the county. It's a tribute to the kind of player he was, a man of prodigious talent. He was a superb athlete, winning honours in that field. He progressed to under-21 but his talent was recognised at senior level and he was a sub on the team that won Division 2 of the football league in 1971. Later he won a Railway Cup medal as a sub in 1978, the only such medal in the Galtee Rovers club. He won west senior football titles in 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1979, and county titles in 1976, 1980 and 1981. He was footballer of the year in 1976. Playing at centre-back he was a tower of strength with safe hands and great left-footed  clearances.


Right wing-forward, Sean McGovern, Galtee Rovers

A dual player Sean played minor hurling and football for Tipperary in 1952, winning the All-Ireland hurling title against Dublin. He was on the county junior football team in 1953 and 1954 and was promoted to senior level after that and continued to play into the sixties. During the second half of the fifties Sean's work as a forester took him away from Tipperary and he played junior football with Cork and Wicklow in these years. He could hurl also and was on the Tipperary intermediate team, beaten by Wexford in the 1961 All-Ireland . He won six west titles with Galtee Rovers, some in the early fifties at the beginning of his career, and again in 1962 and 1963.

He was a shining light during the leanest period in his club. He played centre field for the club and usually wing-forward for the county. According to the judges he was the greatest stylist that Galtee Rovers ever produced and he was always noted for sportsmanship of the highest quality.


Centre forward, Tom Power, Arravale Rovers.

Tom had a long career in football that stretches from 1932 to 1952. He first came to prominence as a member of the Clonpet junior football team that won the West in 1934. The following year he was on the Tipperary junior football team beaten by Sligo in the All-Ireland.  In 1936 Clonpet and Arravale Rovers amalgamated and won a south senior football title, an achievement repeated in 1941. In the latter year Tom captained the team. In between these two titles Tom won the Tipperarymen's Cup in 1937. He was selected for Tipperary in 1938 and played at senior level until 1941. His talent was recognised by the Munster selectors who picked him on the successful Railway Cup team in 1940.

He continued to grace the playing fields of the west until 1952. A gifted footballer, strong, talented and direct, a beautiful kicker of a ball with left or right foot, he was also a big personality who made an impact on people during his long career.


Left wing-forward, Brendan Kissane, Arravale Rovers.

Brendan was the third of a trio of forwards - the other two were Andy Greensmyth and Billy O'Donoghue - of outstanding quality, who made Arravale Rovers an outstanding football club in the thirties. Brendan's career began with a blaze, winning a county minor football title in 1933 and a west junior title the same year.  There followed a south senior football medal in 1936 and a Tipperarymen' s Cup the year after. The year 1941 brought west and county senior football titles and Brendan captained the county senior football team the following year. In fact his county senior football career began in 1936 and was to continue until 1944. What he lacked in robustness, Brendan made up for by fast, accurate and scientific play.


Right corner-forward, Seamus McCarthy,  Galtee Rovers.

One of the most distinguished footballers ever to come out of Galtee Rovers, Seamus has an impressive playing and managing record. His first medals in the club were won at under-21 level, two West and a county in 1975. To this he was later to add seven west senior football titles and three county, in 1976, 1980 and  1981. He progressed to county playing at minor, under-21 and senior, his latter career stretching from 1974-82. He always played comer-forward for Tipperary and centre field or centre forward for the club. He was footballer of the Year in 1981 and captained Tipp the folJowing year. He went quickly into management, looking after the minors in 1983 and 1984, taking them to the All-Ireland in the latter year. He managed the under-21 's from 1985 to 1988 and on three of these years the eventual All-Ireland champions narrowly beat the team. He progressed to the senior footballers in 1992 and managed them until 1996, winning a McGrath Cup in 1994 and the All-Ireland B championship the following year. His next port of call was the juniors and he brought them to All-Ireland honours in 1998. He was a selector of the Munster team that won the Railway Cup in 1999. He was Tipperary Person of the Year in 1984 and Munster Council Manager of the Year in 1998. An unsurpassable record


Full-forward, P. J. O'Brien, Galtee Rovers.

His career began in the late forties and continued through the fifties and is equally divided into football and hurling. His footballing career was spent with Galtee Rovers but in 1952 he moved to Thurles, where his playing career continued as a hurler with Thurles Sarsfields. He exploded on to the scene with an incredible game against Holycross-Ballycahill in the 1953 mid championship. He scored five goals in the space of seven minutes to transform a Holycross ten-point  lead into a substantial deficit. He went on to win a few county finals with the Sarsfields and he played some league matches for Tipperary. He didn't forsake football though. In 1952 he helped Sarsfields to a mid football final and came up against his former club in the county semi-final, losing out to them in a replay at Cashel. He played on his brother that day. A fine footba11er, he won three west senior titles, 1949-51, before leaving Bansha. His favourite position was full forward, though he also played at centre. He played junior football for the county for one year and senior football for two years.


Left full forward, Billy O'Donoghue, Arravale Rovers.

Billy has been described as the greatest small man who ever played football. His career began in the Glen under the influence of Tom Lee, who was laid to rest as late as February past. Billy was on the team that won the Tipperary Primary Schools county title. A minor in 1935 he won a Munster medal, only to be beaten by Mayo in the All-Ireland. He won a south senior football title in 1936 and a second title in 1941. He went on to win a county title when Arravale defeated Castleiney­ Loughmore in the final. The Tipperaryman's Cup was won in 1937. His talent was recognised by the county selectors and he played comer-forward for the senior team in 1940, 1941 and 1942. One of his great memories from these years was scoring a goal from twenty yards against the 'unbeatable' Dan O'Keefe of Kerry at Sean Treacy Park. Illness ended his football career. Billy was a county senior football selector from  1955-61.    He never did win an All-Ireland but he enjoyed the vicarious

Cormac Bonnar, Cashel West Tipperary G.A.A. by J.J. Kennedy. Pub. by the West Tipp G.A.A. Board, 2001, pp 398-400

Cormac Bonnar, Cashel

West Tipperary G.A.A. by J.J. Kennedy. Pub. by the West Tipp G.A.A. Board, 2001, pp 398-400


For the oldest of the Bonnar brothers, winning the 1989 All-Ireland was an unexpected bonus to a distinguished career in hurling. It was unexpected in that Cormac had decided to quit after the 1988 west championship. The decision was taken, not because he was tired of hurling, but because of the travelling involved. Living in Limerick with his wife, Nesta, a native of Mitchelstown and with no hurling connection, the 72 round trip to Cashel for training and matches had become a drag. So, at the end of the 1987 championship he made a decision to go at the end of 1988. 

The rest is history now. Cashel played Clonoulty-Rossmore in the first round of the west championship in 1988 and, against all the predictions, beat them and went all the way to the county semi-final. Cormac impressed the county selectors and was called up for the Munster final against Cork. Tipperary led by 1-13 to 0-5 at the interval but Cork had rallied and reduced the lead to two points in the third quarter. Cormac was introduced and was in the right place five minutes later when a Paul Delaney free dropped behind the Cork defence and he was on the spot to steer it to the net. It was a crucial score and it halted the Cork rally in its tracks. 

Born in Cashel in May 1959 Cormac went to National School, The Green before going into second class in the CBS, where Brother Noonan ran school leagues. He was already very athletic in those early years and recalls races before school around the triangle in Lowergate. Also, jogging to and from horne to the Green. He went most of the way through secondary school without winning anything. Cashel were beaten regularly by Templemore CB.S. It wasn't until 1976 when he was doing the Leaving Certificate that success came. In that year Corn Phadraig, Kinane Cup and Fitzgerald Cup were won. Cormac repeated the Leaving in 1977 and played Harty Cup. As a result of victory in the Corn Phadraig Cashel went into the A competition in hurling but were beaten by Farrenferris at Bansha. 

Cormac had no underage success with the club and had to wait until minor level. There was impressive success at this level. He was on the successful I team that won the historic county hurling and football double in 1974. The county hurling was won in 1975 and the two county finals were lost to Loughmore- Castleiney in 1976. His tally of medals is impressive five west and three county. He was selected at wing- back on the county minors in 1977, beaten 3-4 to 1-1 Clare in the first round of the Munster champions!


Fitzgibbon and Sigerson 

One of the people who had impressed Cormac at Cashel CB.S. was Brother Michael O'Grady. He introduced coaching in a big way and when Cormac went to UCD. at the end of 1977, Br. O'Grady moved there also and continued to be a major influence on him. He spent five years at U.CD. studying History Mathematics. In 1978 he was on the successful Freshers team, which won the championship league. He was also on the panel for the Fitzgibboni which was won. In 1979 he won a second Fitzgibbon medal. Always interested in football he gave up Fitzgibbon for the Sigerson in 1980. Even though no medal was won he has no regrets. He came accross some outstanding footballers like Colm O'Rourke and Gerry McEntee but, more importantly, he experierced coaching at its best. The man in charge was Eugene Magee and they trained or played a match five nights a week. They were a totally committed bunch of players and Cormac's memories of the year are extremely favourable. In 1981 he returned to Fitzgibbon without success. The year saw the beginning of: U.C.C's eight in a row.· He made the Combined Hurling team the same year and won. In his final year, 1982, he was captain of the Fitzgibbon team, beaten in the semi-final by U.C.G. Also, in conjunction with Eamon O'Shea, he coached the UCD. camogie tea success in the Ashbourne Cup. 

During his time at U.CD. Cormac was very involved with the county. For three years he played on the county under-21 football team, captaining it in 1979. He also played senior football. Whereas football brought no success hurling did. In 1979 he was on the successful under-21 panel and in 1980 he played corner-back, moving to full-back for the final, when P. J. Maxwell was injured. Pat Fox was corner-back on the team. 

At club level he won a west under-21 hurling medal in 1976 and a football medal in 1980. He made his debut with Cashel senior hurlers in 1976 and was on the panel that won the west championship. His next medal came in 1980 when he, and his brother Brendan, played centrefield. There followed the lean years. During this time Cormac changed from a back to a forward. There was a shortage of players on the Cashel team up the field and he moved out of the backs, into' centre field and eventually into the forward line. Success came again in 1988 and it was only halted by Borrisoleigh in the county semi-final. Early defeat came in 1989. 

Cormac captained the team in 1990 and regarded it as a great privilege. The team fulfilled the promise of 1988 and went all the way to the county final only to lose to Holycross-Ballycahill. The success denied came the following year when Cashel made history in winning their first county senior hurling title. This was followed up by victory over Midleton in the Munster club final before agonising defeat by Kiltormer after three games in the All-Ireland semi-final. Another divisional medal was won in 1993 bringing his tally to six. He retired from senior hurling in that year. Because of his interest in football he recalls with great satisfaction winning a west senior football medal with the club in 1990. 

Cormac's drafting into the county senior panel in 1988 wasn't his first time wearing the senior jersey. He had made his first appearance in a tournament game gainst Kilkenny at Thurles on May 10. He didn't make the championship panel but played in the league at the end of the year. He pulled out during 1982 because of examination commitments and returned for the league in the autumn. He was a sub on the chamionship team in 1983. He recalls the occasion: 'I was brought in sometime during the game but was replaced again after ten minutes. I wasn't playing well. Part of my difficulty was converting from a back to a forward, and I hadn't yet adjusted. But, to be replaced o quickly was extremely difficult to take and the memory crossed my mind when I came on in 1988.' Disillusioned but also injured he didn't take part in the league and he was in the U.S. for the summer of 1984. It appeared as if his inter-county life was at an end.


All-Ireland Glory 

When he was asked to return in 1988 he thought twice before accepting the invitation which came from Theo English. After the Munster final Cormac was a fixture n the panel and came on as a sub against Antrim and Galway in the remaining two matches. Nicky English was at full-forward during the year and Cormac came on in the half-forward line. For the league of 1988-89 he was at full-forward and for the league final defeat by Galway his corner-forwards were Michael Cleary and Pat McGrath. By the Munster final of 1989 they had been replaced by Pat Fox and Nicky English to form the most impressive full-forward line in the modern game. 

Cormac was to continue playing for Tipperary until after the league in 1993. He retired before the championship that year. As well as winning the All-Irelands in 1989 and 1991, he was to win two All-Stars in the same years. He missed out on the Munster final victory in 1993. 

As already mentioned Cormac was greatly influenced by Brother O'Grady and his emphasis on coaching. He became interested in the area himself. As early as 1980 he was involved in the coaching of the Cashel minor team that won the county final. As also mentioned he coached the camogie players at U.C.D. Later he coached a wide variety of teams. They included Hospital-Herbertstown in football and hurling, Newport for two years, Clonlara, Tulla for two years, Ahane for two years, and Inagh. He also coached Ard Scoil Ris to a Kinane Cup and a Pearse Cup. Presently he is looking after the South Kerry under-I5 hurling development squad. 

Although he is now 41 years old he finds it difficult to give up active involvement in the game. Now residing in Killarney he won an intermediate hurling championship with Dr. Crokes in 1997 ,and a South Kerry senior hurling championship in 1999. 

Nicknamed the 'Gentle Giant' and 'The Viking' there couldn't be such contrasting opinions of the same players. The former name was gained from the observation, during the early part of his career, that Cormac, although sporting a fine physique of 6 feet 2 inches by 14 stone, remained a gentle giant on the field. Cormac would disagree and so would many a backman who came up against him in full flight. The latter name suggests someone who is wild, marauding and dangerous. Again, it's far from the mark. More likely the name came from the sight of Cormac on the field with his distinctive helmet, which gave him a fierce look. 

Cormac has a long and successful hurling history. During that period his level of fitness and his general athleticism were outstanding. His commitment to his team was always one hundred percent. His versatility on the field of play is reflected in the wide variety of positions he played in. During his greatest period, the five years he played at full-forward on the county senior team, he was a key man in the team's success. He was a target man for the rest of the forward line. He showed the need for big men in any forward land to make space for those less well-endowed and to distribute the ball. Cormac did these things excellently well and other forwards lived and flourished off him. He was above all a team player. As he said on one occasion 'I don't give a damn who gets the score as long as it's registered for us on the scoreboard. I'm a bit of a socialist in hurling in that we must be all for one and one for all.' 

Profiles of West Tipperary Hurling Team of the Millennium West Tipperary G.A.A. Convention Handbook, December 8, 2001

Profiles of West Tipperary Hurling Team of the Millennium

West Tipperary G.A.A. Convention Handbook, December 8, 2001


Click here to view booklet



Goalkeeper: Donal O'Brien, Kickhams

Donal O'Brien is referred to as the man with the perfect record. Played two, won two and then emigrated. There's a bit more to his story than that. He won his first All­ Ireland as a minor in 1957. He was young enough the year after but was dropped in favour of Terry Moloney.  He was sub-goalie but came on in one game as a forward.

Donal got his own back in 1961 when he displaced Moloney, who had suffered a knee injury, as senior goalkeeper. He had come to the selectors notice during 1960 with some fine displays for Kickhams. In that year he was understudy to Moloney as senior goalkeeper and won a Munster medal. He was to win further Munster medals in 1961 and 1962, as well as All-Ireland medals. He also won a National League medal in 1961.

He gave sterling service to the county during these two years. At the end of 1961 Culbaire had this to say about his year: 'O'Brien's part in this title win has been no small one and he should fill his responsible berth for the foreseeable future.' In the Munster final of that year, as one commentator described it, he erected a 'closed door' sign for the hour and made a few superb saves from Ring to keep a clean slate. He was equally impressive against Wexford in the 1962 final.

And so, after a mere six championship games, Donal O'Brien had two All-Ireland medals. Soon after his second All-Ireland the twenty-three year old emigrated to England and later to the U.S., a major loss to Tipperary hurling.


Right cornerback:  Jim Devitt, Cashel King Cormacs

Jim Devitt's anticipation on the field of play was one of the most striking aspects of his remarkable hurling ability. Another quality many people admired was his fluent stickmanship. He could pull on a ball on either side and never miss. He perfected this skill in a ball-alley and he achieved such a level of perfection that he was always dead sure of connecting.

Jim was a small man. At the height of his hurling career he scaled 5-8 to 5-10. One day the car taking him to Galway stopped in Killinan to pick up John Maher. Mrs. Maher invited them in for tea and when she was introduced to Jim  she exclaimed: 'Oh God! You're not going to play this child!'  But his size never  worried  Jim because his speed, anticipation and hurling skills proved adequate compensations.

Born in 1921 he came to public notice in 1943 when he was spotted with Cashel against Eire Og, the eventual county champions. In the same year he won the All­ Army final with the 7th Brigade of the Southern Command. He came on the county team for the Four County League in 1944 and was picked for the championship the following May. Within ten months he had won an All-Ireland and a Railway Cup. He was to win two more Railway Cup medals in 1948 and 1949, and a second All­ Ireland in the latter year. He won two west medals in 1945 and 1948. Ill health brought a premature end to a fine hurling career.

Writing about the 1945 All-Ireland in the 1972 edition of The Clash of the Ash, the late Raymond Smith had this to say: 'I have always thought that if Devitt had come in a later era he would have been more widely acclaimed for his defensive qualities. But he was a delight to watch and if you looked for class in the comer or at wing back he had it certainly.'


Full-back:  Tony Brennan, Clonoulty-Rossmore

'The team that can boast of a good fullback can afford to be weak in several other positions on the field.  He is the keystone of the defence and on him rests the onus of protecting his goalie from encroaching forwards.  He has the whole field before him and if he is a shrewd general he can do quite a lot to knit his defence into a workman­ like unit.  Tipperary has always been fortunate in the matter of good fullbacks.  The present occupant of that most onerous of positions, Tony Brennan, is in the best traditions of Tipperary last line defenders.'   A contemporary quote.

Tall and commanding strong and fearless, with sure hands and hurling brains to bum, this lithe, sinewy skipper filled the position with credit to himself, his parish and his county.

An outstanding athlete, he won All-Ireland minor medals in 1933 and 1934. He spent eight years in the army, during which time he played with Galway.  Returning to Tipperary in 1945, he played centre forward and then full forward in the All-Ireland victory.  He continued at full forward in 1946 and 1947 but reverted to fullback, the position he had played in as a minor, in 1949.  He won three further All-Irelands in that position, giving sterling service in these victories.

For his outstanding displays in the position, Archbishop Kinane referred to him as 'Iron Curtain' Brennan, and very apt description of a player, regarded as one of the greatest fullbacks who ever played for the county.


Left corner-back:  Billy Hayes, Kickhams

Billy's first glory was winning a west minor medal in 1951 and he followed this up with Munster and All-Ireland minor titles the following year. In the same year he captained Roscrea to a Leinster Colleges junior medal and was picked for Leinster in the colleges interprovincial series. He was young enough  for  minor  in  1953 but illness interfered and prevented him from playing.

He graduated to senior ranks in 1954 and between then and 1960 won six west senior tides, missing out in 1957 when the combo team, St. Nicholas, in the west semi-final, ambushed Kickhams. He continued to play until 1962. In 1957 he was called up to the county, playing the league and winning a league medal. There was the added bonus of a trip to New York. However, he did not make the championship side in 1958.

Centre-back was his favourite position and virtually all his games were played there, where he cut a commanding figure.


Right halfback:  Pa Fitzel, Cashel King Cormacs

Pa began to show his hurling skills in the early seventies. He was equally good at football and was on the Cashel county minor double team of 1974. He was captain of the hurling team that won again in 1975. The following year he played on the under- 21 team, which was beaten, in a county final replay by Kilruane. He graduated to senior ranks in 1975 and was to play for nineteen seasons until his retirement in 1993. Six west titles were won and one county.

He played county minor for three years without success and was also three years on the county under-21 side. The lone success in the latter grade was in 1978 when he captained the team to a great victory over Cork in the Munster final but lost to Galway in a replayed All-Ireland. He was brought on the county senior panel in 1976 and remained on it until 1988. He was unfortunate to have departed before the All-Ireland was won.  As it was he won two leagues, one Munster final and one Railway Cup.

During his long service to club and county he maintained a high level of fitness. Virtually all his play was in the halfback line, either at centre or on the wing. He did start in the comer on one occasion and also played at centre field.


Centre-back:  Paddy Furlong, Kickhams

A native of Ballintemple, near Dundrum and born in 1922, Paddy Furlong was a relatively latecomer to hurling prominence. He came to the notice of the county selectors in the county semi-final of 1947 when Borrisileigh defeated Kickhams. Even in defeat Paddy stood out and the 'Tipperary Star' in its report described him as 'probably the most impressive man of the thirty.' He was called up to the county colours for the league and slotted into the centre back position. He retained the position for the league and was there for the first round of the 1948 championship. Unfortunately it was an unhappy day for Tipperary. He continued to play in the fo1lowing league, having a memorable game against Jack Lynch in one of the matches. According to Wintergreen 'he gave the Cork star neither space nor ease for one split second and this famous Cork forward will surely have cause to remember Knockavilla.'

Paddy was on for the 1949 championship right up to the All-Ireland final. An ankle injury before the day forced him to cry off the team. He played in the county final later in the year, when Kickhams lost out to Borrisileigh in their only senior county final appearance. But the injury hastened a premature retirement. He was holding his own with the best in the county at the time of his injury and there is no reason to believe he wouldn't have featured in the famous three-in-a-row All-Irelands.

As it was he won one All-Ireland and one national League medal. Colleagues of his speak of a strong, firm and determined hurler, who would never shirk the challenge.


Left halfback:  Colm Bonnar, Cashel King Cormacs

Colm Bonnar's hurling record includes All-Ireland honours in four grades, senior, junior , under-21 and minor. When one adds National League medals, Railway Cup medals, an Oireachtas medal, a Fitzgibbon Cup and two All-Ireland Colleges B medals the record is even more impressive. On top of that he won an All-Star in 1988, partnering Goerge O'Connor at midfield. He played senior hurling for the county for twelve seasons.

As well as giving dedicated service to the county he was for years the backbone of the Cashel King Cormac's team.  He made his debut with the senior team in 1981 and, including a stint with Dunhill, continued playing until 2000.  During that period he won six Crosco Cups and five west championships.  The highlight of his club career was winning the county final in 1991, after losing one to Holycross the previous year. Colm has an impressive list of honours to his credit but even more impressive is the complete commitment he has given to club and county over a quarter of a century. This made him the most valuable member of any team.  He never gave less than his all and his superb physical fitness ensured that most always he gave more than most. His solo runs and tackling were phenomenal. He was a player so full of courage that he never stood back from anything. On the other hand he was always a fair player and never had his name taken by a referee. His sense of position on the field of play was superb and his anticipation was uncanny.


Centre field:  Bill O'Donnell, Golden Kilfeacle

Bill O'Donnell's playing career with Tipperary spanned the years 1934-1944. His reward of one All-Ireland in 1937 was rather meagre for so many years of service but it was a lean time for hurling in the county. It was the time of two debacles, the Cooney affair in 1938 and the Foot and Mouth disaster of 1941. In the Munster final of that year, played in October after the All-Ireland was won by Cork, Bill had one of his finest displays. His play inspired his teammates and was a big factor in the victory. He marked Jack Lynch on that occasion and the latter had this to say of his performance: 'I'll never forget the 1941 match in Limerick as the late Bill O'Donnell ran rings about me.'

A native of Golden his teaching profession took him to Annacarty in 1933. He played with Eire Og in their historic county final victory of 1943. He played an important role in that victory, according to the Tipperary Star: 'Four points up with eight minutes to go, Moycarkey looked all set to take another county title, but then like a flash, Bill O'Donnell secured possession in a sharp Eire Og attack and from twenty yards sent in a bullet-like shot that gave Jim Keeffe no chance. This was the turning point of a game that had abounded in thrills. '

He was a versatile hurler and his four Railway Cup medals indicate this quality quite astonishingly: in 1938 he played right comer-forward for Munster; two years later, in 1940, he had transferred the length of the  field to left comer-back; in 1942 he captained Munster to success from full-forward; and finally, in 1943, he partnered Jack Lynch at midfield. He was many other things also, a referee, the 1941 All­ Ireland, a writer, Divot in the Nationalist, a golfer, above all a gentleman and the best of company.


Centre field: John Farrell, Kickhams

It's unlikely his record will ever be matched! John Farrell's record includes five west minor medals and twelve west senior medals. His career with Kickhams senior team spans twenty-five seasons, from 1946 to 1960. He won the first of his twelve senior medals in 1946 and the last in 1960. He was the only player to win all twelve during this golden age of Kickhams hurling.

When he started in 1946 he had still two years to run as a minor. In the following year his talent was recognised at county level when he played centre field for the team that won Munster and All-Ireland honours. He had as company on that team giants of the ash like John Doyle and Paddy Kenny.

While a minor he spent two years as a goalkeeper before moving out to his favourite position at centre field. It was mostly in the latter position he played at senior level and for years he gave sterling service to his club in that position. On a few occasions he played wing-forward and fill-forward.

He was a fast-striking player, moving the ball into the forward line in the shortest possible time.  He was equally adept at striking it on the ground or in the air and had perfected the art of doubling or pulling on the ball at an early stage. His dedication and commitment to his club was second to none and his selection on this team came as no surprise to anyone who watched him play.


Right half-forward:  Nicky English, Lattin-Cullen

Nicky English is a class apart and is best illustrated by his selection on the Tipperary hurling team of the Millennium, the only modern player to win such recognition. However, it took a while for his genius to be recognised . Dropped from the county minor panel in 1979, he got his first taste of hurling glory in the All-Ireland minor victory of the following year. He followed up with an under-21 medal in 1981. His promotion to the senior side was rapid. He made his debut in the fall of 1981 when Tipperary defeated Offaly in a tournament game at Coventry. He continued to play until 1996.

The first half of the eighties was a lean period for the county and the breakthrough didn't come until 1987, having been preceded by a dismal defeat the previous year at Ennis, a game Nicky missed because of a punctured  lung. In fact throughout his career he struggled against injuries. There was some consolation for the wilderness years when he won five Fitzgibbon Cup medals between 1981-1985. Eventually he was to win two senior All-Irelands, five Munster medals and two National Leagues. Probably the best register of his ability was his winning of the Texaco Hurler of the Year in 1989, and his six All-Star awards.

Any tribute to Nicky must include mention of his loyalty to his club. He was invited to play with other clubs but he stuck by his own and helped Lattin-Cullen to three county titles, two hurling and one football. For him his roots were important. Winning with his own was for him the highest thing he could achieve.

It's difficult to define his hurling genius. There's an elusive quality about it.  His skill level was unique. He showed all the signs of endless practice with the hurley and sliotar from an early age. The hurley was an extension of his arm. He could strike with equal facility from right or left. He had marvellous feet, which allowed him to weave through the opposition side stepping and slipping a tackle. He was a good striker in the soccer sense of the word, very good to take a scoring opportunity.  He was a versatile player, playing as a back for much of his earlier career, and latterly as a forward. He could be effective anywhere on the field.


Centre-forward:  Declan Ryan, Clonoulty-Rossmore

Declan made the senior side in the fall of 1987 in the company of Michael Cleary and John Leahy. His first match was against Cork in Paire Ui Chaoimh. His trophy collection parallels Tipperary since 1988, a league medal that year, Munster senior medals in '88, '89, '91' '93, further leagues in 1994, 1999 and 2001, as well as Oireachtas, South-East League and Railway Cup. The All-Star statuettes of 1988 and 1997 are prized possessions too as is the Cidona Award in the latter year. Special too is the under-21 All-Ireland in 1989, where he was captain. On the club scene too there are the two county finals of 1989 and 1997.

One close observer has this to say about him : 'A thoughtful centre-forward, always measuring and reading things, always seems to have a lot of time on the ball, a great man to play others into the game, as essential to the likes of Fox and English as they were to him, outstanding skill level, central to Tipperary for the past ten years.

Babs, who found it difficult to communicate with Declan, had some very positive things to say about him: 'A fit Declan was the difference between winning and losing. We would not have won an All-Ireland without him. When we were in bits in midfield or at full forward, Declan rescued us. In the All-Ireland semi-final in 1991 we were gone, Declan came to the rescue and held us together. . . . His skill was incredible, his touch on the ball superb, his strength was sometimes awesome.'  The case rests.


Left half-forward:   Dinny Ryan, Sean Treacy's

Divot, writing in 'The Nationalist' after the 1971 All-Ireland, had this to say of Dinny Ryan: 'Little Dinny was a bundle of energy all through and gave Willie Murphy quite a time of it. The smile on his face when Ollie's hesitancy left him with an easy task to score our fifth goal had to be seen to be believed.' It was his finest moment.

It was the high point of Dinny 's career. He played on with the county for the next two years but the famine was setting in and barring an Oireachtas medal, there was little further glory in the blue and gold of Tipperary.

Dinny's hurling rise paralleled the rise of Sean Treacy' s, which came into existence in the sixties, uniting the regions of Hollyford, Kilcomon and Rearcross. 'Little Dinny' as he became affectionately known, may have been small in stature but he was big in heart. Combining a high degree of skill with a bold and daring approach to the game, he quickly became a key personality in Sean Treacy teams that brought a new passion to the sport.

While the blue and gold of Tipperary declined during the seventies, the blue and gold of Sean Treacy's hit a rich vein. The club dominated West Tipperary hurling in that period and Dinny was a leading personality during their golden years. Sean Treacys have won seven West Tipperary championships since the club was formed and Dinny was part of them all, being one of the few players to see the Sean Treacy era through from the sixties to the eighties.


Right corner-forward:  Pat Fox, Eire Og

What strikes one most about the hurling career of Pat Fox is the versatility of the player. From corner back to midfield, from centre forward to comer-forward, he found a home in many positions on various county sides. Two years as a minor bore no fruit but he made up for the barrenness of these years with great riches at the under-21 level, three All-Irelands. A fourth might have been harvested in 1982 but for a shock defeat by Limerick in the first round.

He soon made it to senior ranks and his senior career spanned an impressive seventeen seasons, 1980 to 1996. During  this period he won five Munster championships, two All-Irelands and two National Leagues. In the west he won two senior titles, in 1981 and 1986, as well as West and county intermediate medals in 1994. He has also got three All-Stars to his credit, 1987, 1989, and 1991. The latter year was probably his finest, when he reached the pinnacle of his awesome power, and was recognised with a Texaco Award. In the same year he won the Ballygowan Sportstar of the Year and the Tipperary Person of the Year award.

Pat was a tremendous ball player and had tremendous courage, which belied his size. Because  of his size he had to be tremendously fit and this fitness gave his the kind of acceleration a corner-forward requires. His game depended so much on aggression and strength that he had to be at peak fitness to play his part fully. He was good under pressure as was seen in the Munster final at Thurles in 1987, when he pointed two late frees to win a reprieve. Going high to catch the ball and soloing at speed towards goal were other aspects of his exciting skill.


Full-forward: Cormac Bonnar, Cashel King Cormacs

Cormac Bonnar's talent was first recognised in the mid seventies, when he won five west and three county minor medals with Cashel in hurling and football. He continued playing both codes at university level, being part of the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson sides at U.C.D., winning two hurling medals. He won medals in hurling and football at under-21 level as well.

He made his debut with the Cashel seniors in 1976 and between then and 1993, when he retired he won six west medals. The highlight of these years was the county title in 1991. He was drafted into the county panel in 1988 after making the decision to retire from hurling. The rest is history. Three Munster and two AH-Ireland titles were won as well as two All-Stars. The full-forward line he filled with English and Fox was the most impressive in the modern game.

Nicknamed the 'gentle giant' and the 'Viking' there couldn't be such contrasting opinions of the same player. Cormac had a long and successful hurling history. During that period his level of fitness and his general athleticism were outstanding. His commitment to the team was always one hundred percent. His versatility on the field of play is reflected in the wide variety of positions he played in. During his greatest period, the five years he played at full forward on the county senior team, he was a key man in the team's success. He was a target man for the rest of the forward line. He showed the need for big men in any forward line to make space for those less well endowed and to distribute the ball. Cormac did these things excellently well and other forwards lived and flourished off him. He was above all a great team player.


Left corner-forward: Ger O'Neill, Cappawhite

Ger O'Neill gave outstanding service to club and county over three decades. A dual player his ability was recognised in 1980 when he played wing-back on the county minor football team and won Munster and All-Ireland honours with the minor hurlers. Although injured going into the final against Wexford he contributed handsomely to the victory. The following year he was again successful, playing on the under-21 side, which won the title against Kilkenny. He contributed five points from play to that victory. A second All-Ireland was missed when Tipperary were beaten in the 1983 final.

Ger was part of the successful Cappawhite side that won their first west in 1983 after a lapse of 21 years. Two more titles were won in 1984 and 1985, and the highlight of this great period in Cappawhite hurling was victory in the county final of 1987. Ger, at fulJ forward, was one of their chief scorers in the latter victory. In 1985 Ger made his county senior championship debut and for a number of years featured prominently in the selectors plans.

He continued with his club until 1998. His commitment and dedication to club and county has always been first class. His contribution on the field of play has always been significant and there's many the back that found more than a handful in this aggressive and skilful player from Cappawhite.

Jim Devitt, Cashel West Tipperary G.A.A. by J.J. Kennedy. Pub. by the West Tipp G.A.A. Board, 2001, pp 400-401

Jim Devitt, Cashel

West Tipperary G.A.A. by J.J. Kennedy. Pub. by the West Tipp G.A.A. Board, 2001, pp 400-401


For one fan Jim Devitt's anticipation on the field of play was one of the most striking aspects of his remarkable hurling ability. He illustrated this aspect from an incident in the Tippperary-Cork Munster championship clash at Thurles in 1945. A low ball came down the wing and Jim was behind his man. At exactly the right moment he stepped around him, caught the ball about two inches off the ground and cleared it up the field. It was a daring and successful move born out of brilliant anticipation. 

Another quality many people admired was his fluent stickmanship. He could pull on a ball on either side and never miss. This ability he perfected in a ball alley and he achieved such a level of skill that he was always sure of connecting. Seamus Leahy ruefully remembers a match he played against Devitt in the mid-fifties. It was Boherlahan versus Nenagh and a Nenagh mentor said to Seamus, who was playing on Jim Devitt that day: 'Stand behind him. He's sure to miss a couple in the hour and you can stick them in the net.' Jim Devitt didn't miss that day and there was no glory for Leahy. 

Some admirers remember that he used a light-looking hurley. Jim admits it was on the light side, especially in the handle, but it always had a good pull. Old Nicholas Gleeson of Shanballa, the father of Jack who played centrefield on the All Ireland team of 1937, used to make the hurleys for him. He recalls Nicholas coming to him a couple of weeks before the 1945 All Ireland with a new hurley. 'He wanted me to have time to get used to it'. He asked to have it back after the match so that he could have two All Ireland hurleys in his possession. His son's, Jack's, was the second one. However, the hurley was stolen on the train coming homw from the match. Jim knows who took it also but could never get it back. 

At the height of his hurling career Jim Devitt scaled at 9-8 to 9-10, not that terribly much above Barry McGuigan! But his size never worried him because his speed, anticipation and hurling skills proved adequate compensations. He tells a story of how people viewed his size. One day he was on his way to a match in Galway. The car stopped to pick up John Maher, Killinan. Mrs. Maher invited them all in for tea. Whe:she was introduced to Jim as one of the selection for the day, she exclaimed: 'Oh God! You're not going to pIay this child'. 

Jim's inter-county career began in 1944 when he played in the four-county league against Waterford. (The national league had been suspended for the duration of the war). Prior to this he had made a name for h.i.m- self in the army, which he joined in 1940. Based mostly in Limerick, Jimmy Cooney was his O.C. and the outstanding man in the ranks was Mick Mackey. He wanted Devitt to play with Ahane but he declined. He recalls that Paddy Shea of Kilfeacle accepted a similar invitation at the time and won five county medals with the Limerick club between 1941 and 1945. The high point of Jim's army career was the winning of the All-army final in 1943 with the 7th. Brigade of the Southern Command. The final was played in the Phoenix Pank and the medals presented by General M.J. Costello. 

Born in 1921 Jim recalls his first game with Cashel in 1938. The minor team cycled to Annacarty to play Eire Og. During the the game the hurleys ran out and one of the team had to leave the field for a time until Denis Tuohy came to the rescue. In the same year he was called to a county minor trial but didn't attend. Dan Cantwell did and was selected. In the following year he went with Jackie Corcoran for trial. Jackie was picked but Jim wasn't taken off the benches. At thisstage Batt Hickey was his God among hurlers and he sought to model his game on him. 

Hurling in Tipperary at this time was dominated by the Mid and it was difficult for anyone outside the division to get on the senior team. It was even more difficult if you came from the West .. Bill O'Donnell made the grade and Tony Brennan but they were the exceptions. Jim admits he had a bit of luck. At the 'there was only one player, Michael Murphy, a Clare man going for the position of wing back. As well Jim himself had an important 'friend', Joby Callanan, in the Thurles 'camp'. Joby had spotted Jim as early as 1943 when Cashel held Eire Og, the eventual county champions, to two points in the West championship and hada high opinion of his ability. 

Jim's rise to county senior status was meteoric. Having played in the Millar Shield competition in 1944 he came on for the four-county league. He was picked for the championship the following May and, within months he had won All Ireland and Railway Cup medals. He was to win two more Railway Cup medals in 1948 and 1949 and a second All Ireland medal in the latter year. His selection on three Railway Cup teams is an indication of his outstanding ability. 1949 was also the end of his inter-county career, even though he was only twenty seven years of age. Ill health was the reason. 

Jim's club days continued for another thirteen years until he called it a day in 1962 when he finished playing junior hurling at full forward for Boherlahan. He also played in goal. While he played corner and wing for the county, his usual position for the club was centreback or centre field. From 1953 onwards when he bought a house in Boherlahan, Jim played with the club. While he was with Cashel he won two : West medals in 1945 and 1948. He believes that the club should have won more at that time and reckons that the half back line of Mickey Murphy, Donal Ryan and himself was one of the best in the county. The split with the Abbey Rangers divided the hurling in the parish at the time. When one realises that four of the Abbey Ranges players, Mick Cody, Rodney Parsons, Paddy O'Brien and Billy Hickey, played county junior, one realises how great their loss was to Cashe1. 

One of the greatest games ever played by Devitt was in the Munster championship clash with Limerick in 1948. The wind played havoc with the game and Limerick, with its help, were well ahead at half time. Tipperary were unable to make up the leeway in the second-half. This wasn't because of want of trying on the part of one man. According to the 'TIpperary Star' reporter "Jim Devitt played the game of his life - he was the outstanding player on the field. Right from the throw-in he hurled magnificently and tirelessly. Threeof Tipperary's goals were direct results of his accuracy from seventies. Attacking and defending Devitt was superb and Tipperary supporters were sighing for half a dozen n of his calibre." 

The final word on Jim's ability rests with Raymond Smith. Writing about the 1945 All Ireland in the 1972 edition of 'The Clash of the Ash', Smith had this to say: 'I have always thought that if Devitt had come in a later era he would have been more widely acclaimed for his defensive qualities. But he was a delight to watch and if you looked for class in the corner or at wingback he had it certainly".


Conal Bonnar, Cashel West Tipperary G.A.A. by J.J. Kennedy. Pub. by West Tipp G.A.A. Board, 2001, pp 396-397

Conal Bonnar, Cashel

West Tipperary G.A.A. by J.J. Kennedy. Pub. by West Tipp G.A.A. Board, 2001, pp 396-397


One might be inclined to regard Conal as the Benjamin of the Bonnar boys but that would suggest someone :in need of care and protection. Such would, indeed, be furthest from the truth because Conal is very much his own man and has an impressive record of achievement. He was drafted into the Tipperary senior panel for the 1988 All-Ireland. He was then eighteen years age and his call-up at that stage was an indication of the potential of the player. 

That potential had been revealed at underage. He first hit the county headlines in 1986 when he was pick wing-back on the minors. With five of the previous year's panel Tipperary were expected to do well and fulfilled that expectation in defeating Clare. The Munster final was in Killarney and ended in a draw. Conal had to experience the pangs of defeat to Cork in the replay at Kilmallock eleven days later. Playing at centreback in 1987, Conal experienced similar agony at the ultimate stage. The Munster championship was won with victories over Limerick and Cork, the AI.Ireland semi-final impressively against Galway and hopes were high against Offaly in the All-Ireland. However, defeat was their lot by two points. 

Born in Cashel in 1969 Conal went to the National School on the Green and later to the C.B.S. He was introduced to competitive hurling in the school leagues. An under-12 west title came in 1981 but defeat by Holycross-Ballycahill in the county semi-final. Real success came in 1983 with the under-14 urban-rural county final, beating Toomevara in the final. Conal was one of four from Cashel, with Joe McGrath, Arthur Fitzell and Michael Perdue, to make the Tony Forrestal team, which beat Kilkenny in the final. There was less success at under-16 in 1985. Cashel got to the county final to be beaten by Toomevara. There was consolation in the interdivisional under-16 competition for the Garda Cup when Conal captained the west to their first success. 

Parallel with this club success came substantial school success with Cashel CBS. There was an impressive crop of young players there during these years. The Rice Cup final was lost to Mitchelstown in 1983 but the under-I5 Corn na Phadraig was won. Two Croke Cups followed and two Fitzgerald Cups as well as one McGabhann and Conal captained the Kinane Cup team to victory in 1986. 

He made his debut with the Cashel senior team in 1986 and won his first of four Crosco Cup medals, the others were in 1990, 1994 and 1996. The following year he captained Cashel to a minor hurling title but lost the county semi-final. In 1988 there was a west senior medal but defeat at the hands of Borrisoleigh in the county semi-final 

In the meantime Conal had gone to UCD. in 1987 to study for his B.Comm. Later he was to get an MBS in Organisational Behaviour. During his time there he played Fitzgibbon Cup for four years, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, without success. Finals were lost in 1989 and 1991, the most disappointing being the former of the two. Having beaten UCC, who had dominated the competition for years in the semi-final, UCD. expected to win the final but were surprisingly beaten by NIHE, Limerick. 

Conal played at under-21 level for three years. In 1988 he played at centreback when the county were defeated by Cork. Success came in 1989 with a glorious victory over Offaly at Portlaoise but disappointment was their lot when, in the 1990 final at the same venue, they were beaten by Kilkenny. 

Conal had been drafted into the panel for the All-Ireland senior final in 1988. He eventually made his debut on the team at comerback against Waterford in the league at Dungarvan in October. He dropped out of the league in the Spring in order to concentrate on the Fitzgibbon but was recalled for the semi-final. The final was lost against Galway. By this stage Conal had shown he was capable of holding down a position on the team and he made his championship debut against Limerick in the summer of 1989, as a replacement for the injured John Kennedy. By the time of the All-Ireland he had established himself as a fixture on the team. The winning of the All-Ireland medal was a high point and it was to be capped by an All-Star Award at the end of the year. It was to be the first of two, the second two years later. 

The year 1990 was in many ways forgettable for Conal. Tipperary were beaten by Cork in the championship. Conal lost the All-Ireland under-21 final. Cashel seniors were beaten by Holycross-Ballycahill in the county final. The under-21 team were beaten by Toomevara in the county semi-final. There was some consolation, mostly in football. Conal won an under-21 football medal when Cashel surprised Clonmel Commercials in the final at Kilsheelan. Also, in that year, as well as winning the west senior hurling championship, Cashel won their one and only west senior football championship. There was also an Oireachtas medal. 

In contrast 1991 was a wonderful year. Conal won his second All-Ireland, beating Kilkenny in the final. The second All-Star followed. Cashel senior hurlers won their first ever county senior championship and went on to claim the Munster club championship. It was a year to be savoured. 

At this stage of his career Conal was only twenty-one years of age and his achievements were impressive by any standard. Unfortunately, the graph of success wasn't to continue rising. During the remainder of the nineties disappointment and frustration were to be his lot. Two National League medals were to be won in 1994 and 1999 but by that stage these medals had become a kind of debased coinage. A Munster senior medal was won in 1993. The most frustrating year was 1997 when both the Munster and All-Ireland finals were lost. A minor consolation was a Railway Cup medal in the same year. 

At club level there were also disappointments. Three senior divisional medals were won in 1993, 1994 and 1995 but there was no further advancement. The most galling of these defeats was in the county semi-final of 1994 against Nenagh. As Conal looks back from the new Millennium his greatest regrets at club level were the loss to Kiltormer in March 1992 and the loss of the 1990 county final to Holycross-Ballycahill. His other major regrets were losing the 1989 Fitzgibbon final and the double defeat by Clare in 1997. 

Probably the most frustrating thing Conal had to contend with in the nineties was injury. From 1991 onwards injury was a constant factor in his sporting life. There wasn't a year in which he didn't miss a game through injury. He broke a bone in his back in a college game in 1991 and his back suffered after that. He had an operation in 1997. Before the operation he suffered from sciatica. Apart from this major injury there were many more. His nose was broken four times, his cheek bone twice, all the fingers on his left hand at least once and to these can be added hamstrings, groin strains, calf-muscles, thigh muscles and his Achilles tendon. 

On the question of his favourite position he believes it depended on his age. He started as a forward but up to 1989 he preferred the centreback position. After that he slotted into wingback. However, he has a hankering after the forward line but believes to play there needs a higher level of fitness than a back requires. 

Assessing Conal's ability as a hurler is less than easy. Many would say he was the most skilful hurler of all the Bonnars. His greatest strength on the field of play was his anticipation, his ability to be in the right place at the right time. He was also good at intercepting a ball and at picking up the breaking ball behind a line of play. Babs Keating remembers him for his athleticism and had him marked out for the Tipperary panel a year before he was selected. Anther quality remarked on is his leadership qualities. He was good at motivating people and through leading by example. Some of his former team mates recall that when the chips were down, when the challenge was greatest, Conal rose to the occasion. A fine example of such a display was against Clonoulty-Rossmore in the 1999 west championship. They particularly recall his display against Wexford and Clare in 1997. Much of his display against Jamesie O'Connor in the latter game was forgotten in the aftermath of defeat. It may come as a surprise to those who know Conal that he suffered from lack of confidence in his later years. This is the opinion of some of those who played with him and they attribute it to the difficulties he encountered with his back, which prevented him from giving the performance he would like to have given. Overall there is a high appreciation of his talent, skill and commitment among those who played with him and they have a high respect for his achievements.

Jack Gleeson, Cashel West Tipperary G.A.A. by J.J. Kennedy. Pub. by the West Tipp G.A.A. Board, 2001, pp 401-402

Jack Gleeson, Cashel

West Tipperary G.A.A. by J.J. Kennedy. Pub. by the West Tipp G.A.A. Board, 2001, pp 401-402


'He was a very strong hurler". "He had great courage was willing to face anything". "He never gave less than his best for the team". These are some of the statements that one hears of Jack Gleeson of Shanballa, the Cashel man who played for Rockwell Rovers. as well as his own parish, the hurler who left Cashel for Roscrea in his prime and won All Irelands with Tipperary and London Irish. 

Jack's father, Nicholas, played with the old Racecourse team and he was a fanatical follower of the game of hurling. Into the Second World War, Nicholas and his boon companion, John Mannion, used to cycle to matches in Thurles. Both were then into their seventies. As an acquaintance of theirs put it: "Everyone's character was safe in their company because they spoke of nothing but the hurley and the ball". Nicholas himself was a Drombane man, where his father, a school teacher lived. A brother of his, Timothy, who later taught in Cloneyharp N.S. hurled with the Thurles Blues and won two All Irelands. He also played at Fontenoy in 1910. 

In the same year Jack was born. His father, who worked at Rockwell College, married a girl from Carrick-on-Suir. As well as Jack they had two daughters, one of whom died in 1939. The second, Helena, still lives in the family home at Shanballa. 

Jack attended Templenoe N.5. and later Cashel C.B.S. He showed good hurling ability and was vice-captain of a very successful C.B.5. team in 1927 that won ten out of thirteen games. This success led them to enter the Harty Cup competition in 1928 but they were beaten by Carrick-on-Suir in the first round. 

When he finished school Jack went to Rockwell to work as a butcher. It seems that he began to play for Rockwell Rovers. at this stage of his career. He doen'st figure for Cashel until 1931 when the team was beaten by Knockavilla-Donaskeigh in the West final. In fact his name doesn't appear in the earlier games and he may have been drafted in for the final. This suggestion is borne out by the fact that he didn't play for Cashel in 1932 but, instead, turned out for Rockwell Rovers. He was definitely on the Cashel team that won a West final for the first time in 1933 in junior hurling. The team was beaten in the county semi-final by Bawnmore at Nenagh. 

In the following year Jack Gleeson played an important part in Cashel's first senior hurling victory. He played a dominant role in this victory at centre field over the Clonoulty Cusacks. He also played a major part in the county semi-final which Cashel lost to Moycarkey\Borris. According to one newspaper account: "Gleeson was the hero of the team and he certainly deserved all the praise he got. Jack also played on the county junior hurling team which was defeated in the Munster championship. 

His hurling career with Cashel came to an end the following year when the team was surprisingly beaten by Knockavilla-Donaskeigh. Either at the end of 1935 or the beginning of 1936 Jack moved,to Roscrea to take up employment with Roscrea Meat Products Ltd. He played with the local club that year and helped the team to win the North final of 1937. As luck would have it Cashel were West champions that year and the two sides played the county semi-final at Borrisoleigh. Cashel were behind by nine points at half time but came storming back to win by a goal. Gleeson got plenty of slagging from the Cashel supporters in Borrisoleigh that day. 

Jack Gleeson played in the county colours for one year and won a senior All Ireland medal. He had a short reign. He came on the team in 1937, played at centrefield with Jimmy Cooney, and was dropped after the All Ireland which was played at Killamey that year. 

Tipperary created a surprise in the Munster final when they defeated the famous Limerick team that was regarded as one of the greatest hurling combinations in the history of the G.A.A. The star of the victorious team was Tommy Doyle but, according to one newspaper report, Jack Gleeson vindicated his selection at centrefield: "Perhaps too much was expected of Cooney, but whatever it was, Gleeson stole most of his thunder and justified the confidence of the selectors. A rugged, rather than a spectacular worker, he revelled in the hard exchanges and staked a very strong claim to a permanent berth on the team". 

Tipperary had a rather facile win in the All Ireland final at Killamey over Kilkenny. The match was played outside Croke Park because of the construction of the Cusack Stand and the final score was 3-11 to 0-3 in Tipperary's favour. Jack Gleeson was again at midfield and forty two years later a fellow player on that day, Bill O'Donnell, in a get-together of some of the team reminisced thus: "We missed most of all the pair who provided the link between defence and attack, a partnership that seldom gave best to any two, the hardworking, never-give-up, Jack Gleeson, and one of Ireland's greatest midfielders ever, Jimmy Cooney". 

Not many followers of Gaelic Games realise that Jack Gleeson has a distinction which is possibly unique: he won two All Irelands in successive years with different counties and in different countries! He left Roscrea soon after winning the All Ireland in September 1937 and went to work at Clover Meats at Waterford. While there he fell in love with a girl who emigrated to London. Jack followed in 1938 and started work in Walls meat factories. He joined London-Irish and won on their team in the All Ireland junior hurling championship. They defeated Cork in the final, which was played in London that year and, thus, Jack won a second All Ireland medal. 

Jack Gleeson married and settled down in London. He had two sons. He did well at his job and when he died in 1970 he was a successful man. His remains were brought home for burial and he was interred in the family plot at Kilvalure, Drombane, in the company of his father and grandfather.