Sunday, 28 April 2013

Jim Stapleton: First Among Captains

The first All-Ireland senior hurling championship took place in 1887. The final was held in Birr on 1st April 1888. It was a 21-a-side game and was won by Tipperary—represented by Thurles—who defeated Galway—represented by Meelick—with a score of 1-2 to Nil. Jim Stapleton was captain of the winning team. Charles Steward Parnell and Michael Davitt were the leading political figures in Ireland at the time. Both were among the first patrons of the GAA. The land of Ireland was in the grip of landlords—many of them absentee—and the plight of the tenants was, in many cases, woeful.

In 2002, in his book Captains of the Ash, the late Bob Fullam wrote as follows:
Jim Stapleton was born in Thurles town in 1863. It was hurling territory and he grew up playing the game and loving it. In his hurling prime he stood 5'10'' in his stockinged feet and turned the scales at 12st 7lbs. Add to that a powerful pair of shoulders and arms, and you had what an old-timer once described as "a powerful bullet of a man". Jim had courage and stamina in abundance. All in all, he was a tower of strength to his colleagues and a formidable proposition for opposing teams. Off the field and on, he was known as a sincere and honourable man.
Bob Fullam also wrote that in 1947—two years before he died—Jim Stapleton did an interview with a well known GAA writer of the time, P.D. Mehigan-Carberry, in which he recorded the correct list of players that played on the Tipperary team on that historic occasion as follows:

James Stapleton (captain), Martin McNamara, Edward Murphy, Thomas Burke, Jer Dwyer, Matthew Maher, Thomas Maher, Andrew Maher (all of Thurles); Thomas Carroll (Moyne); John Dunne and Pat Leahy (Fennor); Edward Bowe (Leigh); John Mockler (Newhill); Thomas Healy (Coolcroo); Thomas Stapleton (Littleton); Dan Ryan, Jer Ryan (Ballybeg); Jer.Dwyer (Ballyvinane); Pat Leamy, Pat Lambe, M.Carroll (Drombane).

Jim Stapleton was not the original captain of the team, but due to a dispute over the Railway travel expenses, seven players, including Thurles captain Dinny Maher, were left standing on the station platform on the morning of the match. Five of the others were J.Sullivan, E.Leamy, C.Callanan, D.Davoren and T.Butler.

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