Monday 29 April 2013

Tipperary's GAA Story: 1884-1934

The Late Canon Philip Fogarty wrote Tipperary's GAA Story covering the first fifty years from it's birth in 1884. With reference to the year 1887 he wrote the following:
First Hurling All-Ireland—Thurles Champions 
Five counties contested the first national championship in the native pastime—Galway, Wexford, Clare, Tipperary and Kilkenny. Galway beat Wexford, and went into the final. Thurles, representing Tipperary, met no opposition from Dublin. Their first game was in the second round at Nenagh against the Clare "Smith O'Briens". The score was Tipp 1-8 to Clare 0-4. The Tipperary—Kilkenny (Tullaroan) match was played at Urlingford on a Friday and was refereed with much difficulty by Frank Maloney. Tippeary won by 4-7 to nil. Easter Sunday 1888 was the date of the final—a date that for Tipperary Gaeldom will retain a glamour all it's own. Birr was the venue and Galway the opposition. Heartened by their smashing victory over Kilkenny, the Thurles hurlers, bold and confident, made the journey by special train. The game was an "epic", with the tension at a climax near the finish. At the interval Thurles led by a point—a margin that was a reflex of the play. When sides changed, the fighting blood of the West became aroused, and danger threatened for a while, but the Fates decreed that the honour should go to Tipperary when Tommy Healy scored a goal. The final score was Tipperary 1-2 Galway Nil.
 Canon Fogarty wrote the following concerning the GAA activities within Tipperary in 1887:
All-Star Handigrippers—Kilcash "Redoubtables" 
The handigrippers of Kilcash, the most dreaded team in Tipperary, disappeared in 1888 because of the parish rule, but up to then they were: Tom and Ned Kelly; Pat Ryan; Jim and John Kehoe; Tom and James Butler; William and James Shea; Mick and Peter Tobin; Tom and Pat Lawless; Pat and Tom Stokes; Mick Dee; Jim Slattery; Tom Carey; Jack Commins; Tom Prendergast; Mick Fleming; William Gibbs; Dick Crotty; Phil Callanan; Mick Lyons; Jim Hennessy; John Harney; Patsy Neill and Pat Foran.

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.

Monday 22 April 2013

Romantic Slievenamon

Romantic Slievenamon was first published in the Autumn of 1954. It was described as a "Tipperary Anthology of History, Folklore and Song". Its editor was James Maher of Kickham Street, Mullinahone, Co. Tipperary—sadly no longer with us. I will, as best I can, reproduce hereon a letter which Mr. Maher received from the then Minister for Education, the late General Richard Mulcahy. The letter eruditely highlights the quality of the contributions to the Anthology:


Lissonfield House,
5th October, 1954.

My Dear Mr. Maher,

In fascinating detail and resounding tones you have assembled a story whispered to us many years ago by our Carrick poet, Denis A. McCarthy, when from his Boston exile he wrote "The Wind from Slieve-na-mon":- 
The magic wind from Slieve-na-mon—sometimes it was a blast
Of faint enchanted bugles blown from Ireland's glorious past
How many a dream it brought of days when Ireland's banner shone
And Irish cheers were mingled with the wind from Slieve-na-mon
As I glance through your pages, this poem comes clamant to my mind as an appropriate overture to your work. I am attaching a copy hoping that you may find room for it as such—an epitome of your material and your intent. 
It is vividly clear that here in your Anthology is no backwater pool where some flotsam of history and of literature has collected itself from a current which flows no longer. Each succeeding page testifies that here is part of the living seed-bed of a people's tradition; part of the vital bloodstream of a nation's spirit. We have here, truly imaged, the heart and the will of a nation that still moves purposefully in a wide world, in which it is of much importance that it would even more purposefully to-morrow. 
To-day Ireland has risen above the causes of her former woes; she is rising above their effects; she is free to sing the song of her own heart. We preserve the remnants of Carrick Castle, but its walls re-echo the words addressed to them by McCarthy:- 
O, ruined keep; I may not weep
your darkness and decay,
Your hour is fled,your power is dead-
the people rule to-day; 
The root of the strength and purpose which will maintain that rule lies in our language, our literature, our music, our architecture, our folklore. Our gratitude and admiration go out to you for the teeming measure in which you have signposted the pathways of the Valley which has sheltered and fostered so much of this treasure; and for the monument of example you have given to those who with similar faith and purpose—do chum gloire Dé agus onóra na hEireann—would signpost other regions of our tradition. May these paths continue to be travelled in the confidence that prays: 
Ar eagla na h-abhann do bheith doimhin,
Á Rí na Foidhne, glac mo lámh;
Ar eagla na tuile bheith tréan, A Mhuire, féach agus ná fág.
Beir mo mholadh agus mo chéad bheannacht,