Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the G.A.A.
It was announced at Congress 2008 that the 125th Anniversary of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael would be celebrated at all levels of the association during 2009. A national co-ordination group under the chairmanship of Jarlath Burns was set up to prepare a calendar of events and their job is to ensure that all units of the association are focused on this milestone and are making plans to celebrate it in appropriate ways.
The expectation is that all provincial councils and county boards will set up special 125 committees to coordinate the body's anniversary plans. The national coordination group would like to hear of these plans, will also offer advice and discuss appropriate ways for celebrating the anniversary.
Before discussing the plans of the Tipperary G.A.A. 125 Committee, which was announced by county chairman, John Costigan, in July, it is interesting to recall the celebrations in the association on previous anniversary milestone.
The silver jubilee in 1909 wasn't celebrated at all! In fact it passed unnoticed both by supporters and critics of the association. According to G.A.A. historian, Marcus de Búrca 'Perhaps the omission on the central council's part is an indication of its forward-looking approach in 1909; in its work to expand the association it was now more concerned with the future than with the past.' Significantly by June 1909 all 32 counties had a board affiliated to the central council for the first time. In the same year the permanent transfer to Dublin of the annual congress marked a significant step towards the extablishment of a genuine 32-county G.A.A.
The golden jubilee celebrations in 1934 were elaborate. The celebrations were inaugurated on Easter Sunday at the annual congress, held specially in Thurles. Before the start of congress there was a reception by the central council both for its own delegates and distinguished visitors, the presentation of congratulatory messages from the Government, the Catholic hierarchy, local bodies and cultural associations, a religous service conducted by the association's patron, Archbishop Harty and the unveiling of a plaque at Hayes's Hotel. Among the guests were three members of the victorious Tipperary team in the first hurling All-Ireland, Michael Cusack's son, John, and from the United States, John Quane of the notable Tipperary G.A.A. family of the 1885-1895 period.
Five months later the jubilee celebrations were held in Dublin. There was a parade through the city ot Croke Park, where a crowd of 35,000, which included a number of dignatories, watched a series of games played by school teams. The two Dublin daily newspapers published special supplements to mark the occasion and the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs issued a special commemorative postage stanp portraying a hurler in action.
The 75th anniversary celebrations in 1959 were less elaborate. The main event was the opening of the new Hogan Stand at Croke Park, a magnificent double-decker affair running along the entire west side of the stadium and free of all obstructive pillars, which had cost well over a quarter of a million pounds. It was formally opened on June 11 of that year in the presence of President Sean T. O'Kelly. After an historical pageant devised by the Kerry writer, Bryan MacMahon, in which units of the Army participated, the attendance was entertained by an interprovincial hurling match, the postponed 1959 Railway Cup final. Probably no more appropriate event than the opening of this stand, symbolising the growth and confidence of the G.A.A. and strengthening Croke Park's position as the finest sports stadium in Ireland, could have marked the 75th anniversary.
It is unnecessary to recall the many events that commemorated the centenary of the association in 1984, the most imporatnt of which was the staging of the All-Ireland senior hurling final between Cork and Offaly at Thurles. Tipperary people will remember other events such as the march of clubs before the county convention and the presentation of club histories in an exhibition. Also the numerous club histories that were written. There was also a national presentation of the history of different units of the G.A.A. in the RDS. And, there was the Centenary Cup, an open draw hurling and football intercounty competition.
The 125 celebrations will be on a smaller scale but they will be used to highlight the achievements of the association as well as to make the members more aware of its significance and its place in the history of the country.
Among the proposals of the county 125 Committee is the official opening of the newly refurbished Semple Stadium and the turning on of the floodlights by an t-Uachtarán, Nicky Brennan, in February. It is hoped to have this done in conjunction with a major National Hurling League fixture on a Saturday evening with a major promotion to maximise attendance. There will be half-time entertainment.
From very early on a Michael Hogan Weekend in the middle of May at Grangemockler has been planned. This will include two inter-county games, between Tipperary and Dublin in football, and between Tipperary and Kilkenny in hurling. Other events would include Mass and a wreath-laying ceremony, the unveiling of a memorial honouring Michael Hogan and a public lecture on some aspect of G.A.A. history.
One of the highlights of the year will be the Munster hurling final. The county board has applied to the Munster Council for the provincial final to be played at Thurles, regardless of the teams that are in it. A major hurling festival at Thurles would coincide with the ocasion. There would be an RTE program such as Up for the Match, from Thurles.
Another intention would be the updating of the Tipperary G.A.A. Website, which would be enlarged to include all the records of all aspects of the G.A.A. in the county, such as all hurling and football records, including the teams that represented the county in all grades every year, handball, Scór, camogie, ladies football and rounders.
Related to this would be the encouragement of every club to have its own website. At the moment only 29 Tipperary clubs have their websites up to date. Also, only 27 clubs from the county are on the Croke Park Museum, Club Database. Many clubs have published histories up to 1884 but now need to be updated. Clubs without a history will be encouraged to get get them written.
It is envisaged that there will be a Club Day on April 26. This day will be free from official fixtures so that clubs can organise their own events to celebrate 125. What the events might be will be left to the imagination of individual clubs. There was a similar day in 1984.
Schools will also be involved in the celebration of the 125 anniversary. Various suggestions are being explored at the moment.
The year's events will be concluded with a major event on November 1. A meeting of the central council might be held in Thurles. There could be a lecture followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at Archbishop Croke Memorial in Liberty Square. Cumann na Sean Ghaeil might consider holding their presentation night to coincide with this date. Other ideas on how to celebrate the occasion will be welcome.
To date the committee has met three times and are still in the process of finalising a program of events. The committee is as follows: chairman, Seamus J. King, secretary, Liam Ó Donnchú, John Costigan, Ed Donnelly, Sean Nugent, Denis Floyd, Seamus O'Doherty.
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 2009, pp 33