Féile na nGael - 1990
When the Feile na nGael initiative became a reality nearly two decades ago, under the guiding influence of Tipperary men Seamus O' Riain, Tomás O'Bar6id and Eamon de Stafort, few could have envisaged its impact on the ancient game of hurling, and the progress it achieved, according to G.A.A. President, John Dowling, when he spoke at the official launch of the 20th Feile in Thurles on June 16th. Feile had grown from a noble and ambitious ideal to become a major national movement.
Feile na nGael, the Coca Cola sponsored festival of hurling, camogie and handball for the under-14s, was returning to the place of its birth in 1971 for the first time. The work of organising this major event was shared by a National Executive under the chairmanship of Padraig Mac Floinn of Co. Down and secretary, Padraig P. Guthrie of Co. Clare and a County Executive, under the chairmanship of Donal Shanahan of Toomevara and secretary, Denis Royd, of Newport. The other members were Seamus J. King, Cashel, Liam O'Donnchu of Thurles Sarsfields, Liam McGrath of Holycross-Ballycahill, Eugene Ryan of Moneygall, James Gleeson of Templederry, Ken Conway of Clonmel, Marion Graham of Littleton, Eleanor O'Connell of Thurles and P. J. Harrington of Upperchurch.
The County Executive had the task of organising the advent of under-14 teams from 31 counties and having them hosted by clubs in the county. Because 49 teams from within the county were participating in the festival of hurling 9 of them had to be hosted also. The 80 teams were graded into 5 divisions. In addition sixteen camogie teams, 17 handball teams and a number of skills representatives had to be accommodated.
The actual competitions began on Friday evening, continued through Saturday and the finals were played on Sunday. However, earlier, in the week, beginning on Monday, June 18, visitations were made to about fifty primary schools in the county by well-known G.A.A. and media personalities such as John Dowling, Liam O'Maolmhichil, Michael 0 Muircheartaigh and Mick Dunne. The highlight of these visits, for many of the youngsters, was the gift pack each boy and girl received, compliments of Coca Cola. Another event was a Golf Slogadh, organised on the Thursday at Thurles Gold Club, in which 55 teams of four participated. The proceeds from this event are to help finance the special celebrations for the 21st in 1991.
In all the years of Feile a Tipperary team has never won Division 1. This year the county celebrated its first victory when Durlas Óg were triumphant. In winning the Christy Ring trophy for the premier event they beat another Tipperary team, Kilruane MacDonaghs, by 2-4 to 1-4. A Tipperary team also featured in the Division II final, Boherlahan-Dualla, who went down to Rathnure from Co. Wexford 2-3 to 2-1. There was another Tipperary victory in Division III when Loughmore-Castleiney got the better of Antrim champions, Loughgiel-Shamrocks by 1-3 to 1-1. The final of Division IV for the Dr. Birch trophy was contested by Louth and Kerry with the Leinster side successful. Both the contestants in Division V were also from Tipperary, with Fr. Sheehy's defeating Aherlow by 2-4 to 2-1. Both teams fielded a girl in the final. Overall a very satisfactory weekend for Tipperary hurling with no less than six of the ten finalists coming from the county.
One of the highlights of the final day was the grand parade through the town. This was a colourful and enjoyable spectacle which saw 112 clubs from all over the country marching in club colours and behind their club banners. They marched past a reviewing stand in Liberty Square where President Hillery, who was attending his tenth and final Feile, and G.A.A. and Civic dignitaries were seated.
The parade assembled at Semple Stadium after a special open air Mass at which the Patron of the G.A.A., Most Rev. Dr. Dermot Clifford, was principal concelebrant, and with twenty marching bands to liven up proceedings, they left the Stadium going to Liberty Square via Parnell Street, past the reviewing stand in the Square and back to the Stadium via Friar Street. The impressive array of colour, sound and movement took over an hour to pass the reviewing stand.
At the conclusion of the parade prizes were awarded as follows: Hurling: Best dressed team - Lorrha. Best Tippeary banner - Marlfield. Best visiting banner - Loughgiel Shamrocks, Antrim. Camogie: Best dressed team - Durlas Og. Best Tipperary banner - Burgess. Best visiting banner - Oisin's Glenariffe, Co. Antrim.
On their return to Semple Stadium the participants were addressed by President Hillery prior to the commencement of the final.
The event was a major success with a couple of exceptions. Conspicuously absent was any appreciable publicity from the national media. The weekend brought 3,000 hurlers, camogie players and handballers together for a weekend in exciting competition and yet the scale of the organisation and participation scarcely merited a mention in the daily newspapers or R.T.E. Equally disappointing was the poor turnout in the streets of Thurles for the parade. The only thing one can say about the attendance is that it was a little bit better than the miserable turnout for the Centenary Parade in 1984.
These criticisms don't in any way take from the continued success and essential health of Feile na nGael. The enthusiasm and excitement of the under-fourteens over the four days was infectious. The vision and foresight of the three founding fathers was again realised. It was only fitting then that the three, Seamus O'Riain, Eamon de Stafort and Tomas Ó Bar6id, should have been honoured by a Civic Reception by Thurles Urban Council on the Thursday night. Later in the year they were also honoured by the Tipperary County Board. It was a small way of saying ,'Thank You' to three visionaries who thought up a brilliant idea nearly two decades ago and saw it go from success to success.
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 1991, pp 133-135