Recent G.A.A. Publications
First of all I should like to address publications within the county. The good news is that two more club histories are nearing completion. The most immediate is the Newcastle club history, which is due for publication at the Park Hotel, Clonmel on November 28. I haven't seen the book but understand it contains about 300 pages and is a comprehensive history of the club in the Newcastle area since it was founded in the late 1920s.
The second history is of the Cahir club and it isn't clear yet whether it will be ready this side of Christmas. Colm Ó Flaherty and Mattie Hussey have been working away on this work for some time. Mattie Hussey is a distinguished ex-patriate of the town, living in Dublin, and has numerous books to his credit so we can expect a high standard with this publication.
The county 125 committee exhorted clubs during the year to get working on their club histories where these didn't exist or, where they were written around the time of the Centenary Year, to update them. Sean O'Donnell is working away on an update of the history of St. Mary's. The original volume covered the first sixty years of the club, 1929 to 1989, and Sean is covering the next twenty years. He hopes to have it completed during 2010.
Another update is the Toomevara club history, which appeared first in 1985. Paddy O'Brien and a team of researches are working on this. The work involved on such updates is made easier by the availability of records and published material now, in contrast to the early years of a club. In some cases this ease is offset by the sheer number of competitions being played.
Work in Progress
Work is in progresss on a number of publications. Liam Ó Donnchú is hoping that the first volume of the Thurles Sarsfields story will see the light of day during 2010. Liam has been somewhat derailed from his task by the publication of the history of Pouldine National School, which is due for completion this year.
P. J. Maxwell, who has contributed so much to research into the G.A.A. in the county, is working on the Nenagh Eire Óg history. This is a big story and P. J. is hoping it will be published by the end of 2010. Ardfinnan G.A.A. Club have also started work on their history and have drafted in former South Board secretary, Micheal Ó Meara to write it up.The Galtee Rovers club are hoping their history will see the light of day next year, which will be the 125th year of the club's existence.
Martin Burke's monumental volume 2 of the Mid board pictorial history is due for publication at the Templemore Arms on November 21. Everyone familiar with volume 1 will know what a comprehensive visual record this will be. Martin has been an indefatigable researcher of pictures from the past and he has done the Mid and the county some service in this publication. The textual history of the board will be commenced in the New Year and is expected to take two years to complete.
On a much smaller scale but instilled with a lot of local pride and belief in one's club is a booklet entitled Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the G.A.A. 1884-2009 and published by the Clonoulty-Rossmore G.A.A. Club. The club didn't get round to doing anything for Lá na gClub in May but had their own special Lá na gClub in October. They decided to produce a booklet telling about their achievements in the past and the present. And, because the club is so much a part of the parish and so many parishioners are part of the club, the achievements are as much about the parish as they are of the club. So, the booklet invites the people of Clonoulty-Rossmore to be proud of their achievements and with this in mind a copy of the booklet was distributed to every household in the parish. There is also a longer aim in producing the booklet, that it may whet the members' appetite for a fully-fledged history of the club. The booklet is available from the secretary of Clonoulty-Rossmore for •5 (plus postage).
Without a doubt The Gaelic Athletic Association 1884-2009, a collection of fourteen essays edited by Mike Cronin, Paul Rouse and William Murphy, is a major contribution to the 125th Anniversary of the foundation of the G.A.A.
Apart from the intrinsic worth of each essay and its contribution to the history of the G.A.A. over 125 years, the book brings together a collection of eminent historians, who turn their attention to an organisation, which has been a pivotal force in Irish life since its foundation, and yet has been ignored by cultural historians, who have always believed that the interests and pursuits of the hoi polloi in society are of more importance than the occupations of the masses, of which sport is an example per excellence.
It is not the intention of this review to give detailed comment on the essays. Suffice it is to say that Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh has a must-read piece 'The G.A.A. as a force in Irish Society'. If you want Michael Cusack in concise form, read Paul Rouse, who spoke at the Grangemockler weekend. American academic, Angie Gleason, has a challenging piece on 'Hurling in Medieval Ireland'. There are more, such as 'Gaelic Games and the Movies', most of them stimulating, and all of them readable. The book, published by the Irish Academic Press, retails at •29.95, but can be got for less.
A companion to the above work is The G.A.A.: A People's History by two of the above authors, Mike Cronin and Paul Rouse, together with Mark Duncan, and published by the Collins Press at •29.99. Containing over 400 pages it reflects the diversity, the passion and the sheer fascination of 125 years of G.A.A. history. Lavishly illustrated and including photographs that have never appeared in print before, the book outlines how Gaelic games and the scoial world which revolves around the Gaelic Athletic Association, has shaped the lives of generations of Irish people at home and abroad. From parades and ballads to epic journeys across land and sea, this history of the G.A.A. is as much about what happened off the field as what happened on it. As the cover sleeve caption puts it 'this book is about how generations pf Irish people have spent their time in the hours between work and sleep, in thrall to their games and the Association that organises them.'
Related thematically to the above and covering much of the ground is An Illustrated History of the G.A.A. by Eoghan Corry, published by Gill & Macmillan for •16.99. It traces the history of the Gaeilc Athletic Association in pictures from it foundation in the late nineteenth century through to its continuing success at the heart of sporting culture in Ireland. Again it includes some very rare photographs.
Serving its purpose in a different way is The Liam MacCarthy Cup by Sean Óg Ó Ceallacháin and Owen McCann, which deals with the famous cup from the year it was first presented to Limerick captain, Bob McConkey, after winning the 1921 All-Ireland, which wasn't played until 1923. Did you know that more goals were scored by Limerick in that final, eight, than by any other team in all the finals since? A number have scored seven, including Tipperary in their 1951 win over Wexford. Another point the authors are at pains to emphasise is that his name is MacCarthy and not McCarthy, which has been used for so long. As well as giving short accounts of each final (and O'Ceallaghan attended his first in 1932) there are a number of appendixes giving facts and figures, scorers and teams, the winning captains and winning rankings.
The only disappointing thing about the book is the use of the initials rather than the full first names of the players. In the light of the wonderful research that P. J. Maxwell has done in including the full christian names of all 17,000 players who have played for Tipperary in hurling and foootball championships in all grades, the omission of full Christian names is a glaring one. The book, which is published by Gill and Macmillan and costs €21.99, was launched in the old House of Lords in the Bank of Ireland, College Green, Dublin. It was ironic to see King Billy on horseback staring down on the proceedings from one of the fine tapestries on the wall.
It's been getting better by the year but this year's county senior hurling final program excels anything that went before it. A lavish production of sixty-four pages, it has everything and is a credit to programme editor, Ger Corbett. I would go so far as to call it a mini-Yearbook, including as it does even an obituary section! The quality of the pictures is outstanding, the amount of information is phenomenal. Nobody involved is forgotten and the previews of the two games are extensive. A lovely section is called County Final Memories in which players from different clubs recall their first county final. As a gesture to the 125 Anniversary of the G.A.A. there is a fine appreciation of the oldest surviving All-Ireland senior player in the county, Jimmy Butler Coffey by P. J. Maxwell, as well as some pitures out of the past. There's a six-page spread on the Borrisoleigh teams of 1981, 1983 and 1986, who were honoured on the day. Definitely deserving a McNamee Award!
There's an article in the Tipperary Historical Journal 2009 that everyone should read. It's a socio-economic profile of Tipperary Hurlers, 1895-1900 and its done by County Waterford man, Tom Hunt, who is a teacher at Mullingar and who has done similar studies of sports, including G.A.A. in County Westmeath. Players and officials from Tubberadora, Suir View Rangers, Horse and Jockey and Two Mile Borris were used in the analysis, 96 players in all.
It's not the usual kind of analysis we get in G.A.A. books as it investigates the social background, occupations and family ties of the men who played Gaelic Games in these clubs.
And what does the study tell us? The men who played hurling were 19-30 years of age and only 6% of them were married. Most of then, 83.3% were involved in agricultural pursuits with the vast number of them from the bigger farms. Farm labourers were under-represented. While they were represented 2-1 in rural society they were only 3.4 to 1 on the teams. Just as most of the players came from bigger farms, they also lived in the better houses. Houses were divided into four classes and most of the players resided in class 2 houses. Well worth a read. The report concludes:
'The G.A.A. in mid-Tipperary in the 1890s attracted its support mainly from the farming community but all classes of rural society involved themselves in the association. The G.A.A. thus provided those who were previously recreationally disenfranchised with an outlet for sporting involvement. No other sporting organisation of the day promoted a similar inclusiveness. The organisation gained its greatest strength from the more substantial farmers in the region.'
From across the border in Limerick comes a very controversial book which sets out to examine the inside story of Limerick hurling. One All-Ireland since 1940 is something that all true followers of the game in the county find it difficult to swallow. What is the reason? Unlimited Heartbreak by Henry Martin, published by the Collins Press for €19.95 looks for the answers through interviews with over 100 passionate players, dedicated mentors and officials, who witnessed everything first-hand and have a story to tell. The interviews provide a unique perspective on victories, defeats, controversies, rows and had-luck stories of what went wrong and where it went wrong. The prone form of Dave Clarke stretched on the gress at Semple Stadium after Limerick's shock defeat by Clare in the 1995 Munster senior hurling final, which illustrates the cover, says a lot about the theme of the book.
Finally I want to mention two more books, Brian Cody's and Donal Óg Cusack's autobiographies, both of which are immensely interesting. The Cody book is ghost written by Martin Breheny and retails at €19.95. The Cusack book has got huge publicity because of the revelation of his sexual orientation, while the book has so much more to say. It is ghost written by Tom Humphries.
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 2010, pp. 92-93