The 1895 All-Ireland Double Centenary
The centenary of the first All-Irelands played in Croke Park was celebrated on March 15. The day was chosen because it was exactly 100 years since the hurling and football All-Irelands of 1895 were played. On March 15, 1896 teams from Tubberadora and Tullaroan contested the hurling All-Ireland while teams from Arravale Rovers and Pierce (Navan) O’Mahony’s played in the football All-Ireland. It was only right and fitting that representatives and teams from the four clubs should be invited to Croke Park to commemorate the event one hundred years later.
Only eight years after the inauguration of the All-Ireland championships, the governing body of the G.A.A. was facing a crisis in regard to finding suitable venues at which to stage important fixtures.
By 1895 it was clear that something would have to be done in the wake of the recent debacles at major games - the Phoenix Park fiasco when the venue for the two All-Irelands had to be changed at virtually a few minutes notice; the 1894 All-Ireland football final replay at Thurles, which was unfinished and the lack of crowd control at the Dublin-Meath game in the same year at Clonturk Park in Drumcondra. The latter ground had served reasonably well in its day but, with the rapidly growing support for Gaelic games, it was imperative that the use of grounds capable of housing much larger crowds than heretofore be acquired.
The problem was that the G.A.A. was not in a financial position to embark on any expensive acquisitions. Renting suitable pitches was the only option and the grounds of the City and Suburban Racecourse and Amusements Company at Jones’s Road had been used with success for the 1895 Leinster semi-final and final. With this experience behind them the Central Council had no hesitation in fixing the 1895 All-Ireland finals for March 15, 1896 at the venue.
Under the astute direction of President Frank B. Dinneen and the General Secretary, R.T. Blake, no effort was spared to make the move to this new location and the staging of the first All-Irelands there was a huge success. For a week before the games the two sets of medals which were to be awarded to the winners were displayed in the window of Messrs Moore and Company, Grafton Street and tickets were on sale ‘all over the city’. According to a newspaper report the price of tickets was 6d (2.5p) to the trotting track and 1/- (5p) to the stands up to the Saturday before the finals. On Sunday the prices would be increased to 1/- (5p) and 1/6 (7.5p). The programme could hardly have been more attractive as, apart from the two games, the long puck and long kick championships were also down for decision. The events were timed thus: football final at 11.45am; hurling final at 1.00pm; long kick at 2.15pm and long puck at 2.30pm.
There was a delay in getting maters under way as the train carrying the Tipperary teams arrived late with the football game eventually starting at 1 pm. Only the football match lived up to expectations. Against the breeze Arravale Rovers failed to score in the first half during which Pierce O’Mahonys scored three points. However, the Tipperary side improved in the second half, scoring four points without reply from Meath. Willie Ryan notched the winning point seven minutes from the end to give Arravale Rovers victory by 0-4 to 0-3.
The Arravale Rovers team was as follows: Paddy Finn (capt.), Willie Ryan, Bob Quane, Jim Riordan, Mick Finn, M. ‘Jerry’ McInerney, Paddy Glasheen, Jack Carey, Mick Conroy, Dick Butler, Willie Ryan, Jack Heffernan, Jerry O’Brien, Paddy Daly, Batt Finn, Phil Dwyer, John Carew.
The hurling final, despite a brave showing by Kilkenny, especially in the open stages, gradually became a one-sided affair. Tipperary led by 1-6 to 1-0 at the interval and at the finish were easy winners by 6-8 to 1-0. One of the stars of Tubberadora’s success was Paddy Riordan, a Drombane man, to whom is attributed the distinction of scoring all his side’s total of 6-8 on the day. This score should give him the record for an All-Ireland final but, because it was never authenticated, the record is claimed by Michael ‘Gah’ Aherne, who scored 5-4 in Cork’s 6-12 to 1-0 win over Galway in the 1928 final. Paddy Riordan’s brother, Jim, played with Arravale Rovers on the same day. Mr. J.J. Kenny (Dublin) refereed both games and though there was no official figure issued, most estimates put the attendance at about 8,000. The size of this figure can be placed in context by the fact that the Ireland-Wales rugby international, played the previous day at Lansdowne Road attracted a crowd of 7,000. In fact the entire Welsh rugby panel were in attendance at Croke Park on the day.
The successful Tubberadora side was as follows: Mickey. Maher (capt.), E. Maher, Phil Byrne, W. Kerwick, John Maher, Denis Walsh, John Walsh, Peter Maher, T. Flanagan, Jas. Flanagan, Paddy Riordan, Jas Gleeson, Fergus Moriarity, John Connolly, John Maher, E. Brennan, Will Devane.
The proceedings of the historic afternoon at Jones’s Road concluded with the presentation of medals to the winning teams and to the individuals who had won the long puck and long kick competitions.
In a letter to the Irish Daily Independent on the Tuesday following the finals, the referee, J.J. Kenny, stated that the result of the football final was incorrect. According to his letter, he stated he should have disallowed one of the Tipperary scores for an infringement following a kick out from the Meath goal and that the correct result was a draw. However, no action was taken on the foot of this disclosure and, though there was a lengthy discussion at the next meeting of the Central Council, with Pierce O’Mahony’s reluctant to press the matter, the result was allowed to stand. At a later stage the Central Council presented a special set of medals to the Meath side with the inscription ‘Virtual Champions of Ireland, 1895’.
A Century Later
The commemoration on March l5, 1996 began with a luncheon for the officers of the four clubs involved in Croke Park. After the meal, which was attended also by G.A.A. officials and the Press, the President of the Association, Jack Boothman, addressed the group. He paid tribute to the men of the past whose endeavours helped set in motion two of the most exciting and cherished field games in the world, hurling and football. He had a special word of praise for famed Tubberadora, the home of so many great hurling names. On hand to receive the presentation of a framed commemorative scroll from Mr. Boothman was vice-chairman of the Boherlahan-Dualla club, P.J. Maher. In his words of thanks, the latter said the presentation would always have a special place in the hearts of his clubmen. The presentation to Arravale Rovers was accepted by club chairman, Tom Richardson, who spoke in praise of the men who gave a lifetime of service to the club. Tullaroan chairman, Ger Doheny, and Pierce O.Mahony chairman, Liam Currane, also received scrolls and spoke of the momentous occasion enjoyed by their respective clubs. The Tullaroan chairman remarked on the coincidence that he and the Tubberadora chairman were contemporaries at Pallaskenry College.
After the meal a limestone plaque was unveiled at the back of the Hogan stand inscribed thus:
Unveiled by Sean Boothman
Uachtaran Cumann Luthchleas Gael
15 Marta 1996
to commemorate the first All-Ireland finals
played in Croke Park 15 Marta 1896
Tubberadora V Tullaroan
Arravale Rovers V Pierce O’Mahony’s
1896 - 1996
(With the life of the Hogan Stand under threat with the new development of Croke Park, some of the spectators wondered would the plaque have a much shorter life than the event commemorated.)
After the unveiling of the plaque, two exhibition games, fifteen minutes aside, took place to mark the occasion. The results of a century earlier were reversed when the hurlers of Tullaroan and the footballers of Pierce O’Mahony’s claimed victory. In the hurling game there was an exciting finish. Tullaroan were in front by 0-6 to 0-4 with about three minutes to go. In the course of two minutes Boherlahan went ahead with a goal and a point but, in the dying minute of the game Tullaroan forced a penalty from which a goal was scrambled and this score gave them victory by 1-6 to 1-5. The football was a much more one-sided contest with the Pierce O’Mahony players much fitter and more prepared than Arravale Rovers, running out easy winners by 2-6 to 1-1
After the games the teams were feted at a function and the contestants were presented with a fine commemorative medal to mark the occasion. The respective captains, Seamus Dunne of Tullaroan, Brendan Murray of Pierce O’Mahony’s, Philip Ryan of Boherlahan and Larry O’Donnell of Arravale Rovers, introduced the players and they received their medals from President Jack Boothman.
Overall then, an enjoyable afternoon and a fitting tribute to the men of one hundred years ago, who became the first to play All-Irelands in the famous venue. Although the latter would not be recogniseable to the ghosts of these men, with the dramatic Cusack Stand dominating the scene, the games of hurling and football would be easy to identify even if they are played at a faster pace.
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 1997, pp 44-45