Michael Cusack Was The Founder Of One Of The World's Greatest Ever Sporting Organisations
Historic Clareman who pioneered aspirations for the preservation of Ireland's national pastimes and the historic founding of the Gaelic Athletic Association on 1st November 1884 at Hayes's Hotel, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.
The Gaelic Athletic Association is Ireland's No.1 and largest sporting body with clubs affiliated in every Irish city, town and village since its historic founding. The spirit of the game and its purpose in Irish life since its 1884 foundation are immensely upheld as an integral part of Ireland's national culture since its foundation at Thurles.
Around the early 1880s the pride associated with native cultures, pastimes, music, song and dance had been severely brutalised and all but beaten out of the Irish race.
Cusack, the son of an Irish speaking Clare farmer, felt that Ireland needed to preserve her national sporting heritage in an organised association for future generations of Irish men and women.
Born in Carron, Co.Clare, he grew up to become a versatile athlete, hurler, footballer, handballer and oarsman. He also favoured the occasional game of cricket.
With the probability that Ireland's native games would face inevitable extinction, 37 year old Michael Cusack was motivated to set in motion a sequence of events that would lead to the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association.
Importantly he set up Metropolitans, a Dublin hurling club in 1882, as a forerunner to his national aspirations. A teacher by profession, he taught at Lough Cutrá in his own Burren Co. Clare barony, the Model School, Enniscorthy and also at the famed St.Colman's College, Newry, renowned as a gaelic games nursery for Down and Armagh footballers over many decades.
Cusack was well aware that the British authorities may outlaw the new association as a breeding ground for radical nationalism. This factor was not lost on the pioneers who assembled in Thurles and it also further motivated the need for Cusack's concept to succeed.
Athletics formed a major part of Cusack's motivation for the new body and with such prominent athletes as Maurice Davin sitting around the negotiating table, the Clareman had his own agenda and image for the association. Cusack sent historic correspondence to a specially chosen few on 27th October 1884 inviting them to assist him in his pioneering project.
The venue chosen, because of its suitable midlands location, was The Commercial Hotel, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, owned by M.S. Lizzie Hayes.
THE SEVEN MEN AT THURLES
In attendance was the famous Carrick- On - Suir athlete, Maurice Davin, along with P. J. Ryan of Callan, Co. Kilkenny, John McKay of Cork, John Wyse Power from Naas, Co. Kildare, District Inspector McCarthy of Royal Irish Constabulary, Templemore, Co.Tipperary and James Bracken also from Templemore and of course the historic pioneer of the meeting , Michael Cusack.
These legendary Gaelic Games pioneers became known as the Seven Men At Thurles.
Various reports of a much greater number of men at the pioneering meeting was never clarified and it is probable that the other names affixed to the group were the original committee elected to the first
ever Central Council.
Michael Cusack designated 1st November 1884 for that historic meeting and for his vision and persuasion in a difficult political climate under English rule, fans of gaelic games in the 21st century owe a huge gratitude to the foresight of the famous Clareman.
He was expelled from his own association soon after its foundation. He decided that his prime principles of foundation were eroded by certain elements within the new association and he refused to adhere to the new commands imposed upon members.
Reluctantly the historic pioneer was unable to conform to radical new amendments proposed by delegates and despite his noble status, the Clareman decided to leave his contemporaries carry the torch into the 20th century.
A plaque in his honour was unveiled at his old national school at Carron, Co.Clare on the 7th November 1982.
Cardinal Tomás O'Fiach in his oration at the unveiling said,
"Michael Cusack was a great Clareman, a great patriot and a sincere and loyal Christian."
The old Cusack Stand at Croke Park, dedicated to his memory, was officially opened on Sunday 21st August 1938 by G.A.A. President from Co. Antrim, Mr. Padraig MacNamee.
Michael Cusack died in 1906 at the early age of 59. He was a Clareman who had a dream and a vision for the preservation of Ireland's national pastimes and he planted a seed that has blossomed like no other flower through the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
Michael Cusack 1847 - 1906
Profile by Derry JF Doody
@ All Ireland Hall Of Fame