Dr. Croke Was Not The No.1 Choice Of the G.A.A. As The First Ever Patron
Thomas William Croke was born in 1823 At Castlecor, in the parish of Ballyclough, Co. Cork, situated between Kanturk, Buttevant and Mallow. He died on 22nd July 1902 At Thurles, Co. Tipperary.
Ireland's largest sporting body, the Gaelic Athletic Association, was founded in 1884 for the preservation of Ireland's national pastimes and the emphasis was very nationalist orientated.
The newly formed association aspired to associate themselves with an ambassador and patron who had mass appeal to all the people of Ireland and Most Rev. Dr. Duggan, was the widespread choice.
To the surprise of many, the Co. Galway bishop declined the invitation as he felt the association would be better served by a younger and more vibrant cleric.
He advised the G.A.A. delegation to seek out Most Rev. Dr. Croke, who was at that time overseeing the dioces's of Cashel and Emly, Co. Tipperary, as Archbishop since 1875.
Croke's family was an inter denominational arrangement between his Kerry born mother and his Cork born father who was of catholic persuasion. Any sons born into the marriage would be reared as catholics and daughters would follow their mothers Church of Ireland upbringing.
Six sons and two daughters charmed the household and the family lived in a rural roadside dwelling, which still occupies its original site, but lies derelict and very forgotten without a commemorative emblem to his ancestral roots.
The site is near the village of Castlecor, about four miles from Kanturk, Co. Cork. His name adorns one of the finest sporting stadiums in the world and the historic cleric was also very cogent in his letters to Michael Cusack decrying the stagnation of traditional Irish sporting pastimes around 1880.
Croke knew Cusack and was aware of his aspirations for the custody of Ireland's national pastimes.
In various letters to the famous Clareman, Croke prompted him many times to take up the flag and announce his intentions to form a new national sporting body.
As Archbishop, the Corkman became a revered legend in his adopted Tipperary and was regarded all over Ireland as a cleric with fervent nationalist ideals. His studies began at the local Castlecor national school and later at Charleville secondary school.
In 1839, aged just sixteen, Croke entered the Irish College in Paris on a clerical scholarship and soon after terminated his studies but later returned to complete his studies. In 1845 he left for the Irish College in Rome and was ordained a priest in May 1847.
The new Fr. Croke was no ordinary priest. A man with very clear opinions, he had objectives for his future and few, if any, would deter his desire for a free and united homeland.
After his ordination he returned to Ireland to take up various ministries and in 1870 he was made Bishop of Auckland, New Zealand and finally he was made Archbisop of Cashel and Emly in 1875.
Croke now used his eminent clerical status to great effect as a nationalist figure and also when Michael Cusack's powerful influence caused a split in 1887, it was Dr. Croke who successfully refereed a truce and saved the new association from disintegration. If Dr. Croke reneged when turmoil erupted, the newborn G.A.A. may have faded into obscurity.
His role in the Gaelic Athletic Association was hugely influential in the formative years and Croke Park will always be a giant tribute to a noble Irishman and a famous Corkman.
However the family home where Dr. Croke was born lies in ruins and on my last inspection it was used as a pig shed. And so much for the preservation of our national heritage.
Editorial by editor.