GAA President launches Clonkill GAA history book

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Frank Gaynor presents the first copy of ‘From Tennants’ Pasture To Croke Park‚’ - a history of Clonkill GAA to GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghaíl.

By Damien Maher

Clonkill Chairman, Jimmy Cribbin welcomed the gathering of approximately 400 people to the impressive Loughegar clubhouse last Thursday evening and he had a special welcome for GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghaíl, the first GAA President to visit the club in its 100 year history.

“It took us 100 years to get a GAA President to Clonkill and you are very welcome,” he quipped.
The proud chairman spoke of the unselfish work of all involved in compiling the club’s new book, ‘From Tenants’ Pasture To Croke Park, A History Of Clonkill GAA’, and reserved special praise for Peter Curran who coordinated the project.

“It’s a great compilation of words and photographs and many years of research and gathering information went into the project. Peter Curran took it on as leader and did great work along with his committee members,” said Jimmy Cribbin.

He said it was difficult to measure the impact the club has made over the last 100 years and compare the present day to more demanding times. “I remember trying to raise money about 30 years ago and we would run a dance in either Coole Hall or Collinstown Hall. At the end of the evening we would have to barter with the band and would usually end up with around £40 profit. It’s amazing to think that next week we have a fundraising bingo and the top prize is €2,000,” he remarked.

He paid tribute to the many volunteers over the years, those involved in the memorable American Tea Parties in the Beehive and other ventures. There were good wishes for the ill Ciaran Morrison, who couldn’t attend, and Mary Farrell, whose sister was indisposed. He remembered all those who have been touched by tragedy in the Clonkill area over the years and noted how the club has suffered in that regard. An enduring legacy is what the club aspires towards, according to the chairman.

“As we remember all those people, it’s important to remember that we are only here for a few years and will have to hand this on to the next generation. It’s vital that we have a happy and safe atmosphere for our young players. Our youth is our biggest asset going forward,” he said.

The chairman made reference the recent success in the Junior Hurling Championship and reserved special mentionfor dual player Paddy Dowdall, who won a tenth senior championship medal with St Loman’s the previous Sunday. Dowdall has won six senior hurling titles with Clonkill and four senior football medals with St Loman’s, a truly remarkable feat.

Gaynor speaks on fascinating story behind Clonkill club

Frank Gaynor was a key man behind the publication of the Clonkill book and it was his task to combine all of the individual contributions and put them in oder.

Having been over 30 years away from the Clonkill Club he was surprised and flattered to be asked to play such a prominent role and he paid tribute to his family who gave him great support during the project.
He joked that Peter Curran, the driving force behind the book, had over 70 people involved, non of whom had any writing experience. “Amazingly, these people had the job of ensuring the book was completed on time,” he quipped.

Noting that the commitment and dedication of those involved was at a level he had never previously seen, he recalled how the Friday evening meetings were memorable experiences. The fun they had at the very first meeting, with Kit Austin very much to the fore, ensured everyone returned and remained involved on a weekly basis until the book was complete.

“It’s a fascinating story and to think that in 1917 the club had just one adult hurling team compared to what it is today,” he said, speaking of how Clonkill is competitive at all grades underage and have four or five adult teams. Camogie is also thriving.

He said working on the book was like a “assembling a jigsaw without knowing what the finishing project would look like.” He spoke on how the historical events in Ireland, like the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War impacted on the club. To round off, Frank had the honour of presenting a book to GAA President, Aogán Ó Fearghaíl.

Tributes to all involved in mammoth task of producing book

Peter Curran, the driving force behind the very successful project that led to the completion of a superb book on the history of the Clonkill GAA Club, revealed that the idea was first mooted back in the 1980s and in recent years a concerted effort was made to bring it to fruition. The fact that the club is celebrating its centenary year was a huge motivating factor.

Peter thanked everyone involved in any way in ensuring last Thursday evening was such a success, including Oliver Scally, Paulo De Lucia and Johnny Nooney, who helped compile a fantastic picture that has pride of place in the clubhouse. Though the picture was taken in 2016, sadly three people have since passed away: Stuart Mitchell, Willie Gibson and Jimmy Nugent. They were remembered by Peter Curran at last Thursday’s historic event.

Peter acknowledged the role of Topic Newspapers Ltd and staff member Elliott Kubath, while the Westmeath Examiner were thanked for the use of their archive. The National Library, Croke Park Museum and the Westmeath County Library were other vital sources of information.

He thanked all who helped with photos and paid tribute to the work of Niall Cole who designed the book. Peter recalled how the oral history sessions in the club were of fantastic value and got everyone together to talk about times past.

He thanked all the article writers and acknowledged the role of camogie in the club.
“It was a mammoth job to put it all together and the help we got from the young people of the club in this regard was crucial,” he said.

Peter then introduced the 12 people who met every Friday night to ensure the book became a reality and each were applauded for their invaluable work.