GAA president Christy Cooney described the Ardfinnan club history launched on Wednesday night as a remarkable production that accurately captures the pride and ethos in the club and community.
“That pride jumps out page after page, what the club means to people and what it stands for”, Mr Cooney told a huge gathering in Ardfinnan Community Centre.
He congratulated the author Michael O’Meara, the club officers and the history committee for the effort involved and said it was a publication that suitably reflected the traditions and history of such a famed club.
He said it featured great characters and personalities, chronicles the challenges faced by the club, the difficult times it endured and the people who had lifted it from those difficulties to better times again.
“These people ensured that you would be a major force again in Tipperary football”, he added.
Addressing the younger generation, Mr Cooney said they are the future of the club and following in the footsteps of those who had seen it through the first one hundred years.
“You are part of a great club. Think of all those who created this, think of your jersey and the crest on it because it is the most important jersey you will ever wear. And you will wear it because the older generation has achieved this”, he said.
And of the older generation, he mentioned the late Johnny Cummins, grandfather of Tipperary hurling goalkeeper Brendan Cummins, whose contribution to the club was immense and he said the Cummins family was an example of what one family can do for a club.
He paid tribute to Babs Keating, who was also a special guest on the night, to Peter Lambert, to Petey Savage with whom he had worked so hard to promote football in the county, to Willie Barrett as one of the GAA’s outstanding referees, and to all the ladies in the club, either on the field of play or behind the scenes.
He congratulated Football Board secretary Michael Power, and his son David for managing Tipp to the All Ireland minor football title this year and described that win as more momentous for Tipperary than the senior win had been for Dublin. “You proved that anything is possible”, he remarked.
Introducing Mr Cooney and the other speakers was local woman, RTE sports journalist Claire McNamara, who said she was thrilled to be back in the ‘village’ for such a wonderful occasion.
Legendary hurler and footballer Babs Keating said how much the village and its people meant to him. He thanked all the generous people who ‘took me by the hand at an early age and showed me the way’. The village green had proven a wonderful training ground for hurling and football and soon the parish took off and ‘we were on a rollercoaster’.
He paid tribute to the ‘troika’ of Johnny Cummins, John Savage and Butcher Brien and said they did a huge amount to keep football alive.
“This village was always united and had a great atmosphere and we now need a new generation to come through and to bring us back to where we were in the 1960s”.
Author Michael O’Meara told everyone involved in the club that ‘this book is your book’. He said that included all the history makers, players and officials past and present, those who washed the jerseys or lined the pitch, and all the great supporters who followed the team in good times and bad`.
There were 400 teams mentioned in the book, about 6,000 players and 440 photographs that reflected splendidly on the village and he paid tribute to club chairman Stephen O’Brien and secretary Willie Barrett for their part in sourcing those photographs.
Mr O’Meara said Ardfinnan was a special place adorned with special people and he was honoured to be involved with them in writing the club history. “The village will always prove dear to my heart”, he said.
Club chairman Stephen O’Brien said many lifelong friendships are born and shaped by participation in the GAA, something very evident in a small rural club such as Ardfinnan, and so it was fitting to record all that in their remarkable club history. “It is a wonderful publication and far exceeds our expectations and I congratulate Michael O’Meara on his outstanding work and also thank our club committee and the history committee for their work.
“But in every group there is one leader and ours was the one and only Willie Barrett, who was the constant driving force behind the project and without him we wouldn’t have completed the book on time”, Mr O’Brien said.
He also thanked Louis Ronan of Enfer for sponsorship of the book and the South Tipperary Development Company for their support.
Tributes to the Ardfinnan club and to everyone involved in the history were also paid by South GAA Board chairman Dick Egan; South Tipperary Development Company vice-chairman, Cllr Liam Ahearn; Football Board secretary Michael Power; County GAA Board PRO Ger Ryan; and representing Enfer, Cllr Michael Murphy.