“Always be proud of your Mullinahone heritage as you have a lot to be proud of. It is a privilege to be from Mullinahone”.
That was the message from a proud son of Kickham Country, Rickie Sheehan, at the launch of the history of the Mullinahone CJ Kickhams GAA club on Friday night - a publication he edited.
Guest of honour was legendary RTE commentator Miceal O Muircheartaigh who paid glowing tribute to the the famed Tipperary club and to all those who had been involved in the history titled ‘The Green above the Red’.
He told stories about some of the greats of the club, from Mick Cahill who played football for Cork and Munster, to John Leahy who helped establish the club as a hurling force, to Brian O’Meara and to the present icons Eoin Kelly and Paul Curran.
The history was originally planned for centenary year in 1984 but as the packed attendance in the Mullinahone clubhouse was told, the club was too busy making history at that time than to be writing about it.
And chairman of the history committee, Dick Egan, explained why the book was launched in August rather than the usual time for club histories, in December, in time for the Christmas market.
“We are launching it on August 22 because it was on this date in 1882 that Charles J.Kickham, the man the club is named after, died”.
Kickham, the poet and patriot, had died two years before the founding of the GAA - “before the dream was realised”, said County Board chairman Sean Nugent, who took some time away from his son’s wedding in Kilkenny to join the Mullinahone celebrations.
“The book’s title, ‘The Green above the Red’, has great historic connotations. It is very special and reminds us of the challenges faced by Kickham and the leaership he gave. He may not have lived to see the GAA formed but he has left a huge legacy and would be so proud to have the local club named after him”, said Mr Nugent.
When the GAA was founded in Hayes Hotel in Thurles in 1884, the flame quickly spread, Mr Nugent added - “like a prairie fire”, quoting founder member Michael Cusack - and the next year Mullinahone was one of the new clubs formed.
“You have faced many challenges to keep the flame alight, during great years and lean years, but you have done it and produced some of the greatest players to grace the games”, he remarked.
Rickie Sheehan explained the book’s title and the club’s motto. The original club colours were red but during a period of nationalist fervour, the players were travelling to a match when they decided they wanted the Irish green above the British red and so the new club colours were born.
Mr Sheehan said the history was to record the story of five to six generations of Mullinahone GAA people who played their part in the club since 1885. “It was not an effort to record the deeds of the famous but to recognise the parts played by many, now dead and gone but we hope not forgotten”, he remarked.
He paid tribute to the members of his committee who had worked on the history - “the best Mullinahone team I ever selected” - Lance Vaughan, Dick Egan, Neil Thompson, Joe Tobin, Tommy O’Sullivan and Sean O’Meara.
He also recalled two of the greatest occasions in the history of the club - in 2002 when the club won its first county senior hurling championship and 2010 when Eoin Kelly captained Tipp to All Ireland glory and denied Kikenny the five-in-a-row.
Mullinahone had given soul to the GAA, he remarked, and there was no doubt that Mullinahone was Knocknagow in Kickham’s famous novel and that generations of Mullinahone people had followed the example of Matt the Thresher by doing their best ‘for the credit of the little village’.
It was a theme echoed by Miceal O Muircheartaigh who said the history committee had also worked as a team for the credit of the village, producing a wonderful publication that was a fitting tribute to the the men and women who had moulded the club over the past 130 years.
He paid tribute to the parents, teachers and club coaches who helped to hone the skills of the Leahys, Kellys and Currans from the time they had first lifted a hurley. “Brian Cody always said that he had little work to do when the great Kilkenny hurlers came to him. He only had to turn them into a team, all the work had been done in the club from their earliest years, and it is the same in Mullinahone”.
He also referred to the club’s early football tradition, through Mick Cahill, and also to the Mullinahone players and their neighbours from Grangemockler who were on the Tipperary team on that fateful day in Croke Park in 1920. “A friend of mine played hurling and football for Dublin, winning five All Ireland titles, and one of his greatest boasts was that he marked Michael Hogan on Bloody Sunday”, he said.
Rickie Sheehan also referred to that day, with six Mullinahone players on the Tipp team, and as Mick Hogan lay dying on the field, it was Mullinahone player Jimmy Egan who brought him a priest, who was also from Mullinahone, Fr Crotty.
GAA patron Archbishop Dermot Clifford said CJ Kickham would have loved to see Tipperary play Kilkenny in an All Ireland final but at least his anthem ‘Slievenamon’ will be sung there on Sunday week - and hopefully in victory.
Other speakers on the night were club chairman Martin Cody; history committee chairman Dick Egan; South Board chairman Joe Brennan; and Carrick-on-Suir Municipal District chairman and Mullinahone man Eddie O’Meara. MC was Jackie Bolger.