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Gaelic Athletic Association - Oral History Project


gaa oral history project

Offaly played host to the first All-Ireland hurling final played in Birr on Easter Sunday, 1888. Then known as King’s County, Offaly had been involved in the GAA from the very beginning with Clara being only the third club in Ireland to affiliate to the new Association. Geography was a key determinant in how Gaelic games developed in the county.  Whereas hurling prospered in the south of the county, football dominated in the north. By the early 1900s there were twenty five Offaly clubs affiliated to the GAA and this number would rise steadily across the decades that followed.  For all that this illustrated the local enthusiasm for Gaelic games, success was limited. Nevertheless, the development of state bodies in Offaly during the mid-twentieth century would play a crucial role in the advancement of the Association, providing employment and keeping potential players in the county. The 1960s signalled the beginning of a period of unprecedented success for Offaly in both hurling and football. The county’s first senior All-Ireland football title in 1971 was followed by six more over the next three decades, two in football and four in hurling. Offaly has since slipped in terms of success and it has been down to the county’s camogie players to provide cause for celebration in recent years.


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Mick Spain helps put the finishing touchs to Drumcullen GAA's new grounds in 1984.
©GAA Oral History Project


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A poem celebrating the Offaly's 1985 All-Ireland hurling victory.
©GAA Oral History Project

Emily Horan
Sean Flynn

Emily Horan, b. 1920

Emily recalls her first experiences of playing camogie and describes how some matches were very rough.
©GAA Oral History Project

Sean Flynn, b. 1937

Sean describes walking along the train lines to an Offaly match in the 1950s after the train broke down en route.
©GAA Oral History Project

'Luckily for me, I was fortunate enough to have grown up in a era where Offaly GAA was very successful. My first time on a train was accompanying my father to the Leinster hurling final in 1980. There was no such thing as replica jerseys then, just rosettes and hats made from crepe paper.'
- Pádraic Tooher, b. 1966
©GAA Oral History Project

'A tradition that our family used was that every one of us playing GAA wore a miraculous medal on our togs and also my mother would throw holy water on the gear bag when leaving the house. She was a very holy woman and she believed it kept us safe when we played and I keep that tradition alive to this day.'
- Mary Kelly, b. 1958
©GAA Oral History Project

'My father told me about when he and his brothers used to play and the great games he saw. When he was playing full back one day he was marking a big tough man that a lot of people called mad. When his marker walked out he had a bottle of whiskey in his togs and he took it out and drank it in one go and pucked it out over the bar and said to my father, "When the first ball comes in, that’s where you’re going." But when the first ball came in he went to catch it but my father hit it out and the mad man never spoke during the match again.'
- Frank Cashen, b. 1959
©GAA Oral History Project

Click here to read a sample of a full length questionnaire: Pat Nolan, b. 1982