What a fantastic global family the GAA has become. Speaking during Wolfe Tones 50th anniversary celebrations, GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghail spoke of visiting Wellington, New Zealand, for the Australasian Gaelic Games. Among the hundreds of young people he met was Stephanie Regan, who had played camogie and ladies football with Wolfe Tones.
Stephanie’s father Damien is a former chairman of the club and her grandfather Brendan is among Wolfe Tones’ founding members. Now a civil engineer, Stephanie was working on rebuilding Christchurch after a devastating earthquake had shaken the city. At the time she was also managing Christchurch ladies football team while recovering from a cruciate injury. “Isn’t it amazing the reach of the GAA club, no matter where you go you will meet GAA people,” said Aogán.
Today the GAA is within reach of one million members of almost 2,500 clubs around the world. What an amazing achievement for an amateur organisation founded by Clareman Michael Cusack in the backroom of a Thurles hotel. Mr Ó Fearghail and Clare GAA County Board chairman, Joe Cooney were guests of honour at the 50th anniversary of Wolfe Tones na Sionna. More than 200 tickets were sold for the evening which included dinner, presentation of medals for the 2016 season and ending with music and dance into the small hours.
For the second year in a row, Eoin Brennan was master of ceremonies, the Clarecastle man directing yet another successful event in the club’s history with the right balance of humour and dignity. Founding members Wolfe Tones chairman Mike Riordan opened the formalities by announcing special awards for Sean Ó Nuanáin and Brendan Regan, founding members of the club in 1967 who have been involved continuously since then. Paying tribute to the pair, Mike said, “It is a humbling thing to acknowledge their contribution to our club. Many here know what they have done down through all those years. “They are now both trustees, to this day they hold us to account. We fully appreciate their knowledge and experience and we thank them for it”. Mike then called on Uachtarán Cumann Luthchleas Gael, Aogán Ó Fearghail, to present the two with a clock inscribed ‘Thank you for your time’, which was followed by a sustained round of applause from all of those present.
Eoin Brennan then provided a concise history of Wolfe Tones from 1967 featuring images of past and present teams that were projected onto a big screen and he noted that most of those present were not born when the club was formed. Describing how the world has changed in the last 20 years, Eoin recalled that Kilkenny were All Ireland hurling champions in 1967 while Mayo won U21 football honours that year, leading to great optimism of fulfilling a dream of senior success and heralding signs proclaiming “Mayo for Sam in 1968’. With tongue firmly in cheek, Eoin remarked that America had its most unpopular president ever in 1967 (Lyndon B. Johnson) who “had a war of words with the media”. He added, “In the US there were race riots, a media strike and almost a world war. So we’re glad we have moved on from that kind of thing over the last 50 years and the world is a lot better today!”
Cooney puts clubs first
In his speech, county board chairman Joe Cooney said it was a great pleasure to address the members of Wolfe Tones on such a special occasion for all associated with the club, for those who have gone before and for all the supporters of a club that has achieved a lot over the past 50 years. “Without the GAA what would we have,” asked Joe as he paid tribute to the huge voluntary effort given to the GAA by players, mentors and officers. “And that’s why the club is the keystone of the GAA,” he said. “Without the clubs the GAA would not survive and we thank the clubs for what they have done for the association. Without Wolfe Tones and the clubs throughout this county and the country, we would not be the organisation we are, there’s great credit due to everyone and I’d like to say to all the volunteers, thank you very, very much.”
Joe Cooney complimented the present Wolfe Tones teams for what they have achieved and said there are not too many clubs in the county presenting four sets of medals this year. “Wolfe Tones,” he said, “started 50 years ago and they haven’t looked back since. In 2016 the club won the Junior B hurling championship, the Junior B football championship and league, the U21 football championship and the Junior camogie shield, that’s a brilliant achievement for any club and the players can be very proud of what they achieved.” He also recalled Wolfe Tones players who represented their county at all ages over the past 50 years and said Clare would not have a great bunch of players now only for the effort put in by the clubs. Joe also paid tribute to Aogán Ó Fearghail saying it was a great honour to have the president of the association present for the occasion, and it is much appreciated by Wolfe Tones and Clare GAA.
Pride of place
Club chairman Mike Riordan thanked everyone who had helped make the evening such a success, saying, “I am conscious that the club is now 50 years old thanks to the people who had the vision to set it up. We are only caretakers right now and people will continue to do these roles into the future. “It’s a wonderful thing, it has given us a sense of community, a place to represent, our jerseys to wear proudly and, most important, it has helped us to meet new friends. Many friends are for life, some begin here at 6 or 7 years or age and will still be talking about matches when they’re 60 or 70. That’s the incredible thing that the GAA does for us. “To those people who founded the club and to everyone who brought it to where it is today, I say thank you.” Mike then unveiled a new scroll of honour to mark all the successes Wolfe Tones has enjoyed since its formation.