A BIG crowd descended on the GAA grounds at St. Mary’s (Rosslare) in Tagoat for the launch of an impressive book detailing the club’s history.
No Hiding Place” outlines the club’s historic journey, tracing its origins from humble beginnings as early as 1886 to the present day, being the first county champions in the same year.
Having celebrated its existence over these years to the present day, the club boasts a growing number of members across all age groups, having just celebrated winning a county hurling title from the under 19 years old.
Larry Byrne undertook the colossal task of researching a book that was edited by journalist Brendan Furlong, with a finished product that St. Mary’s can be proud of.
The book is unique in that it recalls the history of the club, not in the usual chronological order, but through the decades of trials and triumphs until it is today.
On Saturday evening, under the beautiful sun, people from several generations were present to hear what it took to create a GAA club, how it all began and how it has continued over the years to the present day.
The various speakers traced the club’s journey from the introduction of camogie and women’s football, to coincide with men’s hurling and football, to intermediate hurling and football.
Each has their own place in the club’s history, aided by the move from a single ground in Rosslare Harbor to their new state-of-the-art facilities in Tagoat which they continue to develop.
They have top-notch gaming facilities, alongside a clubhouse that would be the envy of other units across the country.
Saturday’s celebrations were marked by flash matches and practices for girls and boys, as well as a shinty match for minors to close out the evening, following an impressive ceremony.
It was fitting that those present were introduced to the official launch of the club’s history, coinciding with the opening of the catwalk with their community center facilities, by the wonderful singing of Sarah Deevy.
Sarah, the club’s under-14 playing member, captivated the audience with her beautiful voice, as she was also the recent winner of Sarsfields club’s ‘Wexford Got Talent’.
Former Wexford GAA Secretary and former Club Secretary Margaret Doyle presided over the occasion, welcoming everyone including Barry Kelly, Corinna Sheil, Tom Stafford (Vice-Chairman), Cllr. Jim Codd, P. James Murphy, PP, Larry Byrne, Author, Conor Roche, Club President, Timmy O’Connor, Club President, Billy Duggan, Vice President, Liam Griffin, Cllr. Frank Staples, Cllr. Ger Carthy, Micheál Martin, Co. President, John Kenny, Coiste na nÓg President, Cllr. Lisa McDonald and Brendan Furlong, Editor.
Club President Conor Roche paid tribute to the camogie club for the wonderful role they played in organizing the parties.
“It is very important that we are an inclusive club. Without young children we have no future, so it is very important to have the parents of these young children with us tonight.
“Yes, it’s hurling and GAA football, but it does so much more than hurling and football because it’s a community center where anyone can come.
“Tonight we are also opening the walking track. We have the Wi-Fi Hub opening where we hope to see the children studying here during the year. I thank the children, the parents, everyone for coming.
“We are not just a GAA club but also a community club and are here for the whole community,” he said.
Camogie president Valerie Kelly spoke of St. Mary’s having two camogie clubs in 1935. Following a hiatus due to the World War they were reformed in 1953, but it was in 1993 that the club became very active.
A community, she says, is a group of people who share something in common and this has led to GAA and camogie being at the forefront in the parish.
Larry Byrne, author of the book, described his years of research into the club’s history, which had been hampered during the pandemic, and said St. Mary’s was one of the oldest GAA clubs in Ireland.
After interviewing so many people, he heard about the struggles and the triumphs, as well as the club’s struggle to survive.
Special thanks to Liam Griffin, Paddy, Kinsella, Gerry Byrne, Margaret Doyle and Brendan Furlong for their contribution to the making of the book. He also thanked Creative Print for their wonderful work.
Launching the book, Liam Griffin told the audience that he was flabbergasted by the book and Larry Byrne’s contribution to his work in bringing it all together.
He then described the contribution of those from the early days, such as Jim Byrne, a member of Wexford’s golden age of football from 1914-18, the Stewarts of Tagoat and Rosslare Tigers, winners of the county’s first Championship, while that John Gallahue was also a member of Mary’s club.
He then recalled the days of the Rackard League, when Rosslare led Kilmore sides to just one point, with the winners winning the final by cricket scores.
He asked: “Why couldn’t we be a big club?”
He pointed out that the club faced its biggest problem, emigration, with locals traveling to places like Coventry and Birmingham to assemble cars, while others headed to the high seas.
“Our young population has left us, leaving us only a handful to play the games. We had a small field. We have been through a difficult time, but now is the time to look to the future,” he said.
“We won junior and intermediate football titles, became a senior football club, won junior hurling and came close to winning intermediate hurling, being beaten in a county final when we could have become a senior double club.
“The club have moved on and made the decision to move to the middle of the parish at our current center which is now there for all to see. Now I believe the best is ahead of us. This year we won a Rackard league and an under-19 hurling title.
Griffin said if you took away the GAA from Ireland it would be a bad place. The GAA is the heart of Ireland and the Gaelic Games are something very special. It’s true that everything revolves around the club, and that will only happen if there is a passion for the club, in addition to the passion for the games.
County Chairman Micheál Martin said history not only looks back on the past, but also expands on the future. He said he had seen the talent at the club which is a testament to the hard work of everyone involved. He congratulated everyone involved in this project.
Club President Timmy O’Connor officially opened the walking track.
Official opening of the Wi-Fi Hub, Cllr. Lisa McDonald spoke of a historic day for the club.
She said it was a very special time for Rosslare as it had its own municipal authority in place which can help realize the potential and growth of the area.
Referring to the walking track and the community centre, she said it was very important to have a level of community spirit, with the GAA being a true symbol of being Irish.
She told the young people in attendance that they had great facilities and she hoped to see them studying at the center and using the community hub because after they study they can go out and play their games.
At the end of the official functions, all present were entertained with refreshments superbly served by the ladies of the club.