Friday 19 June 2015

Remembering the 1914 All-Ireland Hurling Champions in Clare Museum

One hundred years ago, Clare were the reigning Senior and Junior All-Ireland hurling champions, both defeating their Laois counterparts during 1914. A small exhibition of items commemorating these achievements are on display in a temporary exhibition at Clare Museum.

The exhibition was assembled slowly from within the resources of the museum collection beginning in the late summer of 2014. While all staff were involved in its creation the exhibition would not have been possible without the research of Tomás MacConmara, museum attendant and the graphic design skills of volunteer Karen Dunn.

The exhibition features some rare items, including the All-Ireland Hurling medals awarded to both Ned Grace and Brendan Considine respectively, along with Brendan’s Munster championship and County championship medals from the same year.

These All-Ireland successes are placed in the context of the turbulent decade of a century ago. One player, John Fox, served in the British Army during the First World War and the service medals of Private William Cunningham of the Turnpike in Ennis are featured. Private Cunningham was killed in action on the same weekend as the Senior All-Ireland victory which serves as a reminder that any elation at winning the All-Ireland title was tempered for many by issues of life and death in the Great War.

Another link to the war is Willie Redmond, the Nationalist political leader and MP for East Clare who also features in the exhibition. Remembered today for his death on the Western Front in 1917, and the subsequent East Clare by-election which resulted in the beginning of Eamon de Valera’s political career, it was Redmond who led the Clare team out on the day of the senior final.

Several of the players and administrators around both the Senior and Junior teams played their part in the republican movement during the War of Independence, including Tom McGrath, “Tull” Considine, and Ned Grace amongst the players, and Patrick Hennessy who had tried out for the team earlier in the year.

McGrath and Hennessy found themselves on opposing sides during the Civil War. McGrath joined the Free State Army and rose to the rank of Colonel and retired after a distinguished career, while Hennessy aligned himself with the anti-treaty forces. He was captured along with another comrade at Clooney was tried and condemned on evidence that would not stand up to scrutiny today.

In January 1923, while serving as the GAA County secretary, Hennessy and became one of the 77 men executed by the Free State during the Civil War. Both Hennessy and McGrath are represented in the exhibition.

After 1914, Clare failed to win another All-Ireland for another 81 years and the story arose that Biddy Early, the wise woman of Clare, had placed a curse on the team. In fact, Biddy Early had died in 1874 and the oil stock used to anoint her on her death bed is on display in the exhibition.

Between the 1914 and 1995, Clare appeared in only one All-Ireland Hurling final – the 1932 defeat to Kilkenny. That Clare team was captained by the great John Joe ‘goggles’ Doyle, who famously wore a homemade device on the field of play to protect his glasses. In memory of John Joe and other great players these goggles are part of the museum exhibition.

The exhibition will run until early 2016 and admission to visitors is free.

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