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Wanted: Info. On Tom Semple & The Thurles Blues.

Attempt At Preserving Tipperary’s Rich Sporting History

Tom Semple is most certainly one of the most iconic GAA personalities in The Premier County, having played with and presided over one of the finest teams in the land. But surprisingly little enough is known about the great man. Well, all that is about to change and local GAA man, historian and retired school Principal, Liam O’Donnchu of Thurles Sarsfields fame is embarking upon a book entitled ‘Tom Semple and the Thurles Blues.’

SempleLiam, the long recognised voice of Semple Stadium, has taken on this project following encouragement from Tom Semple’s son Martin, who now resides in Denver, Colorado and is delighted to have the support of the Semple family in bringing together as much information as possible about Tom Semple and his famed team, which won two All-Ireland titles for Tipperary in 1906 and 1908.

Our picture (left) shows Tipperary (Thurles Selection) All-Ireland Hurling Champions 1906.
Back Row:  Tom Allen, Jack Cahill, Jack Gleeson, Tom Kerwick, Paddy Maher (Best), J.M. Kennedy Sec.
Middle Row:  Denis O’Keeffe (Chairman), Paddy Burke, Jimmy Burke, Paddy Riordan, Ger Hayes, Martin O’Brien, Phil Molony (Treasurer).
Front Row:  Jack Mockler, Joe O’Keeffe, James O’Brien (Hawk), Tom Semple Captain, Tom Kenna, Michael Gleeson, Paddy Brolan.

The book will cover the period 1904 -1912, a time when Thurles were at the very pinnacle and Liam is anxious to bring together any nuggets of information about Semple or any of the players on those teams, as he attempts to weave together the story of their success, their lives off the field and their attitudes to the social, political and cultural events of the day. Of course much of the focus will be on Tom Semple who worked as a ‘Porter’ first and then as a ‘Guard’ with the Great Southern and Western Railway Company. He lived in Fianna Road in Thurles, but he came from the village of Drombane in Tipperary originally.

Tom Semple

Semple-Tomb1

Tom Semple’s grave – Grounds of St Mary’s Churchyard, Thurles, Tipperary.

Tom Semple was a leader off the field as well. He was heavily involved in the purchase of Thurles Sportsfield in 1910, but died in 1943 and did not live to see Semple Stadium at its brilliant best, as it is today. He would surely be proud to see 50,000 people crammed into the grounds on Munster Final day with the stands and terraces heaving with excitement and the thrill of the ancient game – or would he?  Would Tom Semple have approved of the way the game has gone, the Association has gone, or even the way Thurles Sportsfields has gone? The answers to those questions, we will never know, but perhaps you might have answers to other questions, or might be able to provide Liam with information which could open up other aspects of Semple and the Blues lives. (Click on Image immediately left for larger Resolution.)

Author Liam O’Donnchu

Liam O’Donnchu himself has been heavily involved with the match programmes in Semple Stadium; spent 25 years as Secretary of the Tipperary GAA Yearbook Committee; penned a history of Pouldine National School of which he was Principal; was involved in the Pictorial Record of the Horse and Jockey; and co wrote and edited the Tipperary GAA Ballads book, which is a real collector’s item and a ‘must have’ in all GAA homes in the county.

Liam is hoping that descendants of those great men might have information, photos, newspaper cuttings, or stories from those times which can be relayed and used in the book which it is hoped will be a social, historical, sporting and cultural history of the era involved.  The teams which went on to win the All-Irelands contained  players from Horse and Jockey and Two-Mile-Borris, Drombane and in 1910 they represented Tipperary at the Celtic Congress in Belgium playing in such places as Fontenoy. They hurled in the Croke Fennelly Cup – Semple himself was involved in the erection of the Croke Memorial in Liberty Square, Thurles, back in 1922.

Information, photographs etc. of any kind, are urgently needed on the following  players and officials:-

Winners of the All-Ireland Hurling Final 1906
 Tipperary (Thurles Selection): Tom Semple Capt., Jer Hayes (Vice Capt.), Jim ‘Hawk’ O’Brien (Goal), Paddy Bourke, Martin O’Brien, Paddy Brolan, Tom Kerwick, Jack Mockler, Tom Kenna, Hugh Shelly (Thurles), Paddy Riordan, (Drombane), Tom Allen, Paddy Maher (Best), Jimmy Bourke, (Two-Mile-Borris),Jack Gleeson, Joe O’Keeffe, (Horse and Jockey),  Tim Gleeson (Drombane). Subs: Jack Mooney, Joe Moloughney, Mickey Gleeson, Jack Cahill, Rody Berkery (Thurles), Tim Condon (Horse and Jockey).
Club Chairman-Denis O’Keeffe, Secretary – J.M. Kennedy, Treasurer – Phil Moloney.

Winners All-Ireland Hurling Final 1908
Tipperary (Thurles Selection ): Tom Semple-Captain, Jack Mooney, Tom Kerwick, Martin O’Brien, Jack Mockler,  Tom Kenna, Hugh Shelly, Paddy Bourke, James ‘Hawk’ O’Brien, Paddy Brolan, Anthony Carew, Joseph McLoughney, (Thurles), Joe O’Keeffe, Jack Gleeson, Bill Harris, Bob Mockler, (Horse and Jockey), Tim Gleeson, (Drombane). (Drawn Match)
For the replay, the twelve from Thurles were unchanged while the remaining included Jimmy Bourke (Two-Mile-Borris), Tim Gleeson, Michael O’Dwyer, (Holycross), John and Pat Fitzgerald (New Birmingham).

Note: All photos and other associated material presented, will be quickly scanned and returned immediately to their owners in original condition.

Contact: Liam Ó Donnchú, Ballymoreen, Littleton, Thurles. Tel: 0504-44106    Mobile: 086-6036547 or email  liam.odonnchu.oifigeach@gaa.ie

Information, photographs etc. can also be left at Thurles Sarsfields Social Centre or at Lár na Páirce.

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2 comments to Wanted: Info. On Tom Semple & The Thurles Blues.

  • John Kavanagh

    Hi great to see this photo again, I have been told that the J Kavanagh in the photo was my Gt Grandfather, would you have any other info on him, was he a player or was he just part of the team as in committee member, I have also been told he was well known for his hurling.
    Thanks, John Kavanagh.

  • […] Tom Semple, a GAA icon and whose name is immortalised in the name “Semple Stadium” here in Thurles, is synonymous worldwide with the game of hurling, having led the legendary ‘Thurles Blues’ to All-Ireland glory in 1906 and 1908. […]

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