The Thurles Sarsfields International Hurling Festival initiative was lauded by GAA President, Liam O’Neill when he attended the prize-giving ceremony at Sarsfields Club centre on Saturday evening last.
Mr O’Neill saluted Sarsfields club’s leadership in the promotion of the game not only at home but among Irish people abroad, as the European hurling and camogie championships were held in conjunction with the festival.
He thanked the club for its initiative which he described as a brilliant advertisement for the association as teams came from all over the world to participate in hurling in an international context. He assured the committee of the on-going support of Croke Park for the venture.
The festival’s headline event was the Semple Cup tournament which attracted twelve teams from England, Northern Ireland and the Republic. In all twenty two games were played with Kilburn Gaels emerging as winners, beating Dunboyne of Meath 2-7 to 0-9, in a repeat of last year’s final, which they also won. Beaten semi-finalists were Robert Emmetts of London and Kilbrin of Cork.
Tooreen of Mayo won the Carew Cup, losers section, beating Na Magha of Derry, 1-11 to 1-7 in the final.
The European hurling championship was won by The Hague and the camogie championships by Paris Gaels.
Road bowling was staged in Thurles for the first time with Connacht, represented by Westport of Mayo getting the better of Ulster to become the first winners of the Michael Cusack Cup, donated by the Irish Bowling Association. The tournament was opened by Tipperary hurling great Jimmy Doyle of Sarsfields club, who threw the first bowl.
Caman Abu and Wheelchair hurling were also on the programme at the Ursuline Convent all-weather pitch and proved very enjoyable for those taking part.
Sarsfields chairman, Michael Maher, performed the official opening on Friday night, welcoming all the participants and expressing the hope that they would enjoy their visit to Thurles. He thanked all who supported the event, particularly the sponsors, making special mention of Shannon Development who came on board this year.
Mayor of Thurles, Councillor Michael Cleary, congratulated Sarsfields on their undertaking which he felt sure would benefit the town greatly.
Tipperary GAA chairman, Sean Nugent, was likewise complimentary and wished all concerned every success with the venture.
Brian Keating Regional Manager of Shannon Development, said the festival fitted in perfectly with Shannon Development’s sports tourism strategy and had the potential to grow into a three or four day event. It also fitted neatly with “The Gathering 2013” and “affords us the opportunity to link with all our diaspora and invite them to come home for the hurling to Thurles”.
Minister of State, Alan Kelly, who himself participated in the Caman Abu tournament, praised the work of Sarsfields in undertaking such a comprehensive programme of events and said he was very pleased to have been able to assist the organising committee in their endeavours.
The growing stature of the festival was reflected in the attendance of many high-profile people from the sporting organisations, including former GAA President, Sean Kelly, now MEP; Moycarkey man Willie Cashin, Chairman of the European GAA Board; national Camogie President, Aileen Lawlor; Irish Bowling Association, secretary, Susan Greene; Councillors John Kennedy and Seamus Hanafin, and Thurles Town Manager, Matt Shortt
Mrs Anne Gunning, daughter of Sarsfields and Tipperary hurling legend, Tom Semple, attended along with her husband, Sean, and presented the Semple Cup to the Kilburn Gaels. Also present was former Sarsfields and Tipperary hurler, T J Semple, grandson of Tom Semple.
At the conclusion of the festival, GAA President, Liam O’Neill was presented with a special Tom Semple commemorative medal by Michael Maher, chairman of the club, to mark the occasion.
John Enright, chairman of the organising committee, thanked all who had taken part and made such a success of the event. He was particularly appreciative of the support of GAA President, Liam O’Neill, Shannon Development, the many sponsors, and the co-operation given by all the sporting bodies involved, and the various bodies in town who made their facilities available. He also thanked Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann whose group, Oige Tiobrad Arann, entertained at the concert on opening night, and of the Jim O the Mill group who entertained on the closing night.
Liam O’Donnchu, Vice chairman of the organising committee, was a very efficient Fear a Ti on both opening night and at the presentation ceremony.