He is 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 little enough is known about the great Tom Semple.
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.’
Liam, who is the recognised voice of Semple Stadium has taken on the 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.
The book will cover the period 1904 -1914 - a time when Sarsfields 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 a Guard with the Great Southern and Western Railway Company. He lived in Fianna Road in Thurles but his people came from Drombane originally.
Apart from his exploits on the field of play when he led his men with great distinction, Tom Semple was a leader off the field as well . He was heavily involved in the purchase of Thurles Sportsfield off the Thurles Agricultural Society in 1910 but died in 1943 and did not live to see Semple Stadium at it’s brilliant best, as it is today. He would surely be proud to see 50,000 people crammed in to 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 Sportsfield 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.
“There is not a lot of information out there about Tom Semple or the men he led and I suppose I am hoping that people might have that information at home or whatever. Any information would be very welcome indeed or if there are any photos which might be of interest too, I would be thrilled to get copies of them,” Liam told The Tipperary Star this week.
A man who has given a lifetime to the GAA, Liam has been heavily involved 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 collectors item and a must 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 others areas well and in 1910 they represented Tipperary at the Celtic Congress in Belgium playing in such places as Flanders. They hurled in the Croke Fennelly Cup and Semple himself was involved in the erection of the Croke Memorial in Liberty Square back in 1922.
The officers of the club were Denis O’Keeffe (Chairman), James Kennedy (Secretary and Thurles Town Clerk) and Phil Moloney (Treasurer). The players included: