February 03, 2007
The late Seamus O Riain
The GAA world is in mourning following the passing of that grand old man of Tipperary Gaeldom, former President of the GAA Mr Seamus O Riain.
Mr O Riain, who had reached the ripe old age of Bushertown, Moneygall, on the Tipperary-Offaly border, and his death evoked nationwide regret.
A man of many and varied talents, Seamus was a teacher, hurler, footballer, referee, athlete, administrator, and historian over his long and fruitful life. However, it was as President of the GAA that he earned himself most distinction at home and abroad. Up to the time of his passing he had the distinction of being the longest surviving former President having served at the at the helm from 1967 to 1970.
Honourary President of County and North Divisional Boards, Seamus celebrated his 90th birthday on April 2nd 2006, and later that month he was inducted in to the Hall of Fame by the Tipperary Association in Dublin. A short time later he had the honour of being received by Aras an Uachtaran by Her Excellency President Mary McAleese.
Seamus O Riain's early involvement in the GAA saw him play hurling and football for this club Moneygall, and he was honoured by the Tipperary selectors in both junior hurling and football in the forties. In that time, Seamus also excelled in the athletics arena winning many county titles. While studying at De La Salle College in Waterford he won two Waterford senior football championships.
On returning to his native county, Seamus taught in Ballywilliam, Cloughjordan, and Borrisokane, before finally settling in Dunkerrin NS in 1943. He was soon elected Secretary of the Moneygall club, and before long he made a huge mark in the divisional administrative scene, representing his club on the North Board. In 1955 he was elected vice chairman of the Board, and two years later he moved to the position of Chairperson, serving in the role until 1966. His growing expertise as an administrator was further rewarded when in 1958 he was elected one of top Tipperary delegates on the Munster Council. In 1962 he was elected vice chairman of the provincial council, and it's Chairman in 1965.
The affable Seamus reached the highest rung of the GAA ladder when elected President in 1967, succeeding Alf Murray from Armagh. His Presidency marked some very significant developments in the Association. It was during his presidency that the club development scheme begun to provide finance and advice for GAA clubs to become social and community centre for parishes. He established the first GAA links with many countries abroad, and took major steps to enhance the development of handball and scor. During his term in office, he presided over the construction of the new Croke Park handball courts.
A shrewd judge of life, a great friend and advisor to many. Seamus was also a marvellous raconteur. He regaled many an audience with stories of his life in the GAA. He had few regrets over a glowing career, but, among them was his disappointment at not having the honour of presenting the Liam McCarthy Cup to Tipperary during his three years as President. However, he was absolutely chuffed that in a tribute paid to him by the North Board a few years ago, captains who had accepted the MacCarthy and Sam Maguire Cups from him were present to honour him.
On completion of his term as President in 1970 Seamus O Riain did not retire from GAA affairs. On the contrary, typical of his energy, zeal and enthusiasm, he continued to contribute in a major way to the development of the Association in the county. He succeeded Canon Fogarty as Chairman of the Tipperary GAA county Board, and presided over the introduction of the Canon Fitzgerald hurling competition for post-primary schools, and the publication 'Tipperary GAA Yearbook'.
He, along with Tomas O Baroid and Eamonn De Stafort was also instrumental in establishing the national Feile na nGael series in 1971. Their efforts led to one of the most celebrated events on the annual GAA calendar. Typical of his love for Tipperary GAA, Seamus, after stepping down as Chairperson of the County Board spent a term as it's PRO. At the same time, he made an enormous contribution to his club Moneygall, elected it's Chairman in 1974. How he rejoiced when the club won it's first two county senior hurling titles in the nineties, and was so proud to see his four sons, Philip, Jack, Seamus and Eugene in the ranks. On the administrative side of the Association, he was a pivital figure in the Semple Stadium was deemed fit to host the Centenary All-Ireland in 1984. In 1990 he was elected President of Tipperary County Board.
As a historian, Seamus produced many fine works, among them the Moneygall Hurling Story 1885-1985, and Maurice Davin - First President of the GAA.
Gaels throughout the country and abroad mourned the passing of a great friend. They remembered fondly a modest unassuming man who achieved greatness in so many spheres of life. They reflect on a life filled with activity and they salute a man who was one of the GAA's greatest ambassadors. Throughout his travels at home and abroad, he was always accompanied by his wife Mary. Sadly, Mary passed to her eternal reward some years ago, and her death was a devastating blow to Seamus and his family.
A wonderful husband, and family man, he took great pride in their achievements. In latter years, Seamus was a regular attended at GAA conventions, his words of wisdom always greatly appreciated by gaels of the country. He loved nothing better than to chat with friends from all over Ireland who visited his home. They loved to hear the recollections of a truly wonderful man.
Fellow gael and close friend, Fr Seamus Gardiner, the current spokesperson for the national referees committee, fondly remembers his great friend. "Seamus had a keen intellect but first and foremost he will be remembered for being a lovely man. The only trouble with Seamus was to get away from him because he was such a fantastic storyteller and pleasant man. He never lost that respect and time for people," Fr Gardiner said. A noted thespian, the former GAA President was also a member of the Moneygall Drama Group and won a number of Best Actor awards in his time treading the boards on the local drama circuit.
Mr O Riain, who is predeceased by his wife Mary, is survived by his family, sons, Seamus, Jack, Eugene, Diarmuid, Philip, daughters, Ann, Margaret, Bernadette, Monica and Mary, relatives and a large circle of friends to whom heartfelt sympathy is extended. He is grandfather of current Dublin football star Shane Ryan.
Testament to Mr O Riain's popularity was the huge crowds which attended his removal from St Patrick's Funeral Home, Dunkerrin to St Joseph's Church, Moneygall, and again at the concelebrated Funeral Mass. Hundreds of mourners from all over Ireland paid their respects to a man they revered, a man who personified everything that is wholesome in Irish Life.
Tributes were led by President of the GAA Mr Nicky Brennan, and Patron of the Association Archbishop Dermot Clifford. Among the large and representative attendance were a number of former Presidents of the GAA.
The commitment of the late GAA President Seamus O'Riain to the GAA was of "lifetime duration" current President Nicky Brennan told mourners in a beautiful graveside oration.
Mr Brennan said that it was in the parish of Moneygall that life began for Seamus in the memorable year of 1916. In the fields he played as a boy and as a young man. He married his wife Mary, he raised his family, and imbued countless schoolchildren with his "own ardent love of their own kind, their own place, and their own country". In Moneygall he spent a serene old age in a community whose elders had sat at his feet as children.
Mr Brennan stated - As a boy he had to look no further than his own home for the ideal of service one's community and country. His family suffered much in the cause of freedom. That suffering, instead of sharpening bitterness, only deep-end his capacity for tolerance. As a young man he was the personification of the ideal of mens sana in corpore sano - a healthy mind in a healthy body. He wore his county's colours in hurling and football. He captained his county's hurlers at junior level. He was a superb athlete, winning fifteen county championships over a period of years, principally in sprints and long jumps. And, as with his relationship with the GAA, what he got from athletics he gave back in abundance. He held office as Secretary, and as Chairman of Tipperary County Board of the National Athletics and Cycling Association.
His commitment to the GAA was of lifetime duration. While still a player he was Secretary of his local club. He held office as Chairman of North Tipperary GAA Board and was Chairman of the Munster Council, before being elected as President of the Association.
When his term as President had ended he returned to his own county, and became Chairman of it's County Board. And when his term as County Chairman had ended he went back to where he had started and became Chairman of his beloved Moneygall club. He guided it's affairs, wrote it's history, and watched with typically quiet pride his sons as part of the Moneygall team that brought two successive county senior championships to the little village.
Tipperary paid him it's highest honour in making him Life President of it's county board. Everything he did, he did well. His period as President was one of monumental achievement. Like our first President Maurice Davin - whose biography he would memorably write and on the 80th anniversary of whose death he himself would breathe his last - Seamus was never a divisive force, but always showed a capacity to persuade people to work together.
He launched the GAA commission, which would do so much to modernise the Association, and he launched the club development scheme. He initiated the links with Australia, which led to the first international games under compromise rules. He encouraged the building of the modern handball alley at Croke Park. He initiated Scor, which was the GAA's contribution to the revival of the Irish music, song and dance.
As was typical of a man who gave a lifetime of service to Daoine oga, he derived what was probably his deepest satisfaction from the lasting success of the young people's Feile na n Gael. It was in great part his brainchild, he was chairman of it's organising committee for the first fifteen years of it's life, and it is gathering momentum go dti an la inniu.
Those who knew him best will miss his commanding presence, the quiet wisdom he brought to every discussion, the enthusiasm that did not diminish with age, the gentle humour, the endless flow of reminiscence, the deep fount of learning which informed all his opinions, the sheer kindliness of a personality that was utterly unique.
As we lay him to rest in his native place, it is beyond argument that Seamus O'Riain belongs now to the ages. Not just to Moneygall, not just to Tipperary, but to people everywhere, wherever the games of the Gael are played.
Wherever a whistle is blown to call young people to combat in the games he loved, there will be among the onlookers, revelling in the excitement, happy in the knowledge that the torch has passed into safe hands, that the traditions of our people are alive and well with another generation. I measc naomh agus laochra na hEireann go raibh se. Go ndeana Dia trocaire ar a anam agus ar anamacha na daoine uaisle a chuaig roimhe.
Courtesy of the Tipperary Star
3 February 2007
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