There was a sporting buzz in Thurles last Saturday as the whole atmosphere in the town was very much awakened to the Thurles Sarsfields Festival of Gaelic Sport and Thurles Sports Fest – not to mention the hurling qualifier! Thurles SportsFest continues during July and for more information on what is planned go to

This pageant of the first All-Ireland was true to the life and times of 1887. The 21-aside teams representing Tipperary (comprising of Thurles, Moyne, Gortnahoe, Moycarkey and Upperchurch) and Galway (comprising of Meelick, Killimor and Lusmagh) giving us 30 minutes of hurling as it was played in the first All-Ireland. A major addition to the event was that it was recorded for posterity by two separate programs commissioned by RTE.


The pre-game parade from St Patrick’s college was colourful and a true community event. Led by the Moycarkey Pipe Band with music in Liberty Square outside Hayes’s Hotel having been provided from early by the Thurles Silver Band. The participants included horse and traps carrying descendants of the first club officers, including Dan Ryan, Dublin Road and Denis Callanan from the Killinan side of the parish. All the involved clubs participated in the parade. Thurles wore green and white which were the club jerseys of the time. Holycross GAA very kindly supplied a very old set of jerseys without sponsor’s logos which were ideal for the occasion. Meelick wore their original colours of blue and white in which they still play The U-12s of Meelick and Dúrlas Óg wore their county jerseys.

The Durrow High-Nellies led by Bobby Campion came in force and stole the show with their dress representative of the time and their high nelly bicycles.

The parade was fronted by the Thurles Scór Ball team captained by Declan Ryan and managed by Catherine Purcell and it was wonderful to see their participation.

The rear of the parade was brought up by four beautifully manicured horses from Thomas Ryan’s school of equestrian excellence on the Mill Road.


When the parade reached Sarsfields’ grounds, Liam O’Donnchú from Thurles and Michael Lynch from Meelick gave a short ‘two-hander’ which recounted details of the first All-Ireland itself.

The event was also honoured by the presence of the newly-elected Cathaoirleach of Tipperary County Council, Dr. Phyll Bugler who gave a short address on behalf of the Council who, with LIT Tipperary, are the main sponsors of the event. 

The 21-aside match of the time, which then took place, showed exactly how the game was played in the 1800s and was great fun to watch with the attire of the time attracting much attention. The level of skill shown by both sides was outstanding and the way they adapted to the old rules was admirable.

This whole event was indeed a great success for Thurles and Thurles Sports Fest. The event was organised by a small sub-committee consisting of John Lanigan, Ciarán Lynch, Tom Barrett, Liam Ó Donnachú and John Enright who send their sincere thanks to all of those whose co-operation and commitment made it possible including the Gardai and the Civil Defence.