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A new piece from Mattie Lennon: review of John Cassidy’s book

July 26, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections

Gaelic Games and Irish Transport

By Mattie Lennon

John Cassidy is a voluntary steward in Croke Park and as such he has witnessed spectacular victories, defeats and draws in football, hurling and camogie.

He is a Donegal man who won’t let you forget that his county won the all-Ireland final in 1992. His day job is as a supervisor with Dublin Bus, one of the CIE group of companies.

In October 2008 he was responsible for bringing CIE Transport Gaels to Gaelic Park, New York, to play teams from the NYPD and FDNY; the first time any CIE team played in America.

In his memoir he has written of how his childhood interest in Gaelic games was honed, “In McGettigan’s field in Clogher” and how, “two older boys would select the opposing teams: every one present was included which meant we often played twenty a side. As our pitch consisted of the entire field this was no problem. With the goalposts (four jackets) in place the game would begin. It would end for one of the following reasons: Hunger, darkness or a pitch invasion by Mc Gettigan’s cattle.”

John Cassidy’s experiences, literary ability and research skills have been, once again, juxtaposed to bring us his latest publication.

Buses, Trains and Gaelic Games” is a history of Gaelic games in Irish transport from 1885 to the present day. The author traces the path of Gaelic football, hurling, handball and camogie teams from the days of Charles Bianconi (the father of public transport, in Ireland) to the twenty-first century.

Since the foundation of Coras Iompar Eireann (CIE) in 1945 every section of the company, urban and rural, contributed to Gaelic sports and provided players at county, national and international level.

In his foreword, CIE Chairman John J. Lynch, says, “I deem it a high honour and privilege to be invited to contribute a Foreword to the history of the many CIE G.A.A. clubs nationwide.”

He goes on to praise, “ . . . the great sporting bodies within the CIE family ” and refers to the fact that their achievements “ both on and off the field, testify to the dedication of so many people . . . , which stands as a testimony to the organisational skills and tremendous sense of purpose which CIE has harnessed throughout its existence. Running a sporting organisation is a time consuming business but with the continued voluntary involvement of managers, coaches, administrators, players and supporters CIE will pass on a substantial legacy for future generations to build upon.”

Through, dedication, interviews and the relentless pursuit of source-material the author has given us a comprehensive and colourful account of clubs, teams and individual players associated with Irish transport over the generations. Some of these didn’t get the coverage they deserved, from the media, during their careers. One such, who features in this publication, was the most decorated player in the history of Gaelic games. Camogie player Kathleen Mills made her debut with the Great Southern Railway Club, Dublin, in 1938. In 1941 she played for Dublin, when they were beaten by Cork, in the All-Ireland final. She was on the winning Dublin team which beat Cork in 1942 and 1943. She went on to win all-Ireland medals in 1948, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955. She was Captain when Dublin beat Tipperary in 1957.

More All-Ireland medals were to follow in 1959, 1960 and 1961. The 1961 final was on her 38th birthday and it was the last time she wore the Dublin jersey. In retirement she was known as “the Christy Ring of the camogie world”. She died in August 1996.

Every parish in Ireland has its sporting heroes and almost every townland has someone who works, or worked, in CIE. And John Cassidy hasn’t neglected the “sporting ballad.” Many clubs and individual players are lauded in such compositions as, “Kelly’s Heroes”, “Thirteen Men From CIE” and “Transport Gaels.” “A Tribute to Sean Kelly” by Christy Fitzgerald immortalises a legend.

Einstein said, “If I knew what I was looking for I wouldn’t call it research.” Well, the gems that John Cassidy didn’t expect to find in the National Library, publications as diverse as “The Freeman’s Journal” and “Ireland’s Own” and the conversations of ordinary people, are now recorded for posterity between the covers on “Buses, Trains and Gaelic Games”.

This history of Gaelic games in Irish transport over a century and a quarter plus more than a hundred photographs is a book not to be missed.

“Buses, Trains and Gaelic Games” is available (Price €15, including postage) from; Original Writing, Spade Enterprise Centre, North King Street, Smithfield, Dublin 7. or you can get an autographed copy from the author, John Cassidy, 4 Ardmore Avenue, Dublin7. And you can contact him at;

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This work by various authors is licensed under a Creative Commons License.