STORY OF TIPPERARY FEMALE FOOTBALL
In recent years the number of occasions on which supporters of the Blue and Gold in any code have tasted the sweetness of All-Ireland victory have been rare. With respect for our U-21 and Minor hurlers who have brought honours to the county, we have little else to enthuse about. However the Ladies Football teams of the county have set a headline for their male counterparts by capturing four All-Ireland crowns within the past seven years. Indeed, what few readers may know is that Sunday 13th October 1974 will go down in the record books as the day when Tipperary Ladies football recorded the only win of 1974 for the county and the only win of a Tipperary football team since 1920, when they defeated Offaly in style. It was their first ever final and it quickly dispelled any illusion that the catch and kick game is not for the gentle sex. Played under G.A.A rules, the exceptional rule, being that ladies can pick the ball off the ground.
But, you are asking how it all began? Appropriately enough, the All-Ireland Ladies Football Committee was founded in Hayes Hotel in Thurles - where the G.A.A. originated in 1884. Initially the game started in this county and was mainly the brain child of Mr. Jim Kennedy, Connolly Park Clonmel, an ex-army Sergeant who got the idea of starting outdoor activities for the Ladies. He got together a team in Ardfinnan and as the news spread of this idea other keenly interested people got involved. Mr John Donovan, Thorny Bridge, Ballypatrick formed a team in Mullinahone and in Mid Tipperary Mr. Dermott Shanahan, Littleton with the help of Miss Sally Clohessy also from Littleton initiated a team in the Moycarkey area.
The next step was the staging of a club championship in 1973 - 1974, which proved a big success and appropriately champions. Ladies Football was catching on.
With more and more people showing interest in the sport within the county those already involved with the administrate level convened a meeting in Clonmel towards the end of the year with the purpose of inviting all interested parties to try and establish a County Board. The County Board was set up. The ever-increasing popularity of the game was realised by the Tipperary Board and they decided to try and encourage other counties to promote the game with a view to starting an All-Ireland Competition.
At a historical, well attended meeting held under the auspices of the County Board in Hayes Hotel in 1974, the National Association was formed. The National Committee members who pioneered the development of the game were - Jim Kennedy Tipperary: Marie Holland - Roscommon: Mary Nevin - Offaly: Joe Feeley - Offaly: Margaret Flanagan - Roscommon: Brenda Martin - Dublin. Initially eight counties were under the control of the national Committee - Cork, Kerry, Galway, Waterford, Tipperary, Roscommon, Laois and Offaly.
The Association now boasts a membership of sixteen counties. Eventually the four Provinces were well-represented in the All-Ireland series, with each county running its own internal championships.
After the Club Championship was run off Tipperary team was selected to participate in the All-Ireland series. They performed with complete control and confidence in the Munster championship and were favoured to take the first title. Fittingly, the Ladies did just that with a memorable victory over Offaly at Durrow. In a year when the Premier County seemed doomed to end the year without a championship title, the girls saved the situation in style with a precious one point victory. The game itself was a thriller with a throw in to the final whistle and those present will remember the tough encounter between two out-standing teams, and though Offaly were unlucky the Tipp Ladies had the vital edge in speed and all round fitness. A reception was held in Ardfinnan, the home of the team captain Kitty Ryan, laid on by the Ardfinnan G.A.A Club and the Cup went on display.
The Tipperary Panel on this occasion were:
Margaret Carroll - Ardfinnan, Sally Clohessy - Moycarkey,
Ann Croke - Mullinahone, Majella Sweeney - Newcastle,
Ena Hackett - Newcastle, Tina Flynn - Ardfinnan,
Betty Looby - Golden, Eileen Dudley - Cashel,
Susan O'Gorman - Ardfinnan, Josephine Keane - Mullinahone,
Eleanor Carroll - Ardfinnan, Lillian Gorey - St. Bridget's.
Kitty Ryan Capt. - Ardfinnan, Mary McGrath - Emily,
Mary Power - Mullinahone, Nora Moran - Newcastle,
Mary Lonergan - Emly, Mary Burke - Emly,
Alice Morris - Moycarkey, Kate O'Dwyer,
Ann Clohessy, Marian Bryan,
Ann Bryan, G Ryan - Cappawhite,
B Butler - Cappawhite, Noreen Blake - Golden,
Katherine Keane - Mullinahone.