FOR an association that prides itself on tradition and lineage, it is strange that relatively little has been done to celebrate the life and achievements of the GAA's founder, Michael Cusack. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of the Clare man and so far, on a national level at least, the occasion has passed without a whimper.
Compare this to the 100th anniversary of the birth of Samuel Beckett which is also upon us. A massive Beckett revival is underway; the media is awash with the playwright, his works are reappearing on stage and screen and most of the country is aware of Beckett's birth a century ago.
If such festivities are bestowed upon Beckett, then why not Cusack? The answer could have roots in the schoolyard concept of popularity because, simply, Cusack's personality never endeared him to the masses.
To some of his peers, Cusack was an outspoken man of definite opinion and over time those traits have been described with more menace than they deserved.
His depiction as The Citizen in Ulysees didn't help either. Joyce portrayed him as a loud mouth who was hostile towards Jews and Protestants . . . an inaccurate description that irks those who promote Cusack's legacy.
Cusack was quarrelsome, of that there is no doubt, and he even engaged in some bitter rows with those who upheld his own organisation.
Three years after he founded the association, he publicly described the leadership and administration of the GAA as "vile and grabbing imitators".
This was a year after another argument with the association saw him lose his role as secretary of the GAA.
Character flaws or not, his year should not pass unnoticed. While this may be the case nationally, the same can't be said at local level. Brother Sean McNamara, a retired teacher from Killmurray McMahon in Clare, has just published The Man from Carron, a 96-page insight into the character that was Cusack.
The publication charts his times as an educationalist and family man and presents the interesting argument that the association was not born in Hayes' Hotel, Thurles, but at Cusack's learning academy at 4 Gardiner Place, Dublin. The Dublin building now operates as Dergvale Hotel and it was here, says Brother McNamara, the notion of the GAA was conceived with the writing of a letter which informed of the famous gathering in Thurles.
According to Brother McNamara, Thurles was chosen as the location for the first official meeting because "it was regarded as the most central spot for the majority of the best athletes and also because Archbishop Croke was interested in everything Gaelic."
The Man From Carron shows Cusack to have been an individual with a great interest in a number of sporting activities and not just the national pastimes. He competed in athletics, was a member of the Leinster Rugby Football Association and had a special affinity with the game of cricket.
The publication pays particular attention to Cusack's love of his homeland of Carron and concludes that it was here he developed a national outlook that led to the foundation of the GAA. Carron's relationship with Cusack was strengthened last week when permission was granted for the establishment of an information centre at Cusack's cottage in north Clare. The Michael Cusack Development Company is now due to begin work on the centre and the restoration of Cusack's cottage.
As part of the development, plans to establish a Michael Cusack Academy of Coaching are also underway; all of which would result in a sustainable remembrance to a man who many feel has been airbrushed from history.
"Our key objective is to honour the founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association in his centenary of 2006, " says project chairperson, Martin O'Loghlen. "It is our intention that Cusack be remembered for the dynamism that brought the GAA into existence." Though previous generations have attempted to pay tribute to Cusack's legacy, this local Clare movement seems the most devoted and forward-thinking of the lot.
In 1984, as part of centenary celebrations, the GAA purchased Cusack's cottage and restored the building.
Thirty-two trees were planted in the founder's homeland, one for each county. It was a nice move and probably a lovely day out too. After officialdom nosed away from Carron, though, they kept their backs turned and the project crumbled. Those trees are now overgrown and the cottage is unkept but with this Clare initiative, that's about to change. And this time the restoration will be maintained.
The consensus in Clare is that Croke Park would rather erase the memory of Cusack and the lack of activity surrounding his centenary suggests some truth in the belief.
The real shame would be that the year would pass and true GAA folk wouldn't realise the historical significance of these months. At the very least, it would give us a chance to learn more about the enigmatic man. Why not something along the lines of a Beckett celebration?
In any case, if Croke Park isn't prepared to honour their founder, then those in Clare are willing to do it themselves.
'The Man From Carron' is published by the author, priced 10