Michael Cusack (1847-1906)

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  • Aspects of Clare

Early years

Michael Cusack was born on 20 September, 1847, in the parish of Carron in North Clare. He grew up on the eastern edge of the Burren in a small cottage with his parents, four brothers and one sister. His first language was Irish and it is said that he did not speak English until he was eleven years old. He quickly learned English and remained bilingual for the rest of his life.

He did well in school and went on to train as a teacher. He continued playing sports and was especially good at the shot-putt. He began to become more and more involved in journalism and politics and had less time for his teaching career.


Cusack did not approve of how sports were controlled at that time. Firstly, those in charge of organized sports did not approve of games being played on Sundays. This was the only day of the week that rural people had free to enjoy sports. Also, organized games were quite elitist, excluding people who worked in manual jobs like labourers, mechanics and small farmers. Cusack was also concerned that the traditional Irish games of hurling and Gaelic football were falling into decline.

Cusack founded the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in 1884. The first meeting of the organization took place on November 1, 1884, in Hayes' Hotel, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. The aims of the new organization were to foster and promote Irish games, open games up to all social classes and to establish clubs which would organize matches between clubs and counties.

Four games were named on the original GAA charter back in 1884: Hurling, Gaelic Football, Handball and Rounders.

Cusack's Legacy

Michael Cusack's legacy can be seen in every village and town in the country in the form of GAA clubs which are still going strong. There are over 1,600 clubs in Ireland. There are also clubs in the UK, USA, Australia and many other countries accross the world.

The Clare GAA pitch in Ennis is named 'Cusack Park' in his memory. His childhood home has been preserved and is now open to the public.