When Michael Cusack moved to Dublin, in 1877, to open his academy preparing Irish students for the Civil Service examinations, sport throughout Ireland was the preserve of the middle and ascended classes.
Within Cusack’s academy sport was central with students who were encouraged to participate in rugby, cricket, rowing and weight-throwing.
In the early 1880’s Cusack turned his attentions to indigenous Irish sports. In 1882 he attended the first meeting of the Dublin Hurling Club, formed ‘for the purpose of taking steps to re-establish the national game of hurling’.
The weekly games of hurling, in the Phoenix Park, became so popular that, in 1883, Cusack had sufficient numbers to found ‘Cusack’s Academy Hurling Club’ which, in turn, led to the establishment of the Metropolitan Hurling Club.
On Easter Monday 1884 the Metropolitans played Killiomor, in Galway. The game had to be stopped on numerous occasions as the two teams were playing to different rules.
It was this clash of styles that convinced Cusack that not only did the rules of the games need to be standardised but that a body must be established to govern Irish sports.
Cusack was also a journalist and he used the nationalist press of the day to further his cause for the creation of a body to organise and govern athletics in Ireland.
On October 11 1884 an article, written by Cusack, called ‘A word about Irish Athletics’ appeared in the United Ireland and The Irishman. These articles were supported a week later by a letter from Maurice Davin, one of three Tipperary brothers, who had dominated athletics for over a decade and who gave his full support to the October 11 articles.
A week later Cusack submitted a signed letter to both papers announcing that a meeting would take place in Hayes’s Commercial Hotel, Thurles on November 1 1884.
On this historic date Cusack convened the first meeting of the ‘Gaelic Athletic Association for the Preservation and Cultivation of national Pastimes’. Maurice Davin was elected President, Cusack, Wyse-Power and McKay were elected Secretaries and it was agreed that Archbishop Croke, Charles Stewart Parnell and Michael Davitt would be asked to become Patrons.
From that initial, subdued first meeting grew the Association we know today.