GAA is set to celebrate 50 years of the Féile this August

The son of one of the Féile founders, Tipp's Tommy Barrett, is looking for memorabilia from the history of the competition
GAA is set to celebrate 50 years of the Féile this August

Katlyn Sheehan, Sarsfields, Cork, in action against Ava Killian of Carnmore in the 2018 Féile. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

THIS year marks the 50th anniversary of the Féile na nGael competition. 

Due to Covid restrictions, the 2020 Féile was cancelled, while Cork successfully hosted the hurling and camogie tournament the year before.

Nothing of that scale will be feasible this year, with underage players, outside of the six counties, only returning to non-contact training from Monday. Wexford had been due to stage the hurling and camogie this summer, with Donegal, Derry and Tyrone picked to share the football equivalent but it will now be held on the last two weekends in August, in-county, not nationally.

It will be up to Rebel Óg to decide on a format for the event on August 21 and August 28 which will cater to all the clubs in Cork.

Blackrock's David Healy shoots for goal against Kilmacud Crokes. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Blackrock's David Healy shoots for goal against Kilmacud Crokes. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The hugely popular competition has also moved up an age from U14 to U15, which reflects national policy to make U13, U15 and U17 the key grades for teens, instead of U14, U16 and U18. The shift also gives those who missed out in 2020 a chance to participate. 

The Féile was established in 1971 in Thurles, with the aim of increased youth participation in GAA and founded by Tipperary county secretary Tommy Barrett, former GAA President Seamus Ó Riain and tourism officer for North Tipperary, Eamon De Stafford. 

Tommy Barrett, Tipperary secretary 1963-1999 and instrumental in setting up the Féile, with Seamus Ó Riain (GAA President 1967-1970) and Eamon De Stafford (former North Tipperary tourism officer).
Tommy Barrett, Tipperary secretary 1963-1999 and instrumental in setting up the Féile, with Seamus Ó Riain (GAA President 1967-1970) and Eamon De Stafford (former North Tipperary tourism officer).

Now Tommy Barrett junior is looking for anyone with memorabilia through the years, pictures, programmes and more, to contact him via email on tommybarrett1213@gmail.com.

He explains that the central idea in 1971 was the other 31 counties would be invited to Tipperary for a weekend to compete against clubs from all over Tipperary.

“Getting the Féile up and running every year is a big task and would not happen if it wasn’t for the countless volunteers who really are the strength of our association,” he said. “The first Féile took place on the weekend of July 16-20, 1971.

“All the participating teams took part in a parade and marched through the town of Thurles wearing their club colours. The teams carried a banner to show the crowds lining the street, the county they were representing. A GAA museum was set up in the town and among the items on display at the museum were old hurleys and sliotars and the jersey worn by Michael Hogan when playing for Tipperary at Croke Park on Bloody Sunday.”

Cork club Blackrock lifted the trophy in the top division 50 years ago and it’s since expanded to expanded with multiple sections to increase the numbers involved each regular, pre-Covid, year.

“The Féile has grown from strength to strength over the years and is a highlight in the GAA calendar each year. Féile is probably the most prestigious competition at underage level and it is a great honour for counties to host.”

The Na Piarsaigh team that won the 1974 Féile.
The Na Piarsaigh team that won the 1974 Féile.

The Division 1 Féile winners receive the Christy Ring Cup, which if modelled on the tower in Cloyne. Cork clubs won 10 of the first 11 Division 1 hurling titles, but only five since, the last in 2006 courtesy of Na Piarsaigh.

Cork camogie clubs Sars and Éire Óg have been dominant in recent seasons though.

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