Michael Cusack (Mícheál Ó Ciosóg) (20 September 1847 – 27 November 1906) was an Irish teacher and founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association.
Cusack was born in the parish of Carron on the eastern fringe of the Burren, County Clare, in 1847 during the ‘An Gorta Mor’. He became a teacher and travelled throughout Ireland teaching in Enniscorthy, St Colman’s College, Newry, Corofin, Lough Cultra, Blackrock College, Clongowes Wood and Kilkenny College before eventually settling in Dublin. He opened the Civil Service Academy on Gardiner St. in Dublin, which trained young men for entrance exams for Trinity College, Dublin, medical and law schools & for entry into the navy, army and constabulary. A romantic nationalist, Cusack was also “reputed” to have been associated with the Fenian movement.
Together with Maurice Davin, of Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, he called a meeting in Hayes’s Commercial Hotel, Thurles, County Tipperary, on 1 November 1884, and founded the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
Davin was elected president and Cusack became its first secretary. Later, Archbishop Thomas William Croke (May 28, 1824 – July 22, 1902), Archbishop of Cashel & Emly, Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell became patrons. Cusack also became involved in the Irish language movement, founding The Celtic Times, a weekly newspaper which focused on ‘native games’ and Irish culture.
Cusack died on 27 November 1906 at the age of 59.
The newly opened Michael Cusack Visitor Centre located on the original homestead in Carron, The Burren, Co. Clare is dedicated to recounting the fascinating story of Michael Cusack and the idealism which led to him founding the Gaelic Athletic Association.
The bigoted character of “the citizen” in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses is thought to have been at least in part based on what has been described as “a jaundiced portrait of Michael Cusack”.
The Clare GAA pitch in Ennis, and the Westmeath GAA pitch in Mullingar, are both named “Cusack Park” in his honour, as is the “Cusack Stand” in Croke Park, Dublin.
The primary school Gaelscoil Mhíchíl Cíosóg in Ennis, Co.Clare, is also named after him.
Michael Cusacks’s Sydney GAA Club was founded in 1988 by a group of Clare men and was named in honour of the man from Carron. Michael Cusack’s Sydney is now the largest GAA club in New South Wales.
Chicago Michael Cusack Hurling Club is a GAA club consisting entirely of American-born players founded in 2008.
A small collection of family papers was donated to the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway, by his grandniece, Patricia O’Connell. They include a letter in the form of a diary, written by Cusack on holidays in Lisdoonvarna in July 1902, photographs, a prayer book he gave his wife Margaret (née Woods), and a book of minutes of the Dublin Hurling Club of 1884.
James Joyce biographers believe that “Citizen” in Ulysess is based on Michael Cusack.