#OTD in 1936 – Carlow Gaelic Park Formal Opening.

Dr. Cullen Park was officially opened by Patrick McNamee of the GAA in Co Carlow. It was so named in the memory of Most Rev. Dr. Cullen who had died on 2nd January 1936. The late Bishop was honoured as “a great churchman, a true-hearted gael and a patriotic Irishman”. The attendance on opening day consisted of nearly all Carlow people.

There was a fraternal spirit: a Catholic and Gaelic one. Here and there men mingled with men and you heard the soft cadences of our native tongue that made you realise how natural sounds the Gaelic in the mouths of Irishmen. They have completed a work that has been dreamed of for a generation. The large tricolour that flew over Carlow’s green Gaelic Park on Sunday was never more rightfully hoisted.

The grounds were opened with the solemn blessing of the Park by the ‘Rev JJ Dunny, Adm, Carlow “accompanied by three acolytes”. Mr Thomas Ryan, President of Carlow GAA also presided and he described the day as “an outstanding event in the history of the GAA in the county”.

Padraig McNamee, President of the Ulster Council, “having first spoken a few words in Irish said he would speak a few words of English”. He spoke in the absence of GAA President Bob O’Keeffe who, it was reported, had another engagement in Roscommon that day and couldn’t attend. The Ulster man paid tribute to “a true hearted gael, the late Most Rev Dr Cullen, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin” after whom the ground would be named.

McNamee was delighted with the new ground as it was imperative that young Gaels had more playing pitches on which to play the national games. Religion and politics were never that far from the surface at the time as McNamee indicated. He referenced Bishop Cullen once more in his final words:

“A more noble-minded and unassuming Bishop could not be found anywhere in Ireland. He was a great churchman, a true-hearted Gael and a patriotic Irishman,” McNamee said to applause from the crowd. He also stated they would never cease in the struggle until they saw the realisation of all their aims, a free Gaelic Ireland.

A message of apology for non-attendance was received from Éamon de Valera, President of Ireland, and also from the Minister for Education, Thomas Derrig, T.D.

A date with the GAA history books.
August 9th 1936.
Now lads, steady yer nerves.
It’s a big day in Carlow GAA history.
Ye all know what happens when the Laois men cross Graiguecullen Bridge
and on to the Holy ground of Carlow!
On the other side, coming up the Athy Road the Kildare contingent will
be coming in full force and they’ll not be takin’ any prisoners.
Several pipe bands will be in attendance including the Killeshin Pipe Band
and the Doonane Pipe band.
There’ll be ice cream stalls galore
and juicy apples an’ oranges to be had by all!
And when the battle is over between neighbours Kildare and Laois
prepare for a hurling heave of gigantic proportions between
“The Dubs” and “The Cats”.
So, come one come all!
Make sure ye have a shilling in yer pockets for the gate…

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