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Maurice McGrath: Listowel and Tipperary

By Vincent Carmody

It is now 94 years since the death of Maurice McGrath, Listowel Postmaster. Few today are aware of the organisational impact that this Tipperary native had on Gaelic games in his adopted home of Listowel and the general area of North Kerry from 1924 to 1928.

Maurice was born in 1892 in Tipperary Town, he was a son of Pat McGrath who served as Secretary of the Munster Council from 1904 until his death in 1931. The present-day Munster Council sponsored McGrath cup competition is named in his honour.

Maurice McGrath had his primary and secondary education in Tipperary, in 1910 he entered the postal service in Tipperary as a clerk, he served there and in Limerick until 1923 when he was appointed Postmaster in Listowel. He took an active part in the Anglo-Irish struggle and was interned in 1920, spending 13 months in Ballykinlar. His arrival in the town was in the aftermath of the turmoil of both War of Independence and Civil War, at this time interest and the organising of the native games were at a low ebb in both the town and North Kerry area. McGrath, having been imbued with the Gaelic ideal from his infancy and with his natural organisational ability set about revitalising the dormant games, soon, from comparative obscurity North Kerry became one of the leading centers of Gaelic activity in Munster.  Under his leadership North Kerry football and hurling took on a new life, he organised leagues and under his leadership a powerful North Kerry team was put together. In Listowel he organised a senior street league and a national school competition for which he presented a trophy. This was the first under-age completion organised in Kerry. During these years he served as Chairman of the North Kerry Board.

Early on the morning of Saturday October 27th 1928, Listowel was shocked when news of McGraths death came through from Dublin, he had successfully undergone an operation for adenoids the week previous, in the days following he had contacted pneumonia which he succumbed to and he died on Friday evening the 26th, he left a widow and three young children. Three busloads of Maurice’s many Listowel friends and many more from throughout the county attended his interment in Tipperary town cemetery on Sunday 28th .

The Cork Examiner of October 30th reported,

‘At a meeting of the Kerry County Board, G.A.A. at Tralee, Mr P. J. O’Connell, chairman, presiding, touching tributes were paid to the memory of the late Mr. Maurice McGrath, postmaster, Listowel, who has closely identified with the G.A.A. in Kerry since his advent to the county. On the motion of the chairman, seconded by Mr John J. Sheehy, it was decided to adjourn the meeting as a mark of respect. On the motion of Mr. P. Foley, seconded by Mr. D. J. Bailey, it was decided that officials of the County Board should attend the funeral at Tipperary’

A generous tribute to McGrath in the Kerry Liberator of November 3rd included,

‘Maurice McGrath left his impression on Gaelic affairs generally in this county. Three years back an amended constitution of the County Board was advocated in these notes. Mr McGrath was responsible for its fruition. Bye-Laws and systematising of G.A.A. work in the county was largely his inspiration. More than any other living man, Maurice McGrath contributed to the well-being of the Association in Kerry’

The Greenville team pictured were the first and last team that the cup was presented to.


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