It is impossible to ask about the Holycross show without immediately hearing the name Tom O’Donoghue. One of the original committee members he was involved with the organisation and running of the show from its inception in 1970 until he retired from the committee in 1991.
A native of Lixnaw, Co Kerry where his grandfather had raised horses, Tom played hurling at minor and junior level for Kerry. On leaving school he joined the army and then emigrated to London. He returned to Ireland on his father’s death and joined the Gardai in 1959. He was stationed in Thurles town but lived in Holycross. He settled into the area and made many friends, particularly among the horse breeding and racing fraternity. When the idea of a gymkhana was first floated the group immediately asked Tom to come on board to help run it. Tom himself would credit the success to the huge support of so many able people, such as Timmy Hyde who set out the format and Michael Purcell who was a great PRO alongside an army of committed local volunteers.
While this community spirit was often remarked on, being described by one reporter as ‘phenomenal team-spirit and enthusiasm’ which led to international trial status within ten years of its inception there is a consensus that one of the driving forces behind the venture was Tom O’Donoghue. Over the years newspaper reports single Tom out for a special mention, his drive and commitment to the success of the show being highlighted. In 1972 the Tipperary Star praised him as the one who carried the bulk of the organisational work in the months leading up to the show, similar praise was printed in The Sunday Journal and the Farming Independent. While Tom himself would credit his wife Mary with being the de facto secretary from 1970 to 1979.
The local parish priest Fr. Lynch writing a letter to the committee, commended Tom and his wife Mary, stating that the success of the show was due both to the dedication and hard work of the committee and local volunteers, and the drive, leadership and organisational skills shown by the O’Donoghues over the years. Local volunteer Andy Slattery described Tom as ‘a tornado about the show’, reminiscing about how Tom’s enthusiasm affected everyone around him and carried them all along with it.