Michael Cusacks Life
Michael Cusack was born in the parish of Carron in Co Clare on the edge of the Burren in 1847 in the middle of the Irish Famine. His father was a herdsman and both parents spoke Irish as their first language; in fact Michael was 11 before he said his first word in English.
He was a good student and quickly learned English and went on to qualify as a primary and secondary school teacher. Following several years in the United States he returned to Ireland and took up a teaching job at St Colmans College, Newry Co Down followed in 1874 by Blackrock College in Co Dublin and Clongowes Wood College in Co Kildare.
In 1877 he established ‘Cusacks’ Academy’ in Dublin, which was successful at preparing pupils for civil service and other professional exams.
As a distinguished athlete in his youth (particularly proficient at shot putt), he met many influential people and became involved in organising athletics in Dublin. He established a hurling club within his academy and became involved in various attempts to revive the ancient game.
Cusack - A Passionate Irishman
He always had a romanticised view of Ireland influenced by his parents and the tough harsh life in the West of Ireland. The stories of famine stricken Ireland and the British landlords no doubt resonated in Michael.
He was passionate about Irish Culture and was active in the Gaelic Revival and later the Gaelic League. He regarded athletics and the games of Hurling, Gaelic football and handball as intrinsic features of Irish culture and through these he could promote a distinctive national identity.
Around this time in 1879 he met Pat Nally a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and a leading Nationalist and athlete. Both men had similar views on the effects of British Landlordism on Irish Culture. For example no sport in Ireland could be played on Sunday but this was the only day that poor rural people had any free time.
A fellow contributor to the newspapers was Maurice Davin, a renowned athlete and farmer from Carrick-on-Shannon and both he and Cusack found they had much in common.
In 1884 between them, Cusack and Davin organised a meeting in Hayes Hotel on November 1st 1884, and at this meeting the Gaelic Association for the Preservation and Cultivation of Gaelic Games was established. Davin was elected President and Cusack Secretary of what quickly became the Gaelic Athletic Association.
See all events surrounding Michael Cusack on our GAA Timeline
Whilst secretary for only 2 years it was Michael Cusacks drive and belief in his Irish culture that was fundamental in the creation of the GAA and up to his death in 1906 aged 59 he took an active part in administration og Gaelic Games.
The formation of the GAA and preservation of the national games and cultural characteristics was fundamental in the growing awareness of a national identity in Ireland. Few would contest the impact this had on societies consciousness and the overwhelming contribution to the eventual formation of the Irish Republic.
Metropolitan Hurling Club Dublin Flyer with Cusack