James Stephens GAA club, known fondly as The Village, celebrates 125 years in 2012. Famed as one of the modern powerhouses of hurling and club development, the club is the subject of a new book that recalls the good and bad times since the beginning.
Entitled ‘From the Arch to the Pump, James Stepehns GAA club 1887-2012’ the book is penned by current chairman, Tommy Lanigan and is a credit to a great club.
The 444-page all-colour production contains more than 500 photographs, scans and sketches and 120 colour profiles of people and events. It is a fitting successor to the club history published in their centenary year. Much has happened since then.
The author calls on a wide array of sources, newspapers and sports books from the past century and a quarter to confirm or deny and otherwise illustrate the story of the club’s development.
The book traces not only the development of the GAA club, but also the parallel fortunes of Kilkenny hurling. The wider GAA world is frequently referenced, in particular the issues of the infamous Ban, rule changes and how they affected the games, the evolution of sliotair, hurleys and hurley-making, travelling to games and the development of games promotion among the youth.
The book touches strongly on the social history of St Patrick’s parish and Kilkenny City with descriptions of the great battle on High Street in 1888, World War II and the floods of 1947, social life from the late nineteenth century through the seventies and beyond.
The construction of housing and social facilities in the area is described and how all of these influenced the development of sport and social life. St Patrick’s Band and many of the other organisations that flourished are all part of the story of the development of the spirit of the Village.
While many of the famous early clubs in the GAA were middle class in origin, the Village was a small working class area based in Upper Patrick Street. James Nowlan, longest serving GAA President (1901-1920) was reputedly a founder member.
Survived difficult times
The club survived through very difficult times until its first breakthrough in 1924. For the next two decades James Stephens became one of the marquee names in club hurling until slipping back to obscurity for almost 30 years.
The late 1960s saw the revival of fortunes under the leadership of among others Bill Cody and Sean Georgie Leahy. James Stephens club has been a dominant force in under-age Gaelic games for over 40 years and the book details their approach to developing young players and supporters.
Through the seventies the club produced some of the greatest names to wear the black and amber in Phil ‘Fan’ Larkin, Liam ‘Chunky’ O’Brien and Joe Hennessy, and Jackie Tyrrell and Eoin Larkin carry on the tradition to the present time.
It is fitting that in their year of celebration they have provided the captain of the victorious Kilkenny senior hurling team in Eoin Larkin and the manager in Brian Cody, another hero of the past.
A staggering 191 county and All-Ireland titles have been won by the club over the years. The club is about more than hurling alone with very successful track records in football and camogie.