My Tipperary Life with County Tipperary GAA Board secretary Tim Floyd

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My Tipperary Life with County Tipperary GAA Board secretary Tim Floyd

County Tipperary GAA Board secretary Tim Floyd

Secretary of the County Tipperary GAA Board, Tim Floyd is a passionate Premier County man whose driving ambition always is to see Gaelic Games flourish locally. A native of Birdhill, the Newport man speaks to us this week.

What's your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend in Tipperary?

I love Saturdays as it combines almost everything I love to do in one day. Starting with an hour extra in the “leaba” followed by breakfast and a short period in the office at home catching up on outstanding issues. Then it’s a few hours of “honey do jobs” around the house and garden which are usually good therapy after a stressful week. Maybe then in the afternoon it’s a stroll with the dog down my favourite walk along the Pollagh Trail which is a peaceful nature pathway leading down to the banks of the Shannon.

Come evening time there’s usually a GAA game involving my beloved Newport at some level which usually ends up with a post-mortem over a few drinks in our local Coopers Bar. Otherwise its home early if her ladyship and myself have plans to go out in Ballina later that night where our favourite local ballad singer Martin Byrnes might entertain us in Liam O’Rians Bar beside the church.

Usually its home shortly after midnight as Sunday is very often inter county activity with one or other of the Tipp teams in action so a clear head is required

Who has made the greatest contribution to Tipperary in your lifetime - and why?

I have mulled over this one for a time focussing on the word “contribution” and treating Tipperary as a whole county and diaspora and not just a specific region. Over the past thirty years my involvement with Tipperary County Board has brought me into contact with great Tipperary players and officials past and present, passionate Tipperary business people who have financially backed Tipperary GAA whenever called upon, dedicated political representatives, and generally die hard Tipperary people who, in the words of John Mullane, just love their county.

To pick one above another would be unfair so I’m selecting a man from outside the county but whose voice filled the GAA homes of Tipperary for over 30 years since the inception of Tipp Fm.

Paddy Finucane, was a Carrick on Suir native, but on the Carrick-Beg side of the river which made him a Waterford man and a member of the St Mollerans GAA Club. His love and passion for the GAA brought him to Tipperary and his live commentaries of club and county games made him a household name.

Micheal O Muirchearthaigh said on a recent GAA documentary on RTE that Michéal O Hehir broadcasting was the soul of the life of Ireland's sport. Indeed Paddy Finucane was the Michael O Hehir of Tipperary as he brought his own distinct passion into every broadcast which meant so much to many in the county who could not attend games for various reasons.

His team announcements were legendary as he always commenced with “on goal” and when he came to number eight it was “i lár na pairce”. I’m sure there were many who watched games on TG4 with the Irish commentary on TV silenced and Paddy Finucanes radio voice-over as a suitable compromise not just to overcome the language barrier but to enjoy his passion and various localisms he always brought to the occasion. We can never calculate the amount of joy and fulfilment that Paddy Finucane brought to so many in cars and homes of Tipperary both home and abroad.

What's your first Tipperary memory?

I remember as a young lad watching the 1967 All Ireland SH Final on TV when Kilkenny beat Tipperary. We were all devastated seeing John Doyle walking off the pitch having missed out on the opportunity to become the first hurler to win a record nine All-Ireland SHC medals and move one ahead of his great rival Christy Ring. He was then 37 and retired after that game.

Also back in those days the Irish Independent always carried a picture of the All Ireland champions spread across a half page of the broadsheet with the players autographs and these were treasured possessions for young lads during Tipperary’s very successful era during the 60’s.

We also treasured the “sporty cards” we got in the boxes of sweet cigarettes as we consumed thousands of these edible “non-smokes” in order to build up our collection of GAA players pen pictures from all over the country. I was one of those deprived GAA children who grew up during the Premier hurling famine as I was entering my teenage years when Tipp won in ’71 and I was in my thirties when we won our next in ’89.

Thank God Tipperary children today are spoilt with Premier success in recent years.

What's your favourite part of the county - and why?

I remember when I started working as a salesman for Roadstone back in the 80’s and dealing with farmers in Holyford, I just loved going up there. My great friends Jimmy and Sean Allis were agri-contractors and they had no fear ploughing and tilling the high ground of their farming neighbours. I used to call it the green mountain as they succeeded in reseeding areas where others feared to tread. Later when I started travelling the whole county promoting the Tipperary GAA Draw it broadened my horizons and I found there was loads of more hidden gems.

Tipperary is so big that those of us living in the northern part of the county have little knowledge of the wonderful scenic spots in the southern half and visa versa. From my home in Birdhill I could be at the Red Cow in Dublin as quickly as I’d be in Carrick on Suir in my own county.

Even now I love to travel the roads around Nine Mile House and Kilsheelan under the shadow of Slievenamon and go from Cahir to Newcastle where the Knockmealdowns and Galtees are so majestic. I’m sure if the “Tipperary Southerns” travelled North they would be equally impressed with the fabulous lake scenes stretching from Ballina to Terryglass or the natural wild landscapes around the Arra and Sliabh Phelim mountain sides.

Despite the many beauty spots around the Premier County my heart keeps returning to my own hinterland in Birdhill which in 2017 achieved the holy grail winning Ireland's Tidiest Town Award.

Over the past few months the lockdown has allowed me to go for long walks and really appreciate what I have on my own doorstep. Birdhill has so many hidden gems which are not widely known but truly worth experiencing.

We have our own “Golden Mile” where the Pollagh Trail close to the banks of the River Shannon captures the basic ingredients of pure nature with streams and meadowland which are physically, mentally and spiritually uplifting. It’s also an educational journey with display boards by the roadside detailing the names of the birds, mammals, and fish that inhabit the area along with naming the trees, flowers and hedgegrows. Closer to the village is the “Woodland Path and Literary Trail” which displays written quotes from great literary figures and world personalities like Oliver Goldsmith’s; “And still they gazed and still the wonders grew, that one small head could carry all it knew”.

I remember a local publican, Peter Laffey who owned The Old Pike in the early 80’s (now Matt the Threshers) loved to quote these words and they are etched in my memory ever since.

Then there’s the Community Park beside the bus stop which includes such novel kiddies adventures like a Fairy Tunnel, a Butterfly Garden and Gairdín na Paistí. The Park also contains Ireland's first Autism Friendly Village plus trees planted by all the local children and families whose names are documented there on a display board.

There are many more unique little curiosities that charm both young and old. It was here in 2006 that then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahearn planted a tree and years later where President Michael D Higgins addressed the locals in brilliant sunshine when he came to honour the village as Ireland's Tidiest Town in 2017.

Our little village is full of historic buildings like Matt the Threshers, a famous bar and restaurant originally purchased by the late Tony Ryan of GPA/Ryanair fame in 1985 and once managed by none other than the business tycoon Denis O Brien. It’s very appropriate that the premises was named after a character in Charles J Kickhams book, Knocknagow which coincidently was subtitled to give Birdhill residents their own motto; “For the sake of the Little Village”.

The local railway station is still operating since 1860 and commemorated its 150th anniversary with the unveiling of a plaque by my late father in 2010 when at 95 years of age he was the oldest person in the area. He died two years later so it is a nice memory. We also have a castle in Birdhill which was owned by the Twiss family who were principle landlords in the area during the 19th and 20th century.

My favourite local “Coopers Bar”, known as Careys Hotel in the early 1800’s was a favourite wayside inn of the Liberator Daniel O Connell on his travels between Kerry and Dublin. Then we have the old Garda Barracks which has had many and varied uses over three centuries, where I played as a youngster in the early 70’s when it was owned by the Spain family from Kilruane.
The building was later purchased by the late Tony Ryan GPA and became The Tipperary Trading Centre showcasing Tipperary Products.

It then became a retail outlet for Tipperary Crystal and then Browsers Furniture Company. It is now a flourishing Coffee Culture Training Academy and Coffee Roastery, appropriately named “The Barracks”.

What do you think gives Tipperary its unique identity?

Its only recently I’ve come to realise the dominance of mountains and rivers in a county ironically well known as the “Golden Vale” because of its green pastures. There was a great fear many years ago that when the M7 and M8 were being designed that it would bisect and visually destroy our beautiful county.

I believe quite the opposite happened as the two motorways have really enhanced our county landscape which for too long was hidden from view by narrow roads and high ditches. Now the majestic Rock of Cashel and the Galtee Mountains can be seen far and wide as one travels the M8 through the centre of the county.

On the Northern side the M7 has opened up the beauty of the Devils Bit and the Arra and Sliabh Phelim mountain ranges. Even as I drive from my own house in Birdhill up the link road to Applegreen off the M7, the magnificent Keeper Hill now rises before me like never before.

I was recently reminded about how much the famed River Suir dominates our county from the time it rises in the Devils Bit mountain range north of Templemore and flows all the way down through County Tipperary, winding its way eastward until it eventually joins with its sister rivers Nore and Barrow, where it enters the Irish sea in Co. Waterford.

On its 115 miles journey this proud river travels through and enhances many of our towns and villages like Loughmore, Thurles, Holycross, Boherlahan, Golden, Cahir and Carrick on Suir. Mountains and rivers are big tourist attractions in other counties but maybe we take our own a little for granted.

The new Tipperary Tourism website (www.tipperary.com) highlights over 100 tourist attractions in the county and is well worth checking out to really have an appreciation of what’s on our own doorstep in the Premier County.

What's the biggest challenge facing the county today?

As I travel throughout the county it saddens me to see so many shops, pubs, restaurants and small filling stations boarded up having closed their doors in recent years. I worry that the current temporary lockdown will add to this as the new restrictions and regulations will make it difficult and non-profitable to reopen. Our new government should offer incentives for businesses to locate in rural Ireland and our own TD’s must use all their influence to bring them to Tipperary.

I see the perfect example of this close to home in Birdhill Business Park where six companies have located in recent years. Renowned business labels like Lyncare, Anchor Point Motorhomes, L.M.C, Progressive Grass Machinery and Visitor Ireland have all located here just 12 miles from Limerick City and one mile from the M7 motorway which gives quick access to the airports, ports and cities to distribute products or services.

Just another half mile further down the Ballina road at Forthenry lies Technopath which is a wonderful success story employing up to 200 staff whose presence breathes life into the local rural area from their support for the local shops, restaurants and filling stations which would otherwise be under threat to survive. These success stories could be replicated throughout rural Tipperary especially with the advantage of the M7 and M8 motorways.

It’s surely a no brainer when it comes to a choice between traffic jams, smog, expensive sites, higher rates etc in the city or alternatively being in the countryside with reasonable costs, clean air, quick access to the motorways and of course the welcome open door to become a member of the local GAA Club. There is only one answer and rural Tipperary is the perfect solution.

If you had the power to change one thing in, or about Tipperary, what would it be?

If I could wave a magic wand I would love to put a roof over Semple Stadium. I presume having the power to change one thing would also give me the financial power. It would open up so many opportunities for the Field of Legends especially if it was the only covered stadium in the country with a 50,000 capacity.

Presently we have too many open stadiums in the province and country with varying capacities. With the exception of Croke Park many of these major sports stadia are struggling to make ends meet as they are only purpose built for the playing of our games.

There is not enough activity in these stadiums to attract sufficient crowds to justify the annual costs of maintenance so we need to look at alternative sources of revenue. Pairc an Chrocaigh Teoranta operates as an independent revenue stream for the GAA which really means the Croke Park building is run as a separate business.

In 2019 it returned €10m profit from concerts, conferences, the museum, bars, restaurants, corporate facilities plus the rental income from the games. To run a similar operation in Semple Stadium we need to offer something extra to attract interest and a covered 50,000 capacity stadium with all the modern facilities would open up new opportunities not available anywhere in the country.

Semple Stadium could be the Skydome of Ireland hosting major events without having to worry about hail, rain, frost or snow. Who would have thought Noel C Duggan could host the Eurovision Song Contest in his Green Glens Arena Millstreet Co Cork in 1993.

In the words of billionaire publisher Malcom Forbes, “When you cease to dream, you cease to live”.