Does it mean anything to you? In fact, he was one of the forgotten heroes in the GAA. Forgotten and undecorated. I first became aware of this great man when as Uachtarán in 2003, I received a letter from a relative of his, outlining his contribution to the GAA.
Frank Brazil Dineen from Ballylanders in Co Limerick is the man who saw the potential of Croke Park, personally purchased the Jones Road site and when the GAA weren’t overly keen to have it, he held on to it until such time as they were convinced of its value and could afford it. Then he sold it to the GAA for the price he had paid for it.
Small Jer O’Leary of Killarney played a key role in convincing the GAA to purchase the stadium and only got it accepted after great debate. But over the years, as Croke Park developed, Frank Dineen’s memory and contribution faded out of sight. This was remarkable as not only had Dineen purchased the headquarters for the association but also had the unique distinction of being the only man in its 125-year history to serve in the two highest positions, president and Director General. But the entire 20th century went by and scarcely a word was spoken of the great Limerick native. This man came from a family of 28 – yes, you read that right. His father had remarried following not only the death of his first wife but also his second wife.
On receiving the information on the great Frank, I was truly amazed that he had not been honoured in an association like the GAA that is renowned for the respect it has shown to its founders. It was time to do something about it. As the final phase of the redevelopment of Croke Park was taking place at that time (the new Hill 16), I felt it was an opportunity to honour the man without whom there would be no Croke Park.
Hill 16, built from the rubble of Sackville Street after 1916 rising, was the perfect place and the perfect time. Frank Dineen died in 1916. So we decided to rename the modern new Hill the Dineen Hill 16. At the same time we renamed the Canal End the Davin Stand after another man who hadn’t always been given full credit for his role in the founding of the association. Maurice Davin, the first president of the GAA and only one of two GAA presidents to sport a beard!
Incidentally both Dineen and Davin were outstanding athletes – Dineen as a national sprinting champion, Davin a champion thrower.
Also on that spring day in 2006, we named certain key areas inside the stadium after three wonderful Ard Stiúrthóir of the association – Luke O’Toole, Padraig O Caoimh and Sean O Siochain – outstanding administrators who had contributed almost 75 years of service between them.
So Frank Dineen was finally remembered and honoured in the stadium which he had purchased. On Saturday last, the picture was completed when a plaque commemorating the great man was unveiled at the gable of the house where he was born and reared – McCarthy’s Bar in Ballylanders. A very fine biography of his life by Harry Greensmith was also launched. The local GAA club and local community came out in strength. It was fitting that Uachtarán, Christy Cooney, was present to do the honours on behalf of the association. Not only were we honouring a former president and Director General but the enterprising Dineen used to bring barrels of salt water by horse and cart all the way from the sea at Cooney’s hometown of Youghal to make spa baths in Dineen’s home in Ballylanders. It was a nice connection. Now the man who saved Croke Park has been given due recognition in the true spirit of the association. Next Sunday, as you make your way into Croker, don’t forget him.