The history of GAA in Upperchurch Drombane parish is a long and storied one. The first reference to clubs being formed is from 1886 when both Drombane and Upperchurch formed teams after witnessing a monster tournament in Thurles. With no parish rule in force, groupings from various areas existed down the years with Ballyboy Rovers, Milestone, Foilnamon, Knockeravoola and others registering teams in addition to Upperchurch & Drombane at various times.
Over the first 20-30 years of the GAA the parish was to the fore in both club and county matters and provided 3 men on the first Tipperary All Ireland winning team in 1887 when they defeated Galway(John Leamy, Mick Carroll & Ned Lambe), while another Jim Ryan was also part of the squad but did not play in the final.
Drombane were regular contenders for the county championship in those days and it culminated in a county title victory in 1894 when they defeated Thurles 4-4 to 0-0 in Holycross. Two players of note on that team were Paddy Riordan & captain Fergus Moriarty. Riordan would go on to win a number of All Ireland titles with Tipperary over the following 10 years and scored all 6-8 of Tipperary’s total score in the 1895 victory over Kilkenny, a record for a single player in an All Ireland final. Another piece of history to happen that same day is that his bother Jim lined out for the Tipperary footballers to defeat Dublin and win the football All Ireland. This saw the Riordans become the first brothers to win All Ireland titles in both codes on the same day. Another historic figure with strong local roots is Tom Semple who was born and grew up in the parish before moving to Thurles and going on to lead both the Thurles Blues and Tipperary to many crowns. Today Semple Stadium is named in his honour.
The first 40 odd years of the 20th century saw various incarnations of teams in the parish, with both Drombane & Upperchurch playing separately and also being involved in 2 different amalgamations at different times calling themselves Clodiagh Rangers. The more famous one combined players from Drombane & Holycross and was resurrected a number of times with their most significant title being the mid junior victory in 1913. The 2nd Clodiagh Rangers side saw representatives of Upperchurch, Templederry & Borrisoleigh team up. Their crowning moment was the 1927 north junior hurling title.
By 1933 both Upperchurch & Drombane had joined together and swept to victory in the mid junior hurling championship defeating Castleiney in the final 7-4 to 4-0. What followed was a number of lean years before the mid 1950’s when the parish was united once more and reached the 1955 & 1957 mid junior 1 hurling finals, unfortunately missing out to Thurles Sarsfields in both. 9 years later in 1966 the club were not to be denied as they defeated Boherlahan Dualla 6-6 to 3-4. This victory saw them compete at senior level in 1967, the first time a team from the parish played at this level for many years.
This stay lasted 3 years before dropping back to compete at junior level. Two mid titles in a row were won in 1976 & 1977 which once again promoted the club up to the top level. In these same 2 years members of the club had competed at senior along with Boherlahan in the combination known as Oliver Plunketts.
The club continued to compete at senior throughout the 80’s before dropping back to intermediate level as we entered the 90’s. Underage work began to show promise as they won under 21B hurling divisional honours in 1986 & 1989 and the team contested 8 of 9 mid intermediate finals between 1990 & 1998, being victorious in 3 of them. This set the club up for a famous county championship victory in 1998 over Ballybacon-Grange which saw them return to the senior ranks, a position they have held for over 20 years since. This was the first adult level county final victory in the parish since Drombane’s senior win in 1894.
While the club had competed in football previously it wasn’t till the 90’s that the first proper success was seen with a number of mid junior titles won. In 2002 the side claimed the county title beating Ballina in a replay to achieve promotion to intermediate level. A strong underage structure was starting to reap dividends and from the mid 2000’s onwards the club has regularly claimed divisional titles in both hurling & football. 2007 saw Upperchurch Drombane claim county victories in both under 21B hurling & minor B football with a further under 21B hurling win in 2012. Since then, the club has won 3 underage football crowns (minor B in 2013 and under 21B in 2015 & 2018) and this has been the foundation for the current strong showings of our adult teams.
In 2015 the footballers defeated Clonmel Óg to win the intermediate county final and move up to the senior ranks for the first time ever and they have been a competitive force there since reaching the county quarter finals in 2019 & 2021.
2016 was a particularly successful year in the club’s history as they reached the mid senior football final for the first time while the junior B hurlers won the county title and progressed to an All Ireland final appearance where Whitechurch of Cork were too strong on the day. There was also success on the intercounty scene as Tipperary’s All Ireland victory came under the management of Michael Ryan with James Barry at full back winning the clubs first All Star, his father Seamus having been a regular starter for Tipp over 30 years earlier. Michael Bourke was the serving Tipperary county board chairman this year also.
The club has become a regular contender at senior level over the past 15 years and reached their first mid final in 2009 with a further 3 appearances since and in 2021 reached the county quarter final. The club prides itself as a true dual club at all levels and looks forward to hopefully more success in the coming years. The hard work put in by the members of the parish’s juvenile club in nurturing tomorrow’s talent in the skills of the games has played a massive role in the recent successes and can’t be underestimated. The club appreciate all who have served both senior & juvenile clubs at committee level, coaching, on the playing field or as a supporter down the years.