All-Ireland-winning Dublin squad visits Somme battlefields

Stephen Cluxton lays wreath to pay tribute to Irish who died in the first World War

Ulster Tower, in  the Somme valley, France. File photograph: myLoupe/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Ulster Tower, in the Somme valley, France. File photograph: myLoupe/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


All-Ireland football champions Dublin have visited first World War battlefields where Irish soldiers fought 100 years ago.

The tour was led by manager Jim Gavin, who was formerly a member of the Air Corps, and included most of the panel.

On Saturday, the squad visited the Ulster Tower, located near the site where men from the 36th (Ulster) Division were slaughtered on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton laid a wreath at the base of the tower.

The squad went on to visit the restored trenches in Thiepval Wood near the tower. This is where the 36th (Ulster) Division were based before they went over the top at the Somme.

The Dublin panel also travelled to Guillemont, the village captured by the 16th (Irish) Division in September 1916. They viewed the Irish cross erected there in 1926 to mark the 10th-anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

On Sunday, the players visited Ypres in Belgium. Their itinerary also included the Island of Ireland Peace Park and the grave of Major Willie Redmond.

On Sunday evening, they laid a wreath during the Last Post ceremony which is held every night at the new Menin Gate.

The tour was billed as private and a spokesman for the Dublin team did not respond to a request for a comment.

However, the Somme Association, which runs the Ulster Tower, tweeted a photograph of the team on Saturday, captioned: “Dublin Senior GAA Football Team visited the Ulster Tower and Thiepval Wood on Saturday to pay their respects.”

War dead

The visit coincides with the publication of the most comprehensive list to date of Dubliners who died in the conflict.

Historian Tom Burnell’s Dublin War Dead comprises four volumes and lists 8,800 men and women from the city who were killed in the war.

Mr Burnell said there had previously been a roll of honour for the city’s dead, “but try as I might I could never access it, or locate it. I never even found anyone who had seen it. As far as I remember it had about 6,000 names in it.”

He has also published Cork War Dead, which lists 4,700 men and women from Cork city and county who died in the first World War.

The figures are substantially more than the numbers listed in the Committee of the Irish National War Memorial’s records.

Those records were compiled in 1922, and list 4,918 people from Dublin and 2,224 from Cork who died.

Mr Burnell lists 29,450 Irish men from what is now the Republic who were killed in the war in his series, 26 County Casualties of the Great War.

The full series consists of 15 volumes, 8,000 pages and more than three million words, and took him 15 years. It begins with Private John Abbey from Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, and ends with Richard Zimber from New Ross, Co Wexford.