At 3.00 p.m. on Saturday 1st November 1884, a small group of men, at least seven and possibly as many as fourteen , met in the billiard-room of Miss Hayes's Commercial Hotel in Thurles, and there founded the Gaelic Athletic Association for the Preservation and Cultivation of National Pastimes. The seven founder members were Michael Cusack, Maurice Davin (who presided) John Wyse Power, John McKay, J. K. Bracken, Joseph O'Ryan and Thomas St. George McCarthy. Also admitted later by Cusack to have been present was Frank Moloney of Nenagh, while the following six names were published as having attended by the more detailed press reports of the time: William Foley, - Dwyer, - Culhane, William Delehunty, John Butler and William Cantwell. All these were from Thurles except Foley, who was from Carrick-on-Suir, like Davin.
The foundation meeting of the GAA - if such it was indeed - was the culmination of several feverish months' work by Cusack since he had enlisted the support of Davin in August. The activity included a meeting in the Galway town of Loughrea of a group of local athletic enthusiasts, possibly Cusack and certainly Bishop Duggan of Clonfert, who is said to have recommended Archbishop Croke of Cashel as a patron of the proposed body. Cusack also seems to have considered holding the first meeting in Cork, according to a brother of Davin; he had even chosen the title "Munster Athletic Club".
In October, two prominent nationalist weeklies, "United Ireland" and "Irishman", carried identical anonymous articles by Cusack, summarising the case for a body like the GAA. In subsequent issues the same month, Davin and Cusack openly supported the project, and finally Cusack sent out a circular for the Thurles meeting. This he had drafted in Dublin with the help of a number of hurling enthusiasts. So small was the attendance in Thurles that it may have been an exploratory or preliminary meeting. If so, the real foundation meeting was held in Cork City in the Victoria Hotel on the 27th December, attended by a group of Cork Home Rule personalities led by the Lord Mayor-elect, Ald. Paul madden.
Of the five other founder-members in addition to Cusack and Davin, John Wyse Power was a Waterford journalist, then on the "Leinster Leader" staff in Naas, and later on the "Freeman Journal" in Dublin. McKay was a Belfast journalist then on the "Cork Examiner", who later worked in the House of Commons in London before returning to Cork in the early 1900's. Bracken was a Tipperary stonemason, whose son, Viscount Brendan Bracken, was a member of Sir Winston Churchill's World War II coalition government. O'Ryan was a solicitor in Thurles and Callan in Kilkenny. McCarthy, a Kerryman, was a police officer in Templemore.