Semple, Thomas (‘Tom’) (1879–1943), hurler, was born 8 April 1879 in Drumbane, Co. Tipperary, son of Martin Semple, bottler, and Anne Semple (née Long). On leaving school he moved to Thurles, where he worked for the Great Southern Railway Co. and became a member of the Thurles Blues (later Thurles Sarsfields) GAA club. Under his leadership Thurles became a commanding force in Tipperary hurling and acquired a national reputation. In Portrait of the artist as a young man (1916) by James Joyce (qv), the character Davin, who is based on George Clancy (qv), speaks of attending a match involving ‘fearless Thurles’ (Joyce, 185).
When Semple won his first all-Ireland medal (1900) he was the only player from Thurles on the Tipperary team that thwarted London Irish. Players from Twomileborris and Moycarkey constituted the bulk of this selection. In 1904, however, he led Thurles to win the county championship, defeating Nenagh De Wets. This was followed by further county titles in 1906–9 and 1911. In those years Semple captained the Thurles-dominated selections that represented Tipperary. In 1906 they overcame Cork to win the Munster final, having failed to do so in 1904 and 1905, and went on to win the All Ireland, defeating Faughs from Dublin in the final. In 1908 he led Tipperary to an All Ireland victory over Kickhams from Dublin.
He captained Munster in the Railway Cup (1909) and a Tipperary side that played exhibition matches at the pan-Celtic congress in Brussels and Fontenoy (1910). The following year was his last as an inter-county hurler. He was a tall player whose favourite position was wing-forward. He preferred to play the sliotar low, dropping it to meet his swinging hurley rather than throwing it up before striking. He also possessed a good ground stroke. In 1906 he won the long puck championship of Ireland, lifting and hitting a nine-ounce (0.25 kg) ball 96 yards (87.7 m). His leadership qualities were remarkable. Perhaps his most famous performance was in urging Tipperary to come from behind to defeat Cork in the Munster final of 1909.
He involved himself in the administration of the games, acting as a delegate to the GAA convention as early as 1901. He became a referee, officiating at the Munster final in 1914. A successful trainer of Thurles and Tipperary teams, he coached the county to the All Ireland title in 1930. He was president of Thurles Sarsfields club, represented Tipperary on the Munster council, and was treasurer of the central council of the GAA. In 1910 he was on the first committee established to develop GAA grounds in Thurles. The stadium, rebuilt in 1968, was later named Semple Stadium.
During the war of independence Semple used his job as passenger guard on the main Dublin–Cork railway line to act as a courier between the local IRA and GHQ in Dublin. He briefly served in the Free State army, but returned to Thurles to work on the railway. He was in poor health in his final years and died 11 April 1943 at home on Fianna Road, Thurles. He was survived by seven sons, one daughter, and his widow, Winifred (née Creagh), to whom he left £40. In 2004 a memorial was unveiled to Semple at St Mary's churchyard, Thurles, where he is buried.