In this picture taken at Croke Park on Sunday, 11 September 1921, the Dublin hurling team looks on, as a very happy Harry Boland smiles directly at the camera and Michael Collins shakes hands with James Nowlan (1862–1924), GAA president, Sinn Féin representive and Kilkenny Alderman. Less than a year before on 21 November 1920, British forces had stormed into Croke Park during a match, killing 14 civilians. Less than a year later, on 2 August 1922, Boland was dead from a gunshot wound and 20 days later, on 22 August, Collins was assassinated at Béal na Bláth.
James Nowlan was a member of the Gaelic League, a lifelong supporter of the Irish language revival movement and a supporter of Sinn Féin from its founding in 1905. He was President of the Gaelic Athletic Association from 1901 to 1921. He held that position for twenty years – making him the longest serving GAA president.
Following the 1916 Easter Rising, Nowlan was arrested by the British and interned without trial in Frongoch, Wales. In August of that year he was released. He publicly voiced support for the Irish Republican Army during the Anglo-Irish War. Nowlan Park, the GAA stadium in Kilkenny, was renamed in his honour. He is buried in Glasnevin cemetery.