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Still GAA’s household name

IT has been said that noted people are known by their surnames only but there are a special few whose Christian names suffice. In the world of sport the name Sam immediately comes to mind. Simply Sam. There is no need for Maguire or Cup everybody knows the Sam Maguire Cup and what it is for.

 

Sam Maguire was born near Dunmanway in Cork in 1879. There were five boys and two girls in the farming family. A brother and the two sisters stayed at home, one brother emigrated to America and the other three boys went to London. Sam was educated at Dunmanway and at Ardfield where boys were prepared for the British Civil Service Examinations. When he was 20, Sam passed those exams and got a job with the post office, based in London.

In London, Sam became involved with the GAA where he played football with the Hibernian club and played with London in the All-Ireland finals of 1900, 1901 (as captain) and 1902. He became chairman of the London Board, a delegate to congress and a trustee of Croke Park. In a strange coincidence, vice-chairman of the London Board, Liam MacCarthy, also worked in the post office and his name is remembered in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Cup.

Sam was also a member of the IRB where he rose to the rank of lieutenant general and director of intelligence in Britain. As part of his IRB role in 1909, he swore in a new member, another West Cork boy who also attended Ardfield, passed the same exams and also got a job with the post office in London, a man named Michael Collins.

Maguire returned to Ireland and, because of his friendship with Collins, took the Pro-Treaty side. He joined the new Irish Civil Service but his time there was not a happy one. He wanted to move away from the Old British way of working and, as a result, clashed with the older, longer established members. Eventually, these clashes with his superiors led to his dismissal. Because of failing health, he left Dublin and returned to Dunmanway. A few short years later, he died of tuberculosis at the young age of 48.

Shortly after his death, a group of his friends formed a committee under the chairmanship of Dr Mc Cartan from Tyrone to provide a fitting memorial to his name. They gathered sufficient funds and decided to commission a cup, which would be presented to the GAA in his honour. Costing £300, the cup was modelled on the Ardagh Chalice and made by Hopkins and Hopkins of Dublin. After 60 years, the cup was showing serious signs of wear and tear so the GAA commissioned a replica which has been used ever since. The original trophy is now on permanent display in the Croke Park Museum.

When Kildare defeated Cork in the 1928 All-Ireland Football Final, they became the first recipients of Sam. Meath were the last winners by defeating Cork in 1988 but they also have the honour in 1989 of being the first winners of the replacement or Sam Óg as some people called it.

Sam Maguire, footballer, administrator and IRB activist died in Dunmanway, County Cork, on February 6, 1927, 85 years ago this week.

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