GAA Family Silver

April 23rd, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

A new book which has just come to hand "GAA Family Silver", details the stories and people behind one hundred and one cups and trophies competed for each year at home and abroad. Former Waterford hurler and Dublin hurling manager Humphrey Kelleher is the author of this superb production and it is simply packed with golden nuggets of information from cover to cover in what is a eye-catching glossy two hundred page production The GAA is lucky to have untiring enthusiasts like Humphrey whose interests extend to producing books unrelated to mainstream GAA topics. It helps greatly to enhance an ever-broader history of the Association in its many forms. Humphrey who was my guest recently on Radio Kerrys Terrace Talk has focused on the GAA's main cups and trophies, one hundred and one of them. In exploring the background of these cups and individuals he brings the reader on a journey through the rich, complex, history of Irelands great sport body, the GAA. But above all he has commemorated and honored the memory of those who have done so much to shape the Irish sporting landscape since the foundation of the association.

Kerry interest in this fascinating production will be huge of course because Kerry has been winning cups on the football fields since the initiation of many of these trophies. The Munster Senior Football Cup for instance first competed for in 1928 has been won by Kerry on seventy four occasions and its unbelieveable really that this cup together with the Munster Senior Hurling Cup and the Munster Junior Cup are nameless. The author made no secret of his displeasure of the Council not to name the Provinces senior trophies after deceased Gaels. He said to me, "it doesn't have to be a great hurler of footballer as such, there have been some great people who have kept the game going, fantastic administrators and personalities and surely these people are worthy of having their names on these trophies". Another sore point by Kelleher in the book concerns the winners of the All Ireland minor hurling championship. "Its named The Irish press Cup after a newspaper which no longer exists, that paper has received a lot of kudos and yet it left people high and dry in the terms of pensions and you wouldn't be talking too fondly of them. It's a cup that should be renamed".

Two great Kerrymen feature prominently in the publication. The Munster Minor Football Championship Cup is named after the late Tadgh Crowley, a man I befriended in my years as a player with Kerry and later a refere; he was a man who gave massive service to the association. Born in Howth, County Dublin, his mother was a Meath women and his father a Kerryman, returned to The Kingdom when Tadgh was four years old and settled in Ardfert. A member of the Austin Stacks club and a teacher by profession he was secretary of the Kerry county board from 1955 until 1970, treasurer of the Munster Council and later a member of the GAA games Administration Committee from 1981 to 1984. Tadge died on December 23rd, 1989 and is buried in Ardfert. A little bit of history which I was unaware of until I delved into Family Silver informs readers that the Munster minor championship first began in 1929. It was not until 1951 that the Munster Council decided to provide cups for the minor competitions and a Waterford man Dr Michael Casey from Dungarvan  presented a cup for minor football in the providence. A dynamic individual. Casey was a doctor and also the chairman and managing director of Dickens Leather Factory one of the leading tanneries in Europe at the time and the biggest employer in Dungarvan. The cup Dr Casey donated was played for thirty nine years and is now "in retirement" in the Munster Council offices in Limerick. The Tadgh Crowley Cup was first played for in 1990 and Kerry were the winners defeating Cork in the final, 1-10 to 0-3.

Another renowned Kerryman Michael o Connor has the Munster Club Senior Football Championship cup named in his honour and features prominently in the publication. Michael a Killarney man who I played with and against back in the fifties/sixties played for Kerry at minor, junior and senior level. He went on to become a superb administer with both with his Club Dr Crokes and Munster Council and served in many capacities. However there is another amazing story revealed in Kelleher's book in relation to the Munster Club trophy. I had played in the very first Munster Club final in 1970 with East Kerry; we defeated Muskerry (Cork) in Fitzgerald Stadium on St Patrick's Day. There was no cup for the winners. This was rectified in 1972; UCC defeated Clonmel Commercials in the final 2-9 to 1-8. And the cup presented to the winning captain that day in Clonmel was the Shanahan McNamara Memorial Cup. Willie Shanahan, 24, and Michael McNamara, 28, were Doonbeg footballers and IRA volunteers were executed by the British forces on December 22nd 1920. The pitch in Doonbeg is named after them. The Doonbeg Social Club in New York donated the cup to Doonbeg who in turn presented it to the Munster Council in 1972. So it was truly fitting in 1991 when the Michael o Connor Cup was played for the very first time and won by his own club Dr Crokes. The terrace in the Fitzgerald Stadium is also called after this now celebrated Killarney Gael.

I have just barely touched the very surface of this fascinating book, it is crammed with wonderful stories, and superb black and white photographs many previously unseen. Sports statisticians everywhere owe Humphrey Kelleher a huge debt of gratitude; quiz masters everywhere will scan it avidly to find those questions.  And let the last word go to renowned Kerryman Micheal o Muircheartaigh who sums up this beautiful production as follows. "Its timely then to have this intriguing book where the stories of the fascinating personalities connected with the cups are woven with the very fabric of the GAA itself ."

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