Who holds the cup

November 17th, 2015
by Patrick Mannix

As the clouds gathered and darkness set in over Fitzgerald Stadium two weeks ago it looked as if Legionnaires hopes of claiming silverware were dimming with the light. With tensions high and every decision contested, up stepped Jamie O'Sullivan much to the delight of the green and white faithful. The referee blew his whistle and both set of supporters trudged out of the park with the Bishop Moynihan Cup glistening in the main stand still waiting for its victor. Legion had waited sixty nine years for a county final appearance and now they have two in the space of two weeks.

The road back to work in Kilkenny last week didn't seem so long for me with another spectacle in Fitzgerald Stadium to look forward to. The Radio Kerry airwaves were clogged with debate and discussion on the Monday following the game as Weeshie Fogarty and panel dissected the game on Terrace Talk. Opinion was divided on all aspects of the game none more so than the date for the replay. County wide debate became country wide. The local matter of fixture congestion in Kerry once again highlighted the farcical situation regularly played out across the country and was debated by local and national press all last week in the run up to the Munster Club Semi-Final. Dingle rightly felt aggrieved at not going forward to represent Kerry but the Killarney men were awarded the honour of representing Kerry for the first time in the Munster Club Championship. Legion now had to prepare the perennial specialist of Munster Club football, Nemo Rangers, while still trying to keep their focus on the rematch against South Kerry.

Normally in Kilkenny there is little discussion of matters relating to the caid. They are only interested in the clash of the ash. However, surprisingly last week I was greeted with much talk and confusion relating to football matters and of the scenario of how Legion would represent Kerry in the Munster Club Series. The consensus reached even amongst those talked to was that the wait for a county title was more important then a win against Nemo. One man who I often have the pleasure of encountering on a regular basis is Des Byrne.

A born and bred Dublin man and an avid G.A.A man, Des has lived and worked in Kilkenny since 1968. I made sure to see him before the county final as he would have had more interest in it than other neutral observers. Known locally as the man who made 'Sam', Des has been working as a silversmith in the Kilkenny Design Centre since the late sixties and still has his own traditional workshop behind what were the old Kilkenny Castle Stables now called the Kilkenny Design Centre. He won the contract to commission a new Sam Maguire replica for the G.A.A. known as Sam Óg in the late eighties. The original would remain in Jones Road in the museum and the winners of the All-Ireland series would in the future be presented with the new trophy from 1988. The first winners were Meath in 1988 and ironically they were also the last to win the original Sam in 1987. Des's work has travelled all across the world to the Irish diaspora and the various G.A.A. club's scattered  around the four corners of the globe. His work brought him to the attention of the iar-Uachtarán C.L.G. Séan Kelly who asked Des to commission a very special piece for the Kerry County Board – The Bishop Moynihan Cup. Des's attention to detail and experience in commissioning some major works like the FAI Ford Cup made him a perfect choice to commission a piece befitting our county winners.   The trophy was made in honour of Bishop Moynihan who was Bishop of Kerry from 1952 to 1969.

Patience and persistence are talents that Des has in abundance particularly when working on large piece such as the Sam Maguire and these two virtues will be required by the lads on Sunday if they want the Green and White ribbons to flow from the handles of the Bishop Moynihan Cup on Sunday. Last week's outing in Páirc Uí Rinn was a steep learning curve for our young team. Nemo's achievements in Cork and in Munster in recent years are definetly what Án Léigiún should be striving to replicate in the coming years. They will however have to take the first step on the All-Ireland ladder this Sunday in Fitzgerald Stadium against a South Kerry team eager to clinch the title back that they have been so accustomed to winning in the last decade.

Back in November of last year I had the privilege to organise and participate in an interview with Des for Terrace Talk that subsequently went on to win the GAA MacNamee award for best GAA related programme for 2015. The programme which is podcasted on the Radio Kerry website provided an intriguing insight into one of the few surviving traditional crafts in Ireland. During our conversation last week, Des wished the Legion all the best in the County Final and with a wry smile asked me to take care of the cup for him.

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