The Silvermines Silver Cup – the Oldest G.A.A. Trophy?

Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 2012 pp. 54-55


Recently Fr. Brendan Moloney, P.P., Silvermines presented a silver cup to Seamus J. King, chairman, Lár na Páirce. The cup, which is the property of the Parish of Silvermines, was given on loan to the Thurles museum until further notice.

The cup has rested in the Parochial House, Silvermines since 1935 when it was handed over on St. Patrick's Day to the then Parish Priest, Fr. Enright with instructions that 'the trophy was to be kept as a souvenir by the parish and that future P.P.s would be the trophy's custodians.'
There's an interesting story about this silver cup.

The tale starts on a February Tuesday in 1886, not much more than a year after the foundation of the G.A.A. and a year before the first All-Ireland was played. At this time a cup was donated by Coster, Johnston & Co., Dublin for a competition to be played under 'the new rules' as the G.A.A. rules were called then. The teams involved were North Tipperary and South Galway.
(Who were Coster, Johnston & Co. and why did they donate the cup? The simple answer is: we don't know, but we can hypothesise. The company is listed in Thom's Dublin Street Directory 1887, page 1400. The entry states: '16 & 17 (Ormond Quay, Lr.) Coster, Johnston & Co., Ormond Printing Works, wholesale paper and bag merchants, stationers, twine merchants, and account book manufacturers and London, S.E.' Overhead the premises a number of solicitors are listed as having their offices and they include Thomas W. Coster and

Arthur Johnston.

At the time Michael Cusack was principal of the Civil Service Academy, 4 Gardiners Place, some distance away from Ormond Quay. It is quite possible that Cusack was a customer of Coster, Johnston and Co. for printing, stationery and other requirements for his academy. Is it too fanciful to suggest that he had the company sponsor a cup (a fairly modest effort, I might add) for his great hurling challenge?)

This would be regarded as the first inter-county game and it reflected the advent of authoritative rules for hurling and that the games could now be organised at a wider level. Prior to this time all hurling rules were local and prevented the game being organised outside the immediate area of the team.

The man responsible for organising the game was 'Mr. Hurling' himself, Michael Cusask, and he was keen to spread the gospel of hurling. His contact in Tipperary was Frank Moloney, the secretary of Nenagh Hurling Club and he would have been familiar with the strength of the game in Galway from his time teaching there.

Played in the Phoenix Park

The game was fixed to be played in the Phoenix Park, Dublin on Tuesday, February 9. The two teams travelled by train to Dublin the previous day and met up at Broadstone Station at 10 pm. They spent the night in the Clarence Hotel and received instructions on the rules of play. The players marched out to the field the following day.

The fifteen acres in the Phoenix Park was the venue for the game and it had been laid out and stewarded by members of the Dublin and Wicklow clubs. Cusack was the referee and the game lasted eighty minutes. There was a silver cup and twenty-one silver medals for the winners
To begin the match the arch of hurleys was formed by the teams facing each other. The Tipperary ball was used for the first half. For forty minutes the game waxed fast and furious during which the Tipperary men drove twenty-six wides and resisted every attempt by Galway to transfer the sphere of operations to the other end. In the second half the Galway ball, which was smaller, was introduced. The play was less one-sided but the Galway team failed to make an impression on Tipperary. After about twenty minutes a great Tipperary attack, spearheaded by Charles McSorley of the Silvermines, resulted in a goal and deafening cheers from the crowd. During the remaining twenty minutes Galway made some brilliant dashes but without avail and the final whistle left Tipperary victorious by a solitary goal.

The cup and the medals were presented to the victorious side by Mrs. Fitzgerald, then Lady Mayoress of Dublin. The team were given a torchlight procession on their return to Nenagh and about four thousand people turned up in front of the Castle Hotel to listen to Frank Moloney's address.

Some embarrassments

There was also a fine turnout at Gort to greet the defeated Galwegians. The side had been selected from Gort, Kilmacduagh, Kiltartan, Peterswell, Kilbecanty and Tubber. The team had two major embarrassments during the event. The team had special knickerbockers made for the occasion to satisfy a request made by Cusack that they wear a distinctive dress. Dan Burke of Gort, to whom Cusack had written to get a team together, bought a roll of corduroy on special offer in Huban's drapery and had Pake Shaughnessy, a tailor in Church Street, make up the knickerbockers. His thread wasn't equal to the strain of the contest and many of the knickerbockers ripped, causing amusement and embarrassment!

Further embarrassment was caused when on Wednesday, February 17, 1886 the whole town of Gort with its Brass Band thronged to welcome their heroes home. Only four of the team arrived. The rest, unaware that there was a second station in Dublin, took the train from Kingsbridge and didn't discover their mistake until they reached Limerick Junction. They arrived home on Thursday!

A challenge was issued by the victorious North Tipperary side to all counties to take on the winners of the 'Hurling Championship of Ireland' at a sports meeting at Castle Field, Nenagh on August 9. Ogonelloe Club from Clare was the only outside club to respond and North Tipperary defeated them on August 9 and later defeated Moycarkey Borris.

The success of North Tipperary may have been due to good preparation beforehand. Frank Moloney had organised a trial game at Ballincor, Lorrha on New Year's Day between a Nenagh 21 and the pick of the Lorrha clubs. This game gave Moloney an idea of the talent available. Practice sessions were held in Ardcroney on January 3 and at Borrisokane on January 21 as well.

When the team came to be picked eight clubs were represented. The team was as follows: John Walsh, James Hanly, Pat O'Meara, Nenagh, Martin Gleeson, Dan Gleeson, Pat McGrath, Martin Gleeson, Charles McSorley, Silvermines, Matt Costelloe, Pat Gleeson, Matt Hayes, Knigh, Patrick O'Meara, Pat O'Meara, Lorrha, John Ryan, Pat Guinnane, Pat Buckley, Youghalarra, Mike Grace, Pat Reidy, Pat O'Brien, Carrigtoher, John Kennedy, James Clarke, Ardcroney, James Brooder, Kilbarron.

Silvermines win the Silver Cup

Silvermines had the biggest number of players of any of the clubs and the club was to feature strongly in the history of the Silver Cup.

Later in 1886 the cup was offered for competition amongst the North Tipperary teams and there was an entry of twenty. The games commenced in October and the final between Silvermines and Holycross was played in Nenagh Castle Field on St. Patrick's Day 1887. In a thrilling contest Silvermines carried the day on a scoreline of 1-5 to nil. The cup was presented to the captain, Dan Gleeson, who immediately gave it to Fr. Cunningham, C.C. for safe keeping as a token of appreciation for the work he had done for the club.

Later still Fr. Cunningham transferred as P.P. of Templederry and took the cup with him. Nearly a half-century later, in 1935 to be exact, he decided to return the cup to the surviving members of the original Silvermines team.

The cup was received back in Silvermines on St. Patrick's Day and re-presented to the parish. A faded picture exists of the procession which took place in honour of the homecoming. The cup was handed over to Martin Gleeson, one of the playing members of the team, on behalf of the surviving five members. In agreement with their wishes Martin Gleeson then presented the cup to Fr. Enright, P.P. and his successors to be its custodians and it has occupied pride of place in the Parochial House since then. The five surviving members were presented with a replica of the cup made in the new Aluminium factory in Nenagh.

The victorious Silvermines team which won the Silver Cup was as follows: Dan Gleeson (capt), (Boherbawn), Pat McGrath (Shragh), Little Mikey McGrath (Shragh), Jack McGrath (Shragh), Long Mick McGrath (Shragh), Daniel Hogan (Shragh), Mick Hogan (Shragh), Charlie McSorley (Ballygown), Denis Flanagan (Erinagh), Mort Darcy (Garrymore), James Fogarty (Lisbrien), Maurice Feehily (Bawn), Pat Hughes (Mucklin), Ed Hill (Logg), Pat Ryan (Mucklin), Long Martin Gleeson (Boherbee), Will Butler (Logg), Pat Gleeson (Logg), Dan Collins Curryquin). Edward Cooney (Ballinnoe), Martin Gleeson (Cranahaurt). Subs: Brian Power (Bawn), Con Fitzgerald (Shallee).