The Fate of Sporting Trophies

Munster Senior Hurling Championship program, Clare v Tipperary, Thurles, May 10, 2018

Recently Lár na Páirce got possession of the de-commissioned Dwan Cup, which was presented to the Tipperary county champions since the inauguration of the under-21 hurling competition. It was sponsored by the Dwan Mineral Company, Thurles in 1963.

It’s a large cup about twenty inches high and about nine in diameter. It needs some polishing up but the biggest part of the refurbishment will be the restoration of one of the handles. The problem is that it is missing, obviously becoming detached at the high point of some captain’s speech as he shot the cup into the air to give emphasis to his epic words!

Where the missing handle is at the moment is anybody’s guess, most likely lost, or it may be tucked away in some drawer and forgotten.

While the Dwan Cup could be described as damaged goods, at least its existence is verifiable and its location guaranteed for years to come. Such isn’t the fate of some sporting trophies.

One such is the Railway Football Shield first presented by the Great Southern and Western Railway Company for an interprovincial competition in 1903. (There was a second shield presented for a hurling competition and, according to Humphrey Kelleher, in his book on G.A.A. cups and trophies, G.A.A. Family Silver, it is on display in the Lory Meagher Museum in Tullaroan.}

Gone Missing

The whereabouts of the football shield is unknown, but there is good reason to believe it’s somewhere in Kerry. The football competition for the Shield started in 1905 and was won by Leinster. Munster, represented by Kerry, won it in 1906 and 1907 and were awarded the trophy outright because the terms of the competition stated that if the shield were won twice in succession or three times in all, it could be kept by the successful county.

According to T. F. O’Sullivan’s The Story of the G.A.A. ‘The football final for the Railway Shield was played at Tipperary on the 22nd September, 1907, between Munster (Kerry, with selections from Limerick and Tipperary), and Leinster (with selections from Dublin, Kildare and Kilkenny). Munster secured victory by 1-7 to 1-6, and having won twice in succession, the Shield became their absolute property.’

So, the evidence would suggest the Shield is somewhere in Kerry. One theory was that it was held in Muckross House, Killarney but that drew a blank. The most likely location would be the captain’s family. In the early days of the Association, the captain retained the trophy and, in many cases, it became a family heirloom.

In the Captain’s Possession

For example, a successor to the Railway Shield was the Railway Cup, which was presented by the GSWR to the G.A.A. Central Council in 1913 for the All-Ireland football championship.

The terms were the same as for the Shield: the county that won it twice in succession, kept it. Kerry won in 1913 and 1914 and so were allowed to keep it. A new cup was presented in 1915 and won in that year and in 1916 by Wexford, and they held on to it. The Wexford county board presented it to Sean Kennedy, who was captain of the team from 1915 to 1917 and it is still in the possession of his family.

So, maybe all we need to do to discover the Railway Shield is to find out who was captain of the Kerry team in 1907. I don’t have the answer.

Much closer to our own time are the Centenary Cups, presented for special, open draw, intercounty competitions in hurling and football in 1984 and sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. The hurling cup was won by Cork in 1984 and by Tipperary in 1985. It wasn’t continued and Tipperary kept the cup, which can now be seen in Lár na Páirce. The football cup was won by Meath in 1984 and Kerry in 1985. I was recently looking for its current location, but drew a blank in Kerry. Any information on its fate?