The history of GAA silverware

Humphrey Kelleher and Gráinne McElwain at the Croke Park Museum.

TG4 series on ‘Scéalta na gCorn’

Ask anyone in Ireland about Liam or Sam and chances are they know you’re referring to the trophies presented to All Ireland’s senior hurling and football champions. But what about the other 2,000 pieces of GAA silverware across the country, how many of us know the history of these cups, how they came into being or how they got their names?

The new TG4 series, ‘Scéalta na gCorn’, sees presenter Gráinne McElwain travel across Ireland to visit clubs and county grounds, learning the lesser-known stories behind our nation’s trophies. She will discover how some cups are named after Irish revolutionary patriots such as Roger Casement and Terence McSwiney, how other trophies are named after clergy, and still others named after prominent GAA administrators, who contributed to the development of the Association and how even more are named after players and grassroots members, their memory lives on through the trophies and cups named in their honour.

The series began last night with Gráinne visiting the nation’s capital to learn more about the oldest known GAA trophy – the Silvermines Cup, dating back to 1886. She visits the Faughs GAA Club to see a much-loved piece of silverware named d ‘after the well-known publican Tommy Moore, who influenced the development of hurling and heard of the senior football cup offered by Clerys department store. She discovers the Kathleen Mills Cup, commemorating one of the most decorated players of all time, and visits Croke Park Museum to meet Sam and Liam, two of Ireland’s best-known pieces of silverware.

Next Wednesday, the second episode takes Gráinne to his native Monaghan, a county that has seen recent growth in Gaelic Games silverware with new cups replacing old ones. She hears the transatlantic story behind the American Cup and learns about the Gloria Corrigan Memorial Tournament. She visits the county Rounders rising stars to learn more about Corn Aodh Rua and meets old friends including former GAA President Páraic Ó Dufaigh and school principal Brendan Ó Dufaigh.

Gráinne and Damien Ó Dónaill with the Rann na Feirste trophy.

All roads lead to Saffron County in episode three. Antrim is a stronghold of hurling and Gráinne is keen to find out more about the Volunteer Cup, affectionately known as the Big Ears, as well as Roger Casement’s historic role in competing for the Shield of Heroes. It’s not just about throwing and Gráinne travels to Belfast to learn more about senior football and the Seamus McFerran Cup and a local club who present a trophy in loving memory to 16-year-old camóg Bronagh Kelly. She meets John Gough, referee of a controversial All-Ireland football final and discovers that silverware is not just for players.

Gráinne and Seán de Paor with Canon Oliver Hughes’ trophy.

Episode four takes Gráinne to the northernmost county – Donegal. Best known today as a footballing stronghold, Gráinne discovered that the North West had historical ties to hurling and camogie. She learns about a much-loved priest who has three cups named in his honor and before visiting Páirc Mhic Cumhaill County Ground, to learn more about the Democrat Cup and the importance local newspapers have played in the sporting tradition of Donegal.

Episode five sees McElwain traveling west to his adopted county of Galway. Here she discovers one of the oldest trophies in the country, the Odlums Irish Purity Cup and she visits a local handball club which is teaming up with Gael Linn for a very special tournament. Gráinne meets the family of young footballer Pia McDermott Geraghty whose silverware is still remembered and she travels to Ballinasloe to check out legendary Galway pitcher Michael ‘Inky’ Flaherty.

Tom Lyons and Grainne with the Little Norah trophy.

The Scéalta na gCorn series ends in rebellious County Cork, triumphant winners of all Ireland in football, hurling and camogie over the decades. A county steeped in history, Gráinne is keen to learn about the silverware honoring patriots such as John “Flyer” Nyhan and its deep connection to the War of Independence and former Mayors of Cork, Tomás Mac Curtáin and Traolach Mac Suibhne. She will also hear about trophies named after some of the county’s influential women in football such as Mary Quinn and a curiously named cup called Little Norah.

Produced by Imagine Media, with support from NI Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund, “Scéalta na gCorn” airs on TG4 weekly from Wednesday, September 14 at 8:30 p.m.