Cork's special relationship with the Sam Maguire and Liam MacCarthy Cups

Cork's special relationship with the Sam Maguire and Liam MacCarthy Cups
Cork captain Graham Canty lifts the Sam Maguire Cup in 2010, the Rebels' last senior All-Ireland. Picture: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

LIAM MacCarthy, Sam Maguire, and Michael Collins were three Corkmen who shaped Ireland’s sporting and political history.

McCarthy’s parents, Eoghan and Bridgid, left Ballygarvan for London in 1851, where he was born two years later.

Liam MacCarthy might have been born in the British capital, but he considered himself a rebel Irishman.

The MacCarthys were a Gaelic-speaking family and traditional Irish music was part of life in the MacCarthy home in London.

Liam MacCarthy took up hurling and was instrumental in developing the sport in London’s Irish community.

MacCarthy married Alice Padbury and worked in her father’s box business, but he preferred to be his own boss and set up his own box business, from his home in Peckham, with most of the profits funding Gaelic games in the locality.

In 1896, MacCarthy became the first treasurer of the London GAA Board and, two years later, became its president.

He became vice-president of the London Gaelic League, a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and an elected London borough councillor for 12 years.

London was also home at that time to a young Michael Collins, who worked there in the post office service. One of Collins’s work colleagues was a fellow West Cork man, called Sam Maguire, who was captain of the London Hibernians Gaelic football team.

Collins became good friends with Maguire, who introduced him to GAA life in London, where he met Liam MacCarthy.

Maguire was born in Mallabraca, Dunmanway, but he left his West Cork home as a youth, just like Collins, to take up employment with the British postal service in London.

It was Maguire and MacCarthy who swore 19-year-old Michael Collins into the Irish Republican Brotherhood, at the Barnsbury Hall in Islington.

MacCarthy was a great admirer of Padraig Pearse and showed his support for him by sending his son, Eugene, to Pearse’s school, St Enda’s, in Dublin.

MacCarthy also encouraged Collins to take leave of his postal job in London and go back to Ireland in time for Easter 1916.

Maguire stayed in London, where he would become a vital asset to the war Collins later orchestrated against British rule in the years that followed 1916.

When Collins set up the National Loan, in 1919, to raise funds for the IRA, MacCarthy became London treasurer for the scheme.

He personally purchased £50 worth and when he later redeemed his loan, in 1922, he used the money to buy a cup for the annual winners of the All-Ireland hurling final.

The silver cup was modelled on an ancient Gaelic drinking cup and named in MacCarthy’s honour.

Cork hurling captain Tomás Mulcahy with the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 1990.
Cork hurling captain Tomás Mulcahy with the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 1990.

The first holders of the Liam MacCathy Cup were Limerick, in 1923.

While McCarthy was busy with the financial side of things in Britain, Maguire was head of London IRA intelligence.

It was a role he fulfilled while still working for His Majesty’s postal service.

When the bitter Irish Civil War followed the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, Maguire remained loyal to his friend Collins, who was known to greet the Dunmanway man as, “You bloody south of Ireland Protestant!”

After 25 years service in the British postal service, Maguire went back to Ireland, in 1922, when his role with the IRA was discovered and his £4,000 post-office pension was cancelled.

Maguire found employment in the Free State Posts and Telegraphs Department, but, when Michael Collins was killed, in August 1922, Maguire’s confidence in the new Irish state waned.

In 1924, Maguire was dismissed from his position at Posts and Telegraph.

He was given £100 and, much to his distress, had another pension cancelled.

Those in high positions within the Irish Free State felt Maguire was too vocal in his opposition to the way the new state was being run.

He returned to Dunmanway, where he lived the rest of his days in poverty and ill- health.

He died at the age of 48, from TB, in February 1927.

Before he died, he gave away the last £5 from his £100 dismissal money, remarking that he had no need for it.

Maguire was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard in Dunmanway town.

A year later, his friends in the GAA decided to commission a cup for the annual winners of the All-Ireland football final and to name it in Maguire’s honour.

The first winners of the Sam Maguire Cup were Kildare, in 1928.

Liam MacCarthy also stayed loyal to Michael Collins during the Civil War, but the GAA clubs and many Irish organisations in London took the opposing side and this resulted in MacCarthy losing much of his influence within London’s Irish community.

Like Sam Maguire, Liam MacCarthy’s health failed and his financial circumstances declined, too.

He died in September 1928, a broken man, and was buried in a pauper’s grave in Dulwich Cemetery, London.

It would be another 68 years before his resting place was marked with a headstone, when Dulwich Harps GAA club erected one in 1996.

In this centenary year, let’s not forget the role Cork played in the fight for freedom and the three Corkmen who shaped the country’s political and sporting life.

Let’s not forget the three Cork men — Collins, Maguire, and MacCarthy — who shaped Ireland’s political and sporting life

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