Our name is on the cup, a history of GAA trophies on Leeside

A lot of GAA trophies are named after people, but there are some notable exceptions
Our name is on the cup, a history of GAA trophies on Leeside

Cork intermediate hurling captain Dara McSweeney holds the Sweet Afton Cup aloft after beating Waterford in the Munster IHC final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 2009. Picture: Damien Quirke

WHILE I still feel, and sometimes act, like a teenager, the passage of time at break-neck speed means that things that still feel recent can have happened a decade or two ago.

In transition year, I worked in Lane’s Supermarket in Bandon – sadly no more now but a fixture on Oliver Plunkett St for years, with the strong work ethic of Sheila and the late Jerry passed on to their large family, who have excelled in a number of areas.

Every so often, the phone would ring and a voice would ask for 20 Sweet Afton to be dropped in. The man on the other end was Mick Nolan, who was unable to make the journey on foot. It was a handy break from the work to nip down and chat hurling with him, as we somehow managed to put aside our Courcey Rovers/Kilbrittain rivalry – nowadays, such civility is referred to on social media as “a classy gesture”.

Sadly, Mick died in 2003 – his son Michael passed on a year later, at a tragically young age – and I didn’t think much more of Sweet Aftons – the brand launched by PJ Carroll to celebrate the links between its home town of Dundalk and Scottish poet Robert Burns (the Afton is a river in Ayrshire which Burns namechecked in a poem).

That was until Humphrey Kelleher’s book on GAA trophy names, Family Silver, which revealed that the trophy for the second-tier hurling championship in Munster – called intermediate or junior at various stages – was the Sweet Afton Cup.

In its July 21, 1951 issue, the Nenagh Guardian reported: “At a meeting of the Munster Council GAA held at Thurles, Mr Jerh. Shelly, representative of Messrs PJ Carroll & Co., Dundalk, presented a large silver cup, donated by his firm, as a perpetual trophy to be awarded to Munster junior hurling champions.”

Mr Shelly was happy to donate the cup: “My company feels especially pleased to have this cup accepted by your council as a further incentive to the attainment among the younger generation of that very high standard of games and sportsmanship for which your council is famous.”

Obviously, they were different times, but the history of trophy names is a colourful one, as outlined by fellow Corkman Michael Foley in The Sunday Times last weekend.

Incidentally, the Sweet Afton brand was discontinued in 2003, so that cup now shares the distinction of carrying a defunct name with that awarded to the All-Ireland minor hurling winners, the Irish Press Cup, named after the former newspaper.

Here in Cork, most of the various league and championship trophies given out at club level are named after people rather than the businesses who donated them - all men, it should be noted. Some, such as those for the junior B and C football and junior B hurling championships, have yet to be dedicated, even though both junior B trophies were first presented in 1984.

The newest additions to the roster came last year with the restructuring of the championships and the creation of senior A grades in hurling and football. Interestingly, when the intermediate grades were split in the mid-2000s, the previous second-tier cups – Billy Long for football and Séamus Long for hurling – became the premier intermediate trophies, with John ‘Leac’ O’Sullivan and Paddy Walsh commemorated for the new intermediate A grades.

This time around, though, the new senior A championships were given brand-new cups, with the premier intermediate trophies remaining as they are, even with the drop from second tier to third.

Both O’Sullivan and Walsh had died shortly prior to the change and it is a similar case now as two great Gaels were honoured, Jim Forbes of Carrigaline – chairman of the county board from 2003-05 as well as holding a multitude of other roles – for the hurling and former St Finbarr’s goalkeeper Kevin McTernan for the football. Each of them died before their time but their names will live on.

The late Kevin McTernan of St Finbarr's
The late Kevin McTernan of St Finbarr's

The Jim Forbes Cup is of course in the possession of Charleville since last October – though they hope that it will be for the only time – but we will have to wait another while for the presentation of the Kevin McTernan Cup to either Éire Óg or Mallow as they continue to wait to play the 2020 SAFC final. 

We can but hope that it will find a home soon.

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