How well do you know your cups and county grounds?
By MICK BYRNE
MY favourite time of the footballing year is without doubt the start of the National League - Mayo, of course, being the current holders of the Division 1 title.
It shortens the winter when you look forward to the fixtures to see if Mayo has three or four home games in MacHale Park.
You look forward to the away games travelling to counties and renewing old friendships with people you may not have seen for a year or longer.
It’s only in the last 25 years that all home games were moved to MacHale Park. Mayo had four home league venues: Ballina, Charlestown, Crossmolina and Castlebar.
You looked forward with great delight in anticipation of these home matches where after every game the supporters would converge on Moclair’s Pub or Paddy Jordan’s in Ballina, Mick Walsh's The Dolphin in Crossmolina, or Sean Walshe's, Charlestown, where people would discuss the game at length.
It was in 1979 when Castlebar Mitchels started developing MacHale Park. People questioned Tommy O’Malley’s idea of building a tunnel between the two dressing rooms at the complex to the entrance of the pitch.
It proved to be a resounding success, but Castlebar had to keep ahead of the game as the GAA Central Council wanted to have one provincial venue in each province. Roscommon were favourites and even when the vote went in Roscommon’s favour, it was generally accepted by Galway and Mayo that they would play their championship matches on a home and away basis.
It is generally very good GAA quiz question to name the county grounds in the 32 counties.
My favourite ground outside Mayo has to be Tuam Stadium. There is something special about it.
The atmosphere, the craic and the banter when a crowd of over 28,000 are crammed into a tight ground is magnificent, and we will never forget that day in May of 1997 when Mayo dethroned Galway (1-16 to 0-15) in St. Jarlath’s Park, becoming the first Mayo team to win in that stadium for 50 years.
Leinster: Dublin - Parnell Park and Croke Park, Kilkenny - Nowlan Park, Laois - O’Moore Park, Wexford - Wexford Park, Carlow - Dr. Cullen Park, Offaly - O’Connor Park, Meath - Pairc Tailteann, Navan, Westmeath - Cusack Park, Mullingar, Wicklow - Aughrim, Longford - Pearse Park, Kildare - St. Conleth's Park, Newbridge, Louth - Gaelic Grounds, Drogheda.
Connaught: Mayo - Elverys MacHale Park, Roscommon - Dr. Hyde Park, Galway - St. Jarlath’s Park, Tuam, and Pearse Stadium, Leitrim - Pairc Sean MacDiarmaida, Sligo - Markvievicz Park.
Ulster: Monaghan - St. Tiernan’s Park, Clones, Antrim - Casement Park, Belfast, Cavan - Breffni Park, Tyrone - Healy Park, Omagh, Down - Pairc Esler, Newry, Derry - Pairc na gCeilteacht, Fermanagh - Brewster Park, Armagh - Athletic Grounds, Donegal - McComhaill Park, Ballybofey.
Munster: Tipperary - Semple Stadium, Thurles, Cork - Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Limerick - Gaelic Grounds, Kerry - Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, Waterford - Walsh Park, Clare - Cusack Park.
CUPS OF JOY
When we speak about the GAA in this country, the two most popular names are without doubt Sam Maguire and Liam McCarthy.
People often wonder what was their involvement in the GAA, where they were from, what did they do, along with a few more queries. We will give you a brief history into some of the cups and trophies played for.
Sam Maguire: This man was very influential in London GAA. He spent all his life promoting Gaelic games and everything Irish.
The cup was commissioned by a group of his friends and was first presented to Kildare man Billy Squires Gannon in 1928 when Kildare beat Cavan in the All-Ireland final.
The original cup was retired in 1988 because of wear and tear. Joe Cassells of Meath was the last man to receive the original trophy, and another one replaced it in 2011.
Apart from Stephen Cluxton, who received the cup on five occasions, eight men received the cup on two occasions: Joe Barrett, Kerry (1929, 1932); Jimmy Murray, Roscommon (1943, 1944), John Joe O’Reilly, Cavan (1947, 1948), Sean Flanagan, Mayo (1950, 1951), Enda Colleran, Galway (1965, 1966), Tony Hanahoe, Dublin (1976, 1977), Declan O’Sullivan, Kerry (2006, 2007), Brian Dooher, Tyrone (2005, 2008).
Liam McCarthy: Like Sam Maguire, Liam McCarthy had a huge connection to London and London GAA. He was a big leader in the London Irish community. He was the treasurer of the London county board and later served as chairman for 10 years.
Limerick were the first winners of the cup in 1921, with their captain scoring four goals in the final.
The original cup was retired in 1992 due to wear and tear, with Declan Carr of Tipperary being the last man to receive it. The new cup was presented to Liam Fennelly of Kilkenny in 1992.
J.J. Nestor: The most coveted trophy in Connaught football is the Nestor Cup. Galway and Mayo have both won the competition 46 times, Roscommon have 24 titles, Sligo three and Leitrim two.
The cup was dedicated to Dunmore man J.J. Nestor, who was a keen footballer and later became the first chairman of the Galway county board. During his 15 years as chairman, Galway won two All-Irelands (1934 and 1938).
His son, Brendan, was a prominent member of both teams. He later served as president of the Connaught Council from 1940 to 1942. When he died in 1957, the Connaught Council purchased a new cup and named it the Nestor Cup. The first man to receive the cup was the great Sean Purcell in 1958 when Galway narrowly defeated a Packy McGarty inspired Leitrim (2-10 to 1-11).
J.J. Fahy: A very popular and well respected Roscommon man, J.J. Fahy served for many years as secretary of the county board and later as treasurer of the Connaught Council. The first Connaught Under 21 final was played in 1964 when Galway beat Mayo, but it was when Mayo beat Galway in 1973 that they became the first winners of the J.J. Fahy Cup.
Tommy Kilcoyne: The cup for the Connaught minor football winners is dedicated to the memory of a Tubbercurry man who served as secretary of the county board, and it was during that time Sligo won their first Connaught title.
He was also secretary of the Connaught Council and during that time Connaught football was at its peak, with Galway, Mayo and Roscommon all winning All-Irelands. The first winner of the Tommy Kilcoyne Cup were Galway who defeated Mayo in the final of 1969.
Shane McGettigan: The trophy for the Connaught club senior football championship, the Shane McGettigan Cup, is dedicated to a young man who played his club football with Allen Gaels for Leitrim at every grade and was destined for a long career with both club and county. Playing at centre-back, he was instrumental in Allen Gaels winning back-to-back titles in 1996 and 1997, which led him to be picked for the Leitrim senior team.
Sadly in August 1998, along with his friend Ronan Stewart, Shane's life was cut short in a building accident in Boston.
Ronan’s dad, Mick, was a Castlebar man who won an All-Ireland minor medal in 1933. The first winners of the Shane McGettigan Cup were Crossmolina, who beat Roscommon Gaels in the 1999 final.
Aonghus Murphy: In memory of a young man from Tuam who was sadly killed while serving a tour of duty with the Irish army in the Lebanon in 1986, the Aonghus Murphy Cup is presented to the Connaught Colleges football winners.
A footballer of immense talent, he won a Hogan Cup in 1978 before captaining Galway to an Under 21 All-Ireland final in 1981, losing out to Cork in a replay.
He was instrumental in Tuam Stars' championship county senior title success in 1984, and in 1985 he captained Galway juniors to a Connaught title.
(Mick Byrne, publican, Main Street, Castlebar, is one of Mayo's best known GAA supporters. Some details in this article were gleaned from Humphrey Kelleher's book "GAA Family Silver").