To celebrate its Centenary in 1984, the GAA decided to hold special competitions in senior football and hurling which were called the Ford Centenary Cup competitions, the Ford in the title referring to the fact that the Ford Motor Company had sponsored the trophies. It was an open draw, knock-out competition to be played with the first team out of the hat at home, and it attracted huge interest. It was played between the league and the championship competitions in the spring of 1984.
The cups were substantial in size. The hurling cup, which can be seen in Lár na Páirce, is a large silver bowl, about eighteen inches in diameter resting on a large timber base with four pillars carrying the symbols of the four provinces. Decorative silver panels with Celtic tracery are inlaid into the timber. The cup has a bevelled, decorated edge and inscribed on one side is the inscription: Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, Comórtas Ford Iomáint, which has the Ford and the G.A.A., logos at either side.
Eighteen teams took part in the hurling competition in 1984, which generated plenty of interest and produced some unexpected results. For instance, Roscommon defeated Wexford, who were the second-best team in Leinster at the time, in the opening round.
Even more dramatic was the performance of Laois, who reached the final. Along the way they defeated Limerick, Tipperary and Galway before losing to Cork by 2-21 to 1-9. Their match with Tipperary at Kilkenny on May 7th was a bruising battle, fast and furious, with plenty of timber given and taken. Tipperary’s indiscretions were punished by referee, John Denton, with three sendings-off, Tom Waters, Gerry Stapleton and Joe O’Dwyer. Laois player, John Bohane, was also sent off. Tipperary led by 3-3 to 0-7 at halftime but lost the game by 1-17 to 4-7.
All thirty-two counties played in the football competition. All-Ireland champions, Kerry, were defeated by Derry in the second round. Meath defeated Cavan, and Monaghan defeated Derry in the semi-finals, and Meath were victorious by 0-10 to 0-8 in the final. Incidentally, Sean Boylan was in charge of the winners and the victory brought him the first silverware he won with the county.
The Ford Open Draw cup was played again in 1985 but was far less popular. There was resistance to the idea and some counties didn’t take part. Limerick refused to take part in the hurling competition, while Dublin, Down, Kildare and Offaly refused to take part in the football.
Tipperary won the hurling final, defeating Galway by 1-13 to 1-10 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on May 5. In the football final, which was played on the same day in the same venue, Kerry defeated Cork by 2-11 to 0-4. The respective cups found permanent homes in Tipperary and Kerry.