No3 The Silvermines Silver Cup – the Oldest G.A.A. Trophy?
What was regarded as the first inter-county hurling game under G.A.A. rules, was played in the Phoenix Park, Dublin on Tuesday, February 9, 1886. The teams involved were North Tipperary and South Galway. Tipperary won by 1-0 to nil, the only score got by Charles McSorley of the Silvermines club.
The match was organized by Michael Cusack, who was keen to spread the gospel of hurling. He was the referee of the game and had secured a silver cup and twenty-one silver medals for the winners.
The cup was donated by Coster, Johnston & Co., who owned Ormond Printing Works on Ormond Quay, Dublin. Cusack was principal of the Civil Service Academy, 4 Gardiners Place at the time and more than likely had the Academy’s printing, stationery and other requirements supplied by the company. It’s not too fanciful to suggest that he had the company sponsor the cup for ‘his great hurling challenge.’
The cup and medals were presented to the captain of the victorious side, Dan Gleeson, by Mrs. Fitzgerald, then Lady Mayoress of Dublin.
The team were given a torchlight procession on their return to Nenagh and about four thousand people turned out in front of the Castle Hotel to listen to the welcoming speeches.
Eight North Tipperary clubs were represented on the winning team and, following their victory, they issued a challenge to all counties to take on the winners of the ‘Hurling Championship of Ireland’. Ogonelloe Club of Clare were the only outside club to respond and North Tipperary defeated them in the Castle Field, Nenagh on August 9, and later defeated Moycarkey Borris.
Silvermines had the greatest number of players on the successful team, and were given the cup. Later in the year they offered it for competition amongst the North Tipperary teams and received an entry of twenty. The games commenced in October and concluded on St. Patrick’s Day, 1887 with Silvermines defeating Holycross by 1-5 to nil in the final.
The cup was presented to the Silvermines captain, Dan Gleeson, who immediately gave it to Fr. Cunningham, C.C. for safe keeping and as a token of appreciation for the work he had done for the club.
Later Fr. Cunningham was transferred as P.P. of Templederry and took the cup with him. Nearly a half-century later, in 1935, he decided to return the cup to the surviving members of the original Silvermines team.
The cup was received back in Silvermines on St. Patrick’s Day and re-presented to the parish. A faded picture exists of the procession which took place in honour of the homecoming. The cup was handed over to Martin Gleeson, one of the playing members of the team, on behalf of the surviving five members. In agreement with their wishes, Martin Gleeson then presented the cup to Fr. Enright, P.P. and his successors to be its custodians and it has occupied pride of place in the Parochial House until recently.
In the summer of 2012, Fr. Brendan Moloney, P.P., Silvermines presented a silver cup to Lár na Páirce. The cup, which is the property of the Parish of Silvermines, was given on loan to the Thurles museum until further notice.