Not a GAA enthusiast? Don’t fret. How does a jersey signed by the 1978 Munster rugby team who famously overcame the All Blacks sound? Enticed?
The above items and over 150 other pieces of highly collectible sports memorabilia will be up for auction at Fonsie Mealy’s rare books and collectors sale at the Clyde Court Hotel in Dublin on Tuesday.
Rare books and collectors’ sale? Doesn’t sound like the kind of gathering you’d expect to find your typical GAA fan. Sojourns to Dublin usually involve taking in Jones Road, not a high-brow auction on the southside.
George Mealy of Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers insists collectors’ sales involving sports memorabilia draws a diverse crowd, untypical of your normal gathering where art, books or 18th century furniture dominate the catalogue.
“Included in our annual sale would be over 150 lots of pure sporting memorabilia ranging from GAA programmes, soccer memorabilia, such as jerseys, and GAA memorabilia like medals, signed hurleys and jerseys,” he said.
“This Tuesday’s sale will draw a strong mix of collectors and keen sporting enthusiasts. You will find people will attend who have no other sporting memorabilia but are a Munster rugby fan and will be interested by the signed jersey or a GAA fan interested in the 1990 jersey. A lot of the memorabilia is put in by private collectors looking to cash in.”
The items, as you would expect, range in price, with estimates as high as €7,000 for certain memorabilia and as low as €200 for others. Let’s begin so at the top end of the scale. 1955 was Wexford hurling’s breakthrough summer, a first Liam MacCarthy title claimed in 45 years. Central to their successful run was the contributions of Rathnure’s Nicky Rackard who scored 7-10 in the championship.
“A private consignment handed over Nicky Rackard’s 1955 medal and the current estimate for the medal is €5,000 to€7,000,” said Mealy. “It is the only medal to come on the market from a player who was named on the team of the millennium. We have sold medals from that era before, where we fetched €5,000,€6,000, so who knows what price it may gather?”
Not the only medal, mind you, listed in the catalogue. Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers were recently endowed with one of the oldest surviving medals in the world presented for the game of rugby.
“We have the earliest extant medal issued for rugby and it was presented in 1885 to FW Moore of Wanderers FC, one of the founding fathers of the IRFU,” explained Mealy.
“It is inscribed ‘Leinster Challenge Cup 1885’. Wanderers were a branch from the Trinity rugby club in the Lansdowne area and they actually had to play their games overseas in England, Scotland and Wales as there were no other teams in the country at the time. This medal is a nine carat gold medal and we have estimated it at €1,500 to €2,000. An Irish gentlemen, living in Perth, came across this medal. He looked into it and brought it to our attention realising its rarity. Rather than having it in Australia he saw it fit to return it to Ireland.”
Also up for sale is a 1931 All-Ireland hurling championship medal and miniature Liam MacCarthy solid silver replica cup. The nine carat gold medal carries a €4,000 price tag, but it is unknown which member of the Cork team it belongs to as there is no name inscribed. Turning to another successful Cork team further down the line and a hurley signed by the centenary championship winning panel of 1984 will go under the hammer on Tuesday – the only hurley on the catalogue. Contemporary to the 80’s, the piece of ash is expected to fetch in the region of €300. Several signed jerseys feature on the catalogue, most attractive, according to Mealy, would be the shirt autographed by the 1978 Munster Rugby team who downed the All Blacks at Thomond Park.
“This would be one of the highlights. And, because of the passing of some of the players, this shirt cannot be replicated. It would fall into the unique category. Our estimate for the jersey is €650.
“What we have as well and is unique again because of the passing of players is a jersey signed by Cork’s All-Ireland winning hurling and football teams from 1990. That is signed by both panels on the front and back.
“So that makes it quite an interesting item. The feat was never achieved by another county so to have all the signatures on one jersey and a jersey from that era as well really adds to it.”